Seeing the Big Picture is part of the Civil Service ‘Success Profiles‘ framework. It is one of 9 core behaviours that can be tested. Most commonly it will be tested within leadership or project oriented roles.
As it is a core behaviour it can be assessed in a number of ways and, just as importantly, it can be assessed at any stage of the recruitment process. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Your CV
- Your application answers
- During the interview
- As a standalone exercise
- During a presentation
- At an assessment centre
What I am getting at is that if the job advert says that you will be assessed on your ability to ‘See the Big Picture’ you need to make sure you convey your abilities whenever the opportunity arises.
That is why in this article I am going to explain exactly what Seeing the Big Picture means. I am going to look at what it is your assessor/interviewer is expecting of you in the application and interview stages PLUS what might occur in an assessment centre should you be invited to one. Then finally I will attempt to answer some of the common questions that arise when discussing this particular behaviour. (if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us)
- 1 What is Seeing the Big Picture
- 2 How Will Seeing the Big Picture Be Assessed
- 3 How to complete your own 250 word statement example
- 4 Seeing the Big Picture Interview Questions
- 5 In the Assessment Centre
- 6 Seeing the Big Picture – FAQ
What is Seeing the Big Picture
We can’t show off our abilities if we don’t understand what it is we are being assessed on.
Fundamentally ‘Seeing the Big Picture’ is looking at your ability to understand how your piece of work, or area of focus, impacts the wider project or organisation as a whole. There are two key parts to this behaviour. Firstly are you able to showcase that you “see” what is going on in other areas of the organisation? How do you keep yourself abreast of developments (this is a good opportunity to drop in your stakeholder management & communication skills)?
Then secondly knowing what you know about the “big picture” how do you ensure your actions align with the overarching big picture goals?
In the context of applying for jobs at the civil service, “seeing the big picture” refers to an individual’s ability to understand the broader context, goals, and objectives of the organization, and how their specific role fits into that larger framework. This skill is particularly important for civil servants because their work often involves complex, interconnected policies and initiatives that aim to serve the public interest.
When civil service recruiters look for candidates who can “see the big picture,” they are seeking individuals who:
- Understand the mission, values, and priorities of the civil service and how their work contributes to these overarching goals.
- Can anticipate future trends, opportunities, and challenges that may affect the organization and its objectives.
- Recognize the connections between their role, the work of their colleagues, and the broader organizational strategy.
- Can make informed decisions by taking into account the wider implications of their actions, both within and outside the civil service.
- Are able to adapt to changing circumstances, policies, and priorities while keeping the organization’s goals in mind.
How Will Seeing the Big Picture Be Assessed
I said before that the core behaviours can be tested at any stage of the application process. The vast majority of the time you will be made aware of when you are being assessed as you will be told by your interviewers (either on the application or in the assessment centre or interview stage). Let’s look at the occasions where you will most likely be assessed on this behaviour:
On your CV
Submit Your CV For Review
During the Application Process
During the application process you will be asked to spend up to 250 words describing your skills and experience as it pertains to each behaviour that is being tested.
That means you will have 250 words to show the assessor that you:
Know what Seeing the Big Picture means Have applicable skills and experience to showcase Can effectively communicate your skills
250 words is not a lot of space when you are trying to get a point across. For reference this entire article is c.1500 words long, and I would say it is one of the shorter pieces I have written.
The recommended strategy for completing these statements is to use the STAR system
S – situation
T – task
A – action
R – result
What was going on?
What was the goal?
What did you specifically do?
How did it all play out?
The best advice for completing these statements is to spend the bulk of your word allowance on A & R. Actions & Results.
No need to get bogged down in world building. Just set the scene quickly, say what was happening and what you’d been asked to do. Then focus on the activities you picked up and why you picked them up. Then round it off by confirming how your actions allowed you to help with the overarching goals of the organisation (i.e. you successfully saw the big picture!)
Seeing the Big Picture 250 Word Statement Example
Here is a good example that recently scored very highly at the EO stage for one of our readers
How to complete your own 250 word statement example
There are many ways you can structure your 250 word statement. The one we find creates the best and most consistent statements is the B-STAR method. If you use the below structure when writing your statement you can be sure that you will hit all the key points that the assessors are looking for.
During the Interview Stage
If you are reading this now because you have scored a Civil Service Interview and are looking to see what you might be asked. First off congrats on getting this far. This means you are on the shortlist for the role. But the hard work doesn’t stop here, you need to hammer home your skills and experience even more so in the interview than at any point in the application process so far.
If the job advert said that you will be assessed on the behaviour “Seeing the Big Picture” you can be 90% certain that you will receive a question that will be directly about this behaviour.
It is important when you attend a behavioural interview that you have multiple ‘stories’ to tell for each behaviour. You need to then choose the story that fits the question the best and use that.
Similar to the application process when answering questions in the interview it is recommended to use the STAR system
However unlike the application process you are not limited to 250 words. Generally the interviewers will be expecting you to talk through your answers for at least 5 minutes (most interviewers will tell you how long they expect your answers to be so play off what they tell you).
This additional time gives you the ability to get more in-depth about your experience. It is still advisable to spend most of your time on A – actions & R – results.
But this time when you are describing what it is you did you should drill down into why you did what you did and why you thought that was the best option. Were there other options that you could have gone with? Why were they not chosen? Etc.
These are some of the questions that I have personally seen asked during a competency based interview. How well do you think you can answer them?
Tell me about a time when a project you were working on had an impact on the way another area went about their work?
How does your current (or previous) role fit into the organisation’s wider goals?
How do you ensure that you have considered all stakeholder needs when undertaking a new initiative?
In the Assessment Centre
Assessment centre evaluations have fallen out of favour as of late, they are now usually reserved for entry level roles where there are lots of jobs available and lots of applicants to sort. Say for example a new customer service centre is opening and they require 100 colleagues to take inbound calls.
When you go to an assessment centre evaluation you will be put into a team alongside your fellow candidates. Then as a team you will be given a scenario and will be asked to come up with a plan on how best to achieve an objective.
It doesn’t really matter what the scenario is or what the objective is. The tips you need to follow are:
– Highlight the blockers – there will be parts of the scenario designed to slow you down
– Understand the success factors – you will not be able to deliver a 100% perfect solution so ensure you know what the important factors are and ensure you deliver them
– Do not hog all of the work and do not sabotage your teammates – this happens all of the time in these group evaluation sessions. Applicants think if they take on all of the hard work or make their other applicants look bad then they are more likely to get the role. But in fact the opposite is true. The assessors in these places have seen it all before. They are looking for team players. People who can provide value to the organisation efficiently and without issue. If you show yourself to be incapable of working with others you will not progress.
– Remember to showcase your results – you’ve put in all the work so make sure you show and highlight to your assessors how your efforts paid off.
Seeing the Big Picture – FAQ
Should my statement/answer change based on the job role?
Yes, different job roles will come with different responsibilities. If you are going for a Team or Project Manager level role then you should tailor your answer to say how you instilled in your team that they need to look beyond their own roles and ensure their work aligns to the organisation’s goals and values. If you are going for an even senior level role (operations manager or a director level role) then you need to talk about how you instil the behaviour of Seeing the Big Picture into your department as a whole. I recommend reading the behaviours document linked here for more information.
Do my answers have to be relevant to the job itself?
Strictly speaking, no. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to talk about your experience in the role so don’t worry if your ‘Seeing the Big Picture’ example is about something unrelated to the industry. If you are going for a, let’s say, Delivery Driver position it might be difficult to come up with a time when you’ve had to understand the company’s goals, but maybe you have outside experience that might be relevant. Go with that instead.
Obviously if you have a direct example that mirrors the job description that would be great but don’t sweat it if you don’t just find something that covers the behaviour itself.
Where can I learn more about Seeing the Big Picture?
Make sure to read the Civil Service document on behaviors. And don’t be afraid to ask your assessors what it is they are looking for. Worst case scenario they say they can’t give feedback, best case you find out exactly what you need for your next application.
Where Can I Learn More About The Civil Service Behaviours?
We have gone into detail about the Civil Service Behaviours in this post here. If you would like to learn more about any individual behaviour check out the posts below:.
How does seeing the big picture improve teamwork and collaboration?
Seeing the big picture enables team members to understand how their individual roles contribute to the overall objectives of the team and organization. This understanding can foster better communication, coordination, and collaboration among team members.
What are some strategies for maintaining a big-picture perspective in a fast-paced work environment?
To maintain a big-picture perspective, it’s important to periodically step back from day-to-day tasks, review the organization’s goals and priorities, and assess how your work aligns with these objectives. Regularly participating in team meetings and staying informed about industry trends and developments can also help you maintain a broader perspective.
How can managers and leaders encourage their team members to see the big picture?
Managers and leaders can encourage big-picture thinking by clearly communicating organizational goals and priorities, involving team members in strategic planning, and providing opportunities for professional development and learning that focus on broader industry trends and challenges.
Can seeing the big picture help with problem-solving and decision-making?
Yes, seeing the big picture can improve problem-solving and decision-making by allowing individuals to consider the wider implications of their choices, identify potential long-term consequences, and make decisions that align with the organization’s overarching goals and objectives.
What are some examples of seeing the big picture in different industries or job roles?
In marketing, seeing the big picture might involve understanding how a specific campaign fits into the overall brand strategy and contributes to the company’s growth. In software development, it could mean considering how a particular feature or improvement aligns with the product’s long-term vision and user needs. In public service, big-picture thinking might involve understanding how a policy decision impacts various stakeholders and contributes to broader societal goals.
How can I complete the personal statement part?