Client: UK Passport Service

Industry: Government Agency


The technology and work process changes were so large and complex that we needed to recruit people, but there is a skills shortage in London for project managers. We also were keen to use the recruitment opportunity to bring in a wider diversity of people. The ‘assessment of potential’ approach rather than purely knowledge and PM experience certainly worked well in selecting the right people. Our hiring target of 20 was met first time, and the process designed was challenging but fair.

Project Director


UKPS were on a major transformation programme that was considered to be one of the largest change programmes in the UK. With business drivers such as introducing biometrics, improving identity authentication, and meeting an increasing yearly demand for passports, the Agency identified the need to place its ‘change’ projects under the leadership of a Director reporting to the Chief Executive, and to rapidly increase its Project Management capability by recruiting 20 new staff.

Based in London, the skills of Project Management are scarce, and the traditional methods were not working. It was decided to attract a wide pool of talent who had the aptitude, and learning potential, for Project Management. Prior project management experience was less important than their ‘potential’. Ensuring that this was identified at assessment stage, that the widest possible diverse candidate pool was able to reach the final stages of selection, and the process used promoted the brand of UKPS as an employer of choice, were the objectives set for AVASST.


Using core competencies, trials of a project management aptitude exercise were conducted on single vacancies within the function. The DAT General Abilities Test was selected for its validity and Norm Groups as the test for fluid intelligence.

To ensure all candidates had the best opportunity to show their potential, half-day briefing sessions were held prior to the assessment centre. This briefed applicants on UKPS’ objectives, the roles, values, EVP, and introduced them to the concept of psychometric assessment and work simulation exercises.

Keen to ensure there was open and fair competition, exclusion, and diversity, there was concern over the use of ‘tests’. The design of the whole process and the instruments selected was critical. It was also agreed that each applicant attending the assessment centre would receive a one-page feedback sheet as a genuine sign of appreciation for their investment of time, and interest in UKPS.


204 candidates were assessed over 3 days and 45 candidates were selected a for competency based interview by a Senior Project Manager and an AVASST consultant. Interviewers were briefed on each candidates’ potential strengths and development needs resulting from the assessment process. 23 offers were made, and 20 offers were accepted. A year later all were still with UKPS and have either achieved ‘satisfactory’ or ‘above satisfactory’ performance.

No claims or complaints were received from applicants regarding the fairness of the process, and the ‘assessment of potential’ approach was promoted within other Government Departments.