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How to apply

Check if you’re eligible

To become an OSG you need to:

  • be 18 years or over
  • have the right to work in the UK and the Civil Service (GOV.UK, opens in a new tab)
  • ideally hold a valid driving licence (desirable)

We cannot sponsor OSG applicants via the Skilled Worker visa/Tier 2 (general) work visa.

If your application is successful, you will need to complete and clear pre-employment checks. This will include HM Prison and Probation Service Enhanced Level 2 vetting.

Applying to work in a high security prison

If you apply to work at one of the high security prisons listed below, you will also need to:

  • complete a Counter-Terrorism Check (CTC)
  • and provide proof that you have been a resident in the UK for the last 3 years

Please note: the UK residency requirements refer to the period immediately before you submit your application, and not any other three-year period, or any other accumulation of time spent in the UK.

However, if you have been out of the country for a significant period of time (usually up to one year) and maintained your UK residency, you may still be considered for vetting clearance. For example, if you have:

  • spent a significant period of time overseas without returning to the UK, but intend to return in the future
  • taken a gap year before or following university
  • travelled for a year
  • spent time overseas visiting family

This is not an exhaustive list.

During the application process, you must be able to provide correct and up-to-date documentation when requested.

CTC check prisons

You will need to complete a CTC check if you apply to one of the following prisons:

  • Belmarsh
  • Frankland
  • Full Sutton
  • Long Lartin
  • Manchester
  • Wakefield
  • Whitemoor
  • Woodhill

The application process

The application process takes 4 to 5 months, on average, from starting your application to your first day on the job.

How long it takes depends on how long your pre-employment checks take and if there’s a specific role available for you at the prison.

There are 2 stages to the application process:

  • Stage 1: online application; depending on which prison you apply to you may also need to complete a short online test
  • stage 2: interview

Stage 1

Find a job and apply online

Start by finding a suitable vacancy.

You’ll need your National Insurance number to apply. The application is very quick and should only take you about 10 minutes.

You’ll be asked some eligibility questions, such as nationality and your right to work in the UK, then you’ll need to enter some personal details. You can then submit your application.

Tell us if you have a disability when you apply and we can offer reasonable adjustments to help with the online test and interview. Find out about reasonable adjustments.

Online test

When you apply, you may be invited to complete a short online test. The job advert you are applying to will confirm if this is the case and you’ll get an email with detailed instructions on how to take the test.

If you don’t need to complete an online test, you will be invited to an interview if your online application meets the eligibility criteria for the role.

About the online test
This is a behaviour-based assessment to see if you have the right natural strengths and behaviours to become an OSG.

You’ll complete some mini tasks that are designed to show your natural behavioural preferences, for example, how you make decisions.

The tasks are designed to observe the behaviours most important for the OSG role.

The test will take around 40 minutes to complete, but there’s no time limit.

You do not need to be a computer gamer to do well on this test. We’re just looking for your natural ability to succeed in the role.

Before you take the test, you’ll have the opportunity to practise. We’ll send you information and a link to access the practice test and the real test after you apply.

If you pass stage 1 of the application process, we’ll invite you to an interview.

Stage 2


If you pass the test, we’ll invite you to an interview.

During your interview we’ll ask you a series of questions which will help us assess whether you have the required strengths and behaviours to become an OSG.

We will also assess your ability to speak and understand English, which is a government requirement in public-facing roles such as this where you will be engaging with visitors and sometimes prisoners. If spoken English is something you struggle with, you could try having a conversation with others and asking for feedback before your interview.

You do not need to have worked in a prison before to do well – you can use examples from your personal and professional experiences.

What to expect

We’ll ask you a combination of questions:

  • behaviour-based questions, to explore the actions and activities you have taken in previous roles or life experiences
  • strengths-based questions, to focus on what you do well and what motivates and energises you

Your interview will last about 30 minutes.

Preparing for your interview

You do not need to have worked in a prison before to do well – when answering questions, you can use examples from your personal life, educational, or professional experiences. Simply focus on a specific example and go into as much detail as possible.

Behaviour-based questions: Behaviours are the actions and activities that people do which make them effective in a job. We’ll use the Civil Service Success Profiles framework (GOV.UK, opens in a new tab) to assess the following behaviours.

  • Communicating and influencing: You have excellent interpersonal skills, communicating clearly and respectfully, showing good listening skills. You collaborate with others and challenge and influence others with confidence.
  • Managing a quality service: You demonstrate a strong work ethic and take personal responsibility for your actions. You manage your own time, quickly adapting to changing circumstances and assessing risks, whilst adhering to processes and rules.

Familiarise yourself with the behaviours you will be asked to demonstrate and think about the most relevant and strongest examples you can give on the day.

Take the time to plan the structure of your responses. Here’s a standard approach you can use:

  • Situation – describe the situation you had to deal with
  • Task – explain the task you needed to complete
  • Action – outline the actions you took to complete the task
  • Result – confirm what happened as a result of your action and what you learnt from the experience

Once the assessor has asked you a behaviour question, you will be given time to think about how you want to respond. This is so you can think of your most relevant and best example for each question without the pressure of needing to answer straight away.

You can bring notes into your interview to refer to when responding to the behaviour-based questions. However, these should only be used as prompts for your examples.

Strengths-based questions: Strengths are the things we do regularly, we do well, and that motivate us.

Before your interview, take some time to consider why you would like to become an operational support grade and think about the personal strengths you could bring to the role. You might find it helpful to ask family or friends what they think your strengths are.

These questions you’ll be asked are designed to assess your natural preferences. They are designed to be as clear as possible and can be interpreted exactly as they are said, there are no hidden meanings.

Here are a few examples of strengths-based questions. You will be asked different questions in your interview.

  • Do you think it’s important to be able to explain things so that others can understand? Why is that?
  • Imagine you have several urgent tasks on your to-do list for tomorrow. How would you plan your day?

You will be assessed on 3 strengths and asked up to 2 questions on each.

You can read more about strengths-based questions here (opens in new tab).


Pre-employment checks

If you’re successful at interview and a vacancy is available immediately, we will start your pre-employment checks. These include security, identity and past employment checks.

This can take on average 25 working days (it may be longer if you’re applying to a prison that requires a higher level of security check).

If a position is not available, you’ll be put on a merit list. When there’s a vacancy for you, we’ll let you know and begin your pre-employment checks.

Get offer and arrange your start date

Once you have received your provisional offer and passed your pre-employment checks, we’ll email you to discuss when you can start your OSG role.

Find your prison operational support job

Want to be part of a diverse team, supporting the smooth and safe running of a prison? Our operational support grades are people just like you.

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