U.K./E.E.A nationals: Strategic Policy Advisers

U.K. Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

London, , GB


We are looking for people with rigorous interest or expertise in Defra policy areas who are confident in showing leadership in terms of new ideas or ways of doing things, with an ability to apply best practice from other sectors and the implications of a new approach. You should constantly look for ways to change and improve things, and consider fresh approaches to designing and implementing policy within set budgets and tight timescales. Whether you are applying from academia, from industry, a think tank, another Government department, an NGO or a different sector altogether, we want to hear from you.

Job description

Strategic Policy Advisers will be asked to promote outward looking and ambitious policy making in Defra.

You will provide constructive challenge within the policy making process and bring senior external expertise, networks and thinking into the Department. You will be expected to use your expertise and knowledge to engage with policy teams to encourage innovative thinking and build capability in policy development.

Expertise in areas such as agriculture, international trade, environment, net zero and climate change, flood defences, biodiversity, organisational design and animal welfare is highly desirable. Expertise in organisational design would also be desirable, as we consider how best to organise ourselves to best deliver our objectives, optimally serve citizens and our customers, and to harness digital and other opportunities

Successful applicants will work with a large amount of autonomy to support Defra policymakers and Ministers on all key priorities. You will bring critical challenge and an outward looking approach to policy teams, building on the innovative ideas and enthusiasm already found in the Department. Some of the work will have a more inward feel to it as you be constructively challenging our policy thinking based on your unique perspective and experience. There is also space for you to focus on bringing expertise and external thinking and contacts to input to, rather than initiate, existing policy policy development.

You will hold an important position that supports Ministers to shape and deliver their priorities. You will have an opportunity to meet Ministers if you are shortlisted to be interviewed and we expect you to be confident in showing leadership in new ideas or ways of doing things.

You will have the ability to apply best practice from other sectors and draw out the implications of a new approaches. You will constantly look for ways to change and improve and consider fresh approaches to designing and implementing policy within set budgets and tight timescales. We expect you would be confident in your engagement and will cultivate a strong personal network across government and industry through excellent interpersonal skills, using collaboration as a way of improving outcomes. You will be able to deliver results through high quality thinking and advice, working at pace to react to and shape fast moving events. It is unlikely that you will have any line management responsibilities. You will be accountable to the Director of Defra’s Strategy Unit.

You will have a large degree of freedom to define and shape what you work on. Some of your work will come directly from Ministers, who may ask you to look at a particular issue. Sometimes, your view will be sought from colleagues across the Department, who are working on policy or delivery priorities. You will also be encouraged to initiate projects on areas of your own interest, to spot opportunities, and introduce new ideas. All-in-all we believe that we are creating a unique opportunity for you to help shape the future and welcome your application.


We are looking for talented people who bring in expertise and innovation to the Department to build policy-making capability through your knowledge and skills external contacts and creative thinking. You will need to be a strong self-starter able to identify opportunities, build internal and external networks, and set your own direction whilst taking steers from Defra’s senior leadership and Ministerial teams.

You will have a large degree of freedom to define and shape what you work on, whilst being guided by the Department and Ministers’ priorities. Priorities are likely to include areas such as agriculture, international trade, environment, net zero and climate change, organisational change, flood defences, biodiversity and animal welfare. You will regularly update the Defra senior leadership and Ministerial teams on your progress.

For futher information please click here to open Candidate Information Pack.


We’ll assess you against these behaviours during the selection process:

  • Seeing the Big Picture
  • Communicating and Influencing
  • Leadership
  • Working Together

Technical skills

We’ll assess you against these technical skills during the selection process:

  • • Credible knowledge of one or more Defra group issues (such as agriculture, international trade, environment, climate change and biodiversity, animal welfare) and knowledge of how to translate that into the delivery of effective policy.



• Learning and development tailored to your role
• An environment with flexible working options
• A culture encouraging inclusion and diversity
• A Civil Service pension

We encourage you to view the attached Candidate Information Pack for full details of the benefits of working for Defra. Click here to open.

Things you need to know


Successful candidates must pass a disclosure and barring security check.
Successful candidates must meet the security requirements before they can be appointed. The level of security needed is counter-terrorist check.

Selection process details

This vacancy is using Success Profiles, and will assess your Behaviours, Strengths, Experience and Technical skills.
Application Process
For details around how to apply, the application process and a detailed timeline, please view the attached Candidate Information Pack.

Reserve List
A reserve list may be held for a period of 12 months from which further appointments can be made.

Reasonable Adjustment
If a person with disabilities is put at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person, we have a duty to make reasonable changes to our processes.

If you need a change to be made so that you can make your application, you should:

– Contact Government Recruitment Service via [email protected] as soon as possible before the closing date to discuss your needs.
– Complete the “Assistance required” section in the “Additional requirements” page of your application form to tell us what changes or help you might need further on in the recruitment process. For instance, you may need wheelchair access at interview, or if you’re deaf, a Language Service Professional.

Criminal Record Check
If successful and transferring from another Government Department, a criminal record check maybe carried out.

In order to process applications without delay, we will be sending a Criminal Record Check to Disclosure and Barring Service on your behalf. However, we recognise in exceptional circumstance some candidates will want to send their completed forms direct. If you will be doing this, please advise Government Recruitment Service of your intention by emailing [email protected] stating the job reference number in the subject heading.

Childcare Vouchers
Any move to Defra will mean you will no longer be able to carry on claiming childcare vouchers.

Internal Fraud Database Check
Applicants who are successful at interview will be, as part of pre-employment screening subject to a check on the Internal Fraud Database (IFD). This check will provide information about employees who have been dismissed for fraud or dishonesty offences. This check also applies to employees who resign or otherwise leave before being dismissed for fraud or dishonesty had their employment continued. Any applicant’s details held on the IFD will be refused employment.

Loan and Fixed Term Appointments
Existing Civil Servants and applicants from accredited NDPBs are eligible to apply, but will only be considered on loan basis (Civil Servants) or secondment (accredited NDPBs). Prior agreement to be released on a loan basis must be obtained before commencing the application process. In the case of Civil Servants, the terms of the loan will be agreed between the home and host department and the Civil Servant. This includes grade on return.

If you feel your application has not been treated in accordance with the Recruitment Principles and you wish to make a complaint, you should contact Government Recruitment Services via email: [email protected].

We are closely monitoring the situation with regard to Coronavirus, and will be following central Government advice as it is issued. There is therefore a risk that recruitment to this post may be subject to change at short notice. Please continue to follow the application process as normal and ensure that you check your emails regularly for any updates from us as this is how we will communicate with you.

Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.

Nationality requirements

Open to UK, Commonwealth and European Economic Area (EEA) and certain non EEA nationals. Further information on whether you are able to apply is available here.

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission’s recruitment principles.

The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.

Apply and further information

Contact point for applicants

Job contact :
Name : Defra Recruitment Team
Email : [email protected]
Recruitment team :
Email : [email protected]


Strategic Policy Adviser May 2020 Defra Opens in new window (pdf, 1573kB)




IHE Delft Institute for Water Education - MSc in Water and Sustainable Development