Interviewing a Clerk/RFO for Your Town Council: Essential Questions to Ask
Selecting the right Clerk or Responsible Financial Officer (RFO) for your town council can have a profound effect on the smooth running of local government operations. With the right individual in place, councils can ensure they remain transparent, accountable, and efficient. To aid councils in the recruitment process, we've compiled a list of questions to pose during interviews.
NB: These questions are only a guide and each council should decide what is relevant to them.
1. The Basics: Getting Acquainted with the Candidate
- Could you briefly describe your background and experience relating to this role?
- What prompted you to apply for the role of Clerk/RFO with our council?
- How do you prioritise and manage your time, especially when faced with numerous tasks or pressing deadlines?
2. Delving into the Clerk Role:
- Describe your understanding of the role and responsibilities of a Clerk within a town council.
- Could you provide an instance where you managed a complex administrative task? How did you approach it?
- How would you handle a situation where a council member or a member of the public expresses dissatisfaction with a decision or procedure?
- Describe your experience with taking minutes. How do you ensure their accuracy and thoroughness?
- How do you manage confidential information?
- How do you keep abreast of changes in local government legislation and procedures?
3. Probing the RFO Role:
- Describe your experience in managing financial records and drawing up annual budgets.
- How do you guarantee financial transparency and accountability in your role?
- Describe an occasion when you pinpointed a financial discrepancy and how you addressed it.
- How well-acquainted are you with the financial software and tools utilised by town councils? Are there any specific tools or software in which you excel?
- How would you approach a situation where the council is under financial strain? Could you provide an example from your previous roles?
- Explain the process you adopt for financial forecasting and long-term financial planning.
4. Situational Queries and Gauging Behavioural Traits:
- Recount a time when you had to adapt to a significant shift in your work environment or processes. How did you manage it?
- Can you reference a particularly challenging decision you had to make in your last role? What was the outcome?
5. Teamwork, Communication, and Interpersonal Abilities:
- How do you ensure clear communication with council members, the public, and other stakeholders?
- Describe an occasion when you collaborated within a team to achieve a shared objective. What was your role, and how did you contribute?
6. Assessing Technical Proficiency:
- Which office software packages are you proficient in (e.g., Microsoft Office, Google Workspace)?
- Have you used any specific council management software or platforms? If so, which ones, and how would you rate your proficiency with them?
- How familiar are you with managing email campaigns or newsletters for community outreach?
- Have you ever used web conferencing tools for virtual council meetings? Which ones are you comfortable with?
- Do you have experience updating and managing a council website or intranet?
- Are you familiar with any Content Management Systems (CMS)? Which ones?
- What financial software or accounting tools have you used in previous roles?
- How comfortable are you with generating financial reports and analysis using software?
- Can you describe a time when you had to deal with a digital security issue, such as a data breach or phishing attempt? How did you handle it?
- How do you ensure that sensitive digital documents and communication are kept secure?
- Do you have experience with managing and maintaining databases, especially those related to council records and finances?
- Can you describe a time when you had to use a database to extract specific information or generate a report?
7. Understanding of Common Regulations:
- How familiar are you with the Local Government Act, and how have you ensured compliance with its provisions in your previous roles?
- Can you provide an example of a situation where you had to interpret or apply a section of the Local Government Act to a specific council decision?
- How do you ensure that the council's operations remain compliant with GDPR and other data protection laws?
- Can you describe a situation where you had to handle a data protection issue or GDPR-related query?
- Have you had experience handling FOI requests? How do you manage and respond to them while ensuring compliance?
- How do you maintain a balance between transparency, as mandated by FOI, and the need to protect sensitive council information?
- How do you ensure that council premises and events adhere to health and safety regulations?
- Can you recount an instance where you had to address a health and safety concern?
- How familiar are you with financial regulations pertinent to town councils?
- Describe a time when you had to ensure that a council's financial activities were in line with regulatory requirements.
- Are you acquainted with local planning regulations? How do you ensure council decisions in relation to planning applications are compliant?
- How do you handle situations where there might be public opposition to a planning decision, while ensuring the decision remains within the bounds of regulations?
Navigating the intricacies of town council operations requires a Clerk/RFO with a blend of interpersonal, technical, and regulatory expertise. These comprehensive questions are tailored to help councils uncover a candidate's strengths, experiences, and potential areas for development. Here's wishing your council a successful recruitment process, ensuring you identify an individual who can effectively steer the council through its varied responsibilities. Best of luck with your interviews!