It seems that the challenge of applying for government roles can really shy people away from pursuing a rewarding career in the public sector. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not for everyone – but for those who want to contribute to society, want mobility and career progression, it can be a good option. I also find a lot of clients who currently work within government still struggle with the process of applying for jobs in their own departments.
Not knowing how to apply nor access the right resources can be frustrating, leading to feeling like you’ve wasted precious weekends putting massive amounts of work into your application only to get nowhere, with limited feedback. So what are the steps you need to take?
Step 1 – Identify the type of role that you would like
Is it in your current field of expertise? Are you looking for a career change? You may need to consider a career coaching session to create a strategy based on your personality profile, values and interests. This also helps to create your career plan so that you have the best opportunity to start off on the right foot!
Step 2 – Research the appropriate websites
Australian Federal, State and Local Governments each have their own website to apply for jobs. In Queensland, these sites are:
Australian Federal Government: http://www.apsjobs.gov.au/
Queensland State Government: www.jobs.qld.gov.au
Queensland Local Government: http://www.lgaq.asn.au
Step 3 – Identify the right role and the assessment criteria
Once you have identified a role and determined if you can undertake the tasks and demonstrate the criteria, consider getting in touch with the contact person to ask some key questions before you put pen to paper. For example, it is worth knowing if someone is already acting in the role. If there is, then the manager may be happy with the person and they would more than likely be the successful applicant if they are applying. If, however, the contact person says, “yes someone is acting in the role however I would strongly recommend you apply” then that’s a good sign that it is worth putting time and energy into writing your application.
You also need to consider the assessment criteria to determine how you need to respond to the “are you the right person for the job” criteria. These are listed as key competencies that the panel will be scoring your application on. For example, most Queensland State Government departments follow and use the “Capability and Leadership Framework” (CLF) – quite a hefty document at first sight. Once you know how to navigate it, it’s actually quite easy.
The CLF is divided into the varying levels of job bands. It reflects what competencies need to be demonstrated at each level, along with the behavioural indicator that underpins each competency. When creating your examples in your assessment criteria, your example must encompass the behavioural indicators in the CLF. For example:
For an AO3 – Executive Assistant role, one competency listed is:
- Supports strategic direction – Thinks and plans ahead and suggests improvements to work practices and work tasks.
So by referring to the CLF (CLF 3), the behavioural indicators are
Supports shared purpose and direction
Understands and supports the organisation’s vision, mission and business objectives. Follows direction provided by supervisor. Recognises how own work contributes to the achievement of team and section goals. Understands the reasons for decisions and recommendations.
Understands the work environment and contributes to thedevelopment of workplans and team goals. Demonstrates an awareness of issues that may impact on designated work tasks.
Harnesses information and opportunities
Knows where to find information, and asks questions to ensure a better understanding of issues. Uses established guidelines to determinewhat information should be conveyed to others.
Keeps supervisor informed on work progress.
Shows judgment, intelligence and commonsense
Researches and analyses information relevantto work tasks andresponsibilities. Identifiesissues that may impact on designated tasks and alerts supervisor. Suggests improvements to worktasks.
When addressing this criteria you need to create a specific example (i.e “one time at band camp” for those American Pie fans!) that encompasses all those behavioural indicators. If you’re looking at management roles, your examples need to be of a higher level and have a more strategic and leadership focus.
Some departments have chosen not to use this exact document but create their own competencies, so it’s worth checking on this before putting pen to paper. For example, Transport and Main Roads have their own version of the CLF, whereas Health and Communities seem to use a variety of sources at the moment.
Step 4 – Create your resume and selection criteria
Now you’re ready to put pen to paper! Make sure your resume links all the tasks you can perform and key skills that you have to the position description. Most people don’t and this is the way to get to the top of the pile! You only have 10 seconds to get the reader’s attention so the front page of your resume is prime real estate! Use it wisely! See my other blog here on how to write a killer resume!
Step 5 – Prepare for the interview
When preparing for an interview in government, be clear about what the panel are looking for and be prepared to sell to their needs. You need to know the job description inside out and back to front before going into an interview so that regardless of what question you’re asked, you will have the answer. Make sure you know your examples from your selection crit
The cover letter should be aimed at generating the reader’s interest to read your resume. Good cover letters spark the employer’s interest and create an impression of competence.
Similar to what you did with your resume, you should study the employer's requirements and needs before you start writing. Once you have those points, put the most important items first and support this with facts and examples. It is important to demonstrate how your career background, education, work experiences and abilities can meet the needs of the employer.
You should always use a cover a letter for your resume unless specifically instructed otherwise by the employer. Sending a resume without a covering letter is like starting an interview without shaking hands. The main purpose of the cover letter is to introduce your resume and highlight the key points that are most relevant to the job being advertised.
Your cover letter needs to be personalised. It is more effective if you do some research on the company before hand and write a cover letter that is tailored to the company and the advertised role.
Your cover letter should provide the following details.
- Why are you writing?
- What interests you about the job?
- Why should the company be interested in you?
These questions should be answered in 3 main sections of your cover letter.
Introduce yourself and explain why you are writing to the employer. Include the name of the position being advertised. If someone has suggested you get in touch with the employer then do mention the recommendation. If you are responding to an advertisement, refer to it and the source that published it. In a sentence or two explain why you are the best candidate for the job (talk about your skills).
Provide a link between your background to the experience and skill requirements of the job position. It is good if you can talk about your experiences that relate to the job at hand. You should identify your strengths, accomplishments and results. Do not repeat what is stated in your resume. Instead, summarise your most relevant qualifications or provide additional details about a noteworthy accomplishment.
End the letter with a brief active statement, such as an offer to contact the employer within a specific period of time, usually one or two weeks. You have to be proactive and continue to keep your name in the interviewer’s mind. It is crucial that you provide details for them to reach you; this is usually by phone and/or email. Close the letter by thanking the reader for their time and consideration.
Cover letter tips
- Should be specifically targeted towards the job at hand. Do not write one cover letter and send it to everyone.
- Cover letters need to highlight your talents and experience.
- Your cover letter, like your resume, should be perfect. Make sure there are no grammatical or spelling errors. Don’t rely on your computer’s spell check. Get a friend or teacher to read it over for you.
- Keep it to one page.