Government applications are really competitive. It is not uncommon to be competing against 60 or more job applicants and this figure can go up to 2,000 or more, when applying for the more sexy jobs – e.g. intelligence officer at the Australian Secret Intelligence Service ASIS. (Just as a side, ASIS do regularly advertise for new ‘blood’ so if you want to become a spy – keep an eye out for their regular recruitment drives).
Since these jobs are generally very competitive, I outline 3 tips, so you can significantly improve the odds of securing a job interview.
Don’t bother applying unless you meet the bulk of their requirements
Your application will be assessed against other candidates, many of whom will be more suitably qualified than you. Depending on the role, panel members will assess anything from half a dozen candidates for complex technical roles, through to 2,400 candidates or more.
Unless you meet the bulk of their requirements, you won’t get selected.
So, save time and get very strategic on the type of jobs you apply for. Look at the job description, before you check out the selection criteria. If you have experience in the bulk of the tasks, then it is probably a good fit. If you don’t, it is unlikely you will be selected. Remember, government is about exact skills and experience matches. It does not matter if you are incredible talent, if you are not a match, you won’t get selected.
If moving from the private sector to the public sector, you also need to understand that if the job requires ‘government specific’ skills and knowledge, then it can be difficult to secure an interview, even if you have comparative skills from the private sector.
For example: you might be a contract administrator from the private sector, but when applying for a contract administrator/or procurement position within government, you will lack specific skills and knowledge, on government policy, procedures and legislation. If this knowledge is deemed to be vital during the recruitment process and it is listed as an essential requirement or criterion, then it can sometimes be difficult to compete on an equal footing, with internal candidates that already have this knowledge.
You need to learn how to write a top-notch-application
You application will get marked and assessed. Now across Government, there are multiple ways applicants get assessed. These range from a cover letter/assessment statement, outlining why you are a good match, responding to behavioural questions, through to full blown responses to selection criteria.
The key behind a good application for government is providing evidence of your capacity to do the job, not delivering belief statements. You need to understand the various methodologies behind writing an effective government application, including PAR, STAR, CAR and SAR. Even for the 2 page statements, the STAR methodology is a framework that can be utilised to ensure you are providing the evidence that is required for success.
If coming from the private sector, you won’t get a look in, unless you understand the government recruitment process.
I’ve covered all of these methodologies, including how to write a 2-page statement in How to GET In and GET PROMOTED in the Public Service Sector.
Call the Contact Officer before you apply
Unless the vacancy is advertised as ‘several positions’, then you should ask whether someone is acting in the role and how long they have been acting in the role.
WHY? In the public service sector, many vacancies are temporarily filled by a person from a lower classification. This allows them to gain valuable experience in a higher position. Unfortunately, some people are left to act in a role for long periods of time (months, sometimes years), so there is a sense that they have a legitimate claim to the role in question.
What this means to you as a candidate, is that you will be competing against another candidate, who already has experience in the position. This often results in that person being appointed to the position, as he or she can demonstrate experience, knowledge and success in the position.
While the merit-based process means that the contact officer won’t tell you that it is a ‘done deal’, by asking these two questions, you can determine whether it is worth while competing against a candidate who already has valuable experience in the position. However, if you believe you are a very strong candidate and you are interested in the role, then you should still apply.
Remember, just because someone is acting in the position, does not mean they are effective in the role. Many managers, while not completely dissatisfied, are still open to ‘new candidates’, in order to improve the overall performance of the work area. I have lost count of the number of candidates acting in the position who have failed to gain a promotion, due to the poor quality of their application, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the selection panel, to justify a decision to appoint the person in question. (However, just don’t be surprised, if the person acting in the role is appointed).