If you want a government job, your first step to securing one, is making sure you write a top-notch application. While there is a move away from long and complex applications, some of the rules remain the same and many job applicants are falling into the same old traps, which is costing them jobs. In no particular order:
Mistake Number One
Not being qualified for the job: The government process is designed (by law) to ensure that the most qualified person for the job is hired. It is not designed to secure the most talented person for the job. Now, you can be very talented and know that within weeks you will excel on the job. But the process is designed to score you against proven skills and qualifications. So if you don’t have these, you won’t be selected (even if you think you are the new Einstein).
So don’t apply for a job based on the fact that it sound’s exciting, or you want a government job, but apply for a job on the basis that not only does it sound great, but you have the majority of the skills and experience listed in the job requirements and selection criteria. Otherwise you are wasting your time.
Mistake Number Two
Making statements without evidence: Whether it is writing a 2-page cover letter, addressing behavioural questions, submitting an EOI, or addressing traditional selection criteria, one of the mistakes most people make is writing statements without any evidence to back up the statement.
Now, a statement without evidence goes something like this:
I have excellent communication skills and at all times, I listen carefully to an audience, use clear and concise language and encourage my staff to communicate to me. I endeavor to keep people up to date and I’m known for my ability to communicate clearly, concisely and accurately.
Now, this sounds pretty impressive, until you analyse the statement closely. What this statement does not do is provide any evidence, or context. It is just a statement that makes a broad statement. Now compare this with the following:
I have excellent communication skills, including written and oral communication skills. As the Manager, Service Desk, Department of Primary Industries, I was confronted upon arrival with poor communication across the team, which was impacting on team morale and performance. I therefore instigated regular team meetings and encouraged staff communication during these team meetings, including listening carefully to those whose input could add value. I was also the author of a regular team newsletter, which updated staff on any changes within the Department and kept staff members engaged. As a result, communication across the team improved, with all staff kept fully informed and up-to-date. By encouraging open communication, I was also able to improve performance and team morale, which was reflected in a 10% improvement in service delivery within just 4 months.
Now, I’ve literally made this up on the spot, (so not the greatest example). I simply wanted to give you guidance on the difference between a statement that adds no value and a statement that provides evidence.
Now if you have not done so already, make sure you understand the methodologies of STAR, CAR, PAR, or SAR, which are all models to make sure you are providing EVIDENCE. And you need to provide evidence that you are perfect for the job for all government applications, including applications that just require a cover letter.
Mistake Number Three
Not focusing on your achievements: Most people talk a lot about their actions, but they don’t quantify outcomes, or their achievements. Achievements, as with the private sector, are the linchpin of a great application. It is what is going to set you apart from others. So forget the government jargon that you think you should incorporate and instead focus on your achievements and share ALL your relevant achievements with the reader. It will make a massive difference to your success.