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How to Get a Government Job

Parliament House, Canberra

Ever wanted to have the chance to work on policy development and change the ‘system’ from the inside? Working in government can be very rewarding, and is a great way to use your law degree.

Before you go off to throw a big party announcing your retirement from the private sector and dedicating your life to the public service, you will need to know how to apply for the job.

Government job applications are an entirely different animal to private sector job applications. There are key selection criteria you must address, and form after form to complete. After 12 illustrious years of public service and a successful job application or two under my belt, these are my pointers for getting that job in the public service…

1. Take the time to print out and read the position description. This will have absolute gems of information that you can use in your application (and hopefully interview). Use this information to show them that you have done the extra homework – you will be marked higher for it.

2. Situation. Task. Action. Result. STAR is what most government HR people use to grade your answer to both the written application and also in your interview. The thinking behind it is that past behaviour tends to be a good indicator of future behaviour.

You will be asked questions that ask for your experiences, both academic and professional. Firstly, what was the situation. Secondly, what was the task you were appointed/volunteered for? Thirdly, What action did you take? And lastly, what was the result? This is your new IRAC. Learn it well.

3. Do not be surprised if you do not hear back from the department shortly after you have submitted your application. There are limited resources and many applications to sift through that people need to take time away from their real jobs to do. Be patient. If you haven’t heard anything in over a month, it does not mean you did not get in this round. Give it time. You will hear from them either way.

4. Speak to people who work in government, or better yet, in the department you are applying for. Get a feel for the work and the expectations of staff. This information is absolutely priceless in an interview.

5. Don’t make jokes about the public service to public servants unless you are a public servant already. Just don’t.

6. When preparing for your interview, refer to the position description. It will essentially form the key selection criteria. Make sure you have a prepared answer for each one.

7. Also take a look at the Australian Public Service Commission’s Cracking the Code publication, which takes you through what you can expect from the application and interview process, and offers some tips to help you get your foot in the door.

Good luck with your job applications!

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