Applying for a job in the Australian Public Service (APS)

The following information has been provided to us by APS Recruitment, Department of Defence.

The APS has many different rewarding careers on offer. Finding a role in the APS can seem daunting however, if you are thinking of enhancing your career it is a great opportunity to step back and have a think about your skills, interests and career expectations. What kind of role are you interested in? And, what key skills you can bring to the role?

Where to start?

Temporary employment

Many APS agencies have a non-ongoing/temporary employment register, the aim being to fill short-term vacancies, often at short notice. These roles are for an initial period of 18 months or less. Candidates are selected for work based on the skills and abilities needed for the job. These jobs provide a good opportunity to gain experience in the Public Service. You can find them by either, going to an agency website and searching Temporary Employment Register or through APS Jobs. You will only need to answer a few personal particulars, upload a resume and provide a short pitch outlining your key skills and experience. Defence’s Register can be found here.

Ongoing employment

All current vacancies in the Australian Public Service (APS) for a period of more than 18 months are advertised online at APSjobs. Jobs are also advertised on individual agency websites and jobseeker sites. If you are interested in working for a particular agency, check their website for information and search Careers. You can also find out more about APS agencies at: www.directory.gov.au

The first thing to do when you land on the APSjobs page is to create an APSJobs account. Once you have registered on the site you are then able to set up email job alerts to be sent to you when positions are advertised with the skills, qualifications, and experience you have identified.  You can also identify alerts for particular organisations or locations.

If you see an interesting job advertised, you can find more information in the selection documentation or job information pack that will be available online. Each job advertised has a contact person. It is a great idea to call this person to find out more about the role and who they are looking for.

The Department of Jobs and Small Business jobactive site also provides comprehensive support tools and information to assist you in looking for work.

Other ways to build government experience

Another avenue to go to is a recruitment agency. A lot of recruitment companies specialise in placing people in temporary government jobs. Recruitment agencies are able to provide advice on resumes and provide short-term opportunities which can provide a starting point for a new career in the APS.

Supported recruitment options

There is support available for people with disability applying for jobs in APS under RecruitAbility. RecruitAbility is a scheme which aims to attract and develop applicants with disability and also facilitate cultural changes in selection panels and agency recruitment. RecruitAbility can be applied to all vacancies across the APS, including Senior Executive Service roles.

Job applicants with disability who:

  • opt into the scheme;
  • declare they have disability; and
  • meet the minimum requirements of a vacancy advertised under the scheme

are advanced to a further stage in the selection process. Merit remains the basis for engagement and promotion.

The APS offers a number of targeted employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians. Find out more at www.indigenouscareers.gov.au.

APS Recruitment Processes

Remember: Getting a job in the APS is based on merit. This means looking at your skills, abilities and experience, how well they fit the requirements of the job and what you can bring to the role are all very important. It is a common myth that you have to know someone to get a job in the APS.

Once applications have closed, your application will be assessed against the requirements of the job and compared with other applicants to make a short-list of those applicants who are suitable, or most suitable, to be considered further. This comparison is generally done by examining your CV, application, statement or pitch. Short-listing may sometimes involve a phone or Skype interview, or use online assessment methods such as video interviews, multiple choice questions or psychometric testing.

If you are short-listed for further consideration, you may be invited to attend a face-to-face interview. Using the job description as a guide, you may be asked a range of questions to demonstrate your skills and abilities. These could include behavioural-based questions and/or hypothetical scenario questions. As part of, or in place of an interview, you may be asked to do exercises such as a work sample test, a presentation, or psychometric testing.

The panel may also contact your nominated referees to gather a further picture of your abilities and experience. The whole process can take some time so don’t be disheartened if you haven’t heard anything for a couple of months, this is not unusual! Just give the contact officer a call and ask where the process is up to.

Cracking the Code is a great place to go to for information https://www.apsc.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-12/cracking_the_code.pdf

Change from selection criteria to statement of claims

Long and complicated selection criteria is becoming a thing of the past – thank goodness! While a few agencies still utilise selection criteria for their assessment processes, many are now only asking for a short ‘pitch’ to accompany a resume.

So, what are the major differences between the two?

Basically they both inform the panel of your experience and skills relevant to the role, the selection criteria just sets out the requirements in a more formal matter and asks the candidate to do the same.

Selection criteria describe the key personal qualities, skills, abilities, knowledge and qualifications a person needs to perform the role effectively.  It is often based on a particular agencies capabilities expected at the level you are applying for, so respond to each selection criteria, providing examples of your claims against each one.

The ‘pitch’ or statement of claims is often a shorter statement, 600 words or less, of your claims for the job. Your pitch is a chance to tell the agency why you are the right person for the job without the need for specific or more formal headings. They might want to know why you want to work for them, why you are interested in that particular role, what you can offer, and how your skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications are applicable to the job.

One of the most important things to remember when answering a pitch or selection criteria is to provide specific examples or achievements that demonstrate your ability to perform the role. Have a look at the information on ‘Who we are looking for?’, or the specific skills the position asks for. Think carefully about each one and try to come up with examples that demonstrate your ability to perform each one.

It can useful to brainstorm ideas and write down all your relevant knowledge, skills, abilities, training and experience.

Think of specific examples where you have used your skills, abilities, etc., and note these down. For each example of a skill/experience consider them in terms of:

    • Activity – What happened, what was the situation or issue?
    • Behaviour – What was your role in the example? What feedback did others provide you?
    • Consequence – What was the outcome? What did your learn from it?

It can be an example where things went really well, or an example of where things didn’t go well.  Providing insights into what you learned from the example is also a great idea. The panel wants to see not just a statement that you can do the job, they want to see how you have demonstrated that you can do the role.

Finally, remember to stick to the word limit. Each selection exercise can have over 100 applicants. The panel do not have time to read through pages and pages of information. Be concise, to the point, providing clear examples along the way.

Ability for spouses/partners to self-identify in their applications

Defence has recently updated its job application form for ongoing roles, and has launched its refreshed Temporary Employment Register (for non-ongoing roles). The refreshed application forms now provide an opportunity for spouses/partners of currently serving ADF members to self identify. The question in the form states:

Are you currently, or have you previously identified as part of the Australian Defence community? This might include as a spouse of a serving ADF member or contractor to Defence.

It is important for Defence to be able to identify spouses/partners of veterans to ensure we track their interest to work in the Defence Department. If we are able to identify that there is a large cohort of interested applicants then we can look at what initiatives can be developed to support the cohort. Identifying the kind of skills spouses/partners of ADF members can bring, where their interests and experience lie provides a basis for us to develop clearer pathways for these cohorts.

Good luck with your application.

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