Government jobs in Australia

Applying for and landing government jobs can be much more involved than finding jobs in the private sector, with a unique set of rules and procedures that must be followed. Understanding exactly what’s required will help make the process less daunting and ensure your application has the best chance of getting you a job. 


Where to find job listings

Government positions may be advertised internally or externally. Advertising internally means that the position is only made available to candidates already working within the Public Service.

When positions are advertised externally, they are open to anyone who wishes to submit an application. You can find these jobs on websites that specifically list government jobs, or on regular job boards.  

Applying for government jobs

The main difference between applications for government and private sector jobs is the inclusion of selection criteria. Selection criteria are a set of must-have skills or experience required for the position. You are given the chance to provide greater detail about how you meet these criteria than in a regular cover letter or application. 

When reading the job advertisement you will always find information on how to obtain the selection criteria (usually a download link or contact email), which must be responded to in order for your application to be considered. Don’t rely solely on the job description provided in the ad. 

Responding to selection criteria

Rather than the traditional cover letter that lets you list your relevant skills and experience in a somewhat unstructured fashion, each one of selection criteria must be addressed separately and in order.

You should aim to write at least one to two paragraphs about each skill or quality required, explaining how you meet the criteria and giving a demonstration of your experience. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using the STAR model:

Situation – start with a brief description of the context of the story.

Task – describe the task that had you had to complete as a result of the situation, highlighting any difficulties or constraints that needed to be overcome.

Action – outline the actions you took to achieve the desired outcome. This should describe what you did but also why you did it, and if you considered any alternatives.

Result – finish with the result of your actions. Be specific and include figures if appropriate.

The interview process

Interviews for government jobs are very much an extension of the written application. While the exact nature of the interview may vary, you will find them to be highly structured. There will be a panel of two or three interviewers, and all candidates will be presented with the same questions or tasks.

As with all job interviews, preparation is key. Reading up on the department will help provide you with valuable context, but your best resource will be your own application. Questions will often relate closely to the duty statement in the job advertisement, and give you a chance to expand on how you meet the selection criteria.

Final tips

Don’t be disheartened if you do not hear back about your application immediately. The hiring process for government positions can be slow to progress, and it is not unheard of for candidates to be offered an interview months after they submitted their application.

Ad if you are not successful, keep trying! Like many things, responding to selection criteria becomes easier with practice.

Tips provided by Jeff from GradAustralia, Australia’s leading graduate recruitment site.