7 top tips when applying for government jobs in Australia

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 15/06/2018
woman organising resumes

So you want a job in the public sector? Great choice. Be prepared, however, for a rigorous hiring process when applying for government jobs.

Don’t be alarmed though. This gives the diligent job seeker a great opportunity to prove their worth. Applicants sending in fancy resumes and generic applications simply won’t make the grade.

Recruiters in federal, state and local government expect candidates to follow their unique guidelines to the letter. So if you go the extra mile with your application, you’ll greatly increase your chance of success.

Here are the boxes you need to tick if you really want that government position.

1. Read application guidelines carefully

Go through the application instructions with a fine-tooth comb – don’t rush and miss or muddle up stages.

Successful applicants will work through the process and address each point to ensure all requirements are met.

It might seem like boring detail, but it’s not. Only those who successfully negotiate the process will emerge as winners.

2.  Scan for keywords

It’s vital to get your terminology right. Government bodies have their own specific language relating to job titles, duties and workplace culture.

Spend some time scanning advertised public sector roles to work out the frequently used words. Then customise your resume to suit the job in question using this terminology.

Pick out regularly occurring keywords which describe the position and its requirements. These can be sprinkled throughout your application.

3. Refine your resume

While your government resume must be comprehensive, it should also be clear and concise. Recruiters need to see at first glance the key skills and attributes which make you a great fit for the role.

Focus on career achievements and transferable skills when resume writing. Also remember to make your resume specific to the industry in question, highlighting your relevant experience and skills.

4. Cover off your cover letter

Your cover letter is a personal introduction which carries lots of weight. It must be clear, immediate and straight to the point if you want to impress your recruiters.

The terminology used must reflect the standards and requirements of the public sector so remember those keywords and correctly used job titles.

Consistently address your hirer’s needs, expectations and specific job requirements to ensure your application meets the brief.

5. Unlock the key selection criteria

Government selection criteria form the gold standard for public sector job applications. Get this part right and your chances of winning an interview greatly increase.

Candidates must match their skills, training, experience, formal qualifications and personal attributes to the specific requirements of the position. Make sure you address each criteria, and you don’t miss anything out.

You’ll also need to demonstrate your suitability by answering a range of targeted questions.

6. Hit the bullseye with targeted questions

Targeted questions are the bedrock of government job applications. These behavioural questions are designed to reveal your job-related strengths and demonstrated capacity to work through curly scenarios which typically arise at work.

They generally start ‘Give me an example of’ or ‘tell me about a time when’. When you answer these questions, you’ll need to hone in on your work processes, and think about how you have used your skills to solve workplace challenges.

There are also specific ways to outline your answers, using the STAR and CAR methods.

7. Try STAR statements

Identify a situation where you successfully solved a work problem. Perhaps you de-escalated a conflict, found a creative solution to a long-standing issue or built a successful team from scratch.

Then separate your achievement into four parts, describing each concisely.

Situation (circumstances of the challenge or opportunity), Task (what you or your team were asked to do) Action (how you decided to do it), Results (the outcome).

You can apply similar principles to your achievements using CAR answers. This involves breaking your achievement into three.

CAR stands for:

  • Challenge (the problem you faced)
  • Action (the action you took)
  • Results (what happened).

Need help with your next application?

Government roles can be highly fulfilling, offering great benefits and excellent career progression. Talk to us about how we can assist you in navigating the complex requirements of the application, and crafting a resume and cover letter that gives you the best chance of winning your desired government job.


Get in touch to discuss how we can help make your next Government job application stand out, or call us now on 02 8958 2140.

Find out more about our Selection Criteria writing service here.