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How To Get A Government Job In Australia

More than two million people work in government roles in Australia and it continues to be one of the most competitive job sectors when it comes to recruitment. So if you’re looking for a change of career or you’re just starting out and you’re wondering how to get a government job in Australia, we’ll walk you through the key things to consider. We’ll help you understand the differences between the public and private sectors, the types of government jobs available and the unique aspects of the application process, particularly writing responses to selection criteria.

How Does Recruitment For Government Jobs Actually Work?

One of the first things you’ll notice when you begin the process of applying for a public sector job, particularly if you’ve previously only worked in the private sector, is that the application process may seem both unfamiliar and daunting. When it comes to how to get a government job and more specifically recruitment for government jobs, the success or failure of your application often comes down to how well you’re able to respond within the expected frameworks and produce a well-crafted cover letter. Many people who are unfamiliar with the process often trip up when it comes to how to write government selection criterion responses. This is because there is a specific skill in being able to demonstrate how your current experience fulfils the requirements of a government role.

Fortunately there is training and support available to help you transition your job application skills to suit a public sector environment and apply for government jobs with confidence

Types of Government Jobs Available

The good news is that there are a wide range of public sector roles and government jobs at a local, state and federal level. They cover many different specialisations which means that regardless of your professional background, whether it be entry level or at a leadership level, you should be able to find a role where the selection criteria closely fit your current skill set and experience. The key is in knowing how to respond to these selection criteria in a succinct and effective manner which clearly demonstrates your suitability for your chosen job. 

Local Government:

  • Roles: Local government jobs include positions in city councils, such as town planning, community services, environmental health, and local infrastructure management.
  • Application Process: Often more community-focused, the selection process may emphasise local knowledge and community engagement.

State Government (NSW,
Qld, Vic, SA, WA, NT, ACT):

  • Roles: State government jobs cover areas like healthcare, education, public transport, and law enforcement. Examples include teachers, nurses, police officers, and public transport managers.
  • Application Process: Requires a good understanding of state policies and regulations. Selection criteria may focus on specific state-based issues and initiatives.

Federal Government:

  • Roles: Federal jobs span across national defence, immigration, taxation, foreign affairs and nationwide public services. Examples include positions in the Australian Taxation Office, Department of Home Affairs and Australian Defence Force.
  • Application Process: The process is often more stringent with an emphasis on understanding national policies and programs. Candidates must demonstrate a high level of expertise and alignment with federal objectives.

Why Is Competition So Fierce For Public Sector Jobs?

Many people are attracted to public sector and government jobs because the benefits, terms and conditions can be generous. Among the top reasons that people give for wanting to work in the public sector include:

  1. Job Security: Government positions are generally seen as more stable and secure compared to the private sector. The likelihood of layoffs or sudden terminations is lower, providing employees with a sense of stability.
  2. Benefits and Conditions: Government jobs often come with comprehensive benefits, including generous leave entitlements (annual leave, sick leave, parental leave), superannuation contributions, and various allowances. These benefits are typically more attractive than those offered in many private sector roles.
  3. Work-Life Balance: Many government positions promote a good work-life balance with regular working hours and policies that support flexible working arrangements. This appeals to individuals looking to maintain a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives.
  4. Career Progression: There are usually clear pathways for career advancement and professional development in the public sector.

These factors collectively make government jobs an attractive option for many Australians seeking stable, rewarding and impactful careers.

Top Tips To Get a Job In Australian Government 

As we’ve highlighted, the application process for a job in Australian government departments can be a little more prescriptive and rigid than in the private sector. On the plus side, there is usually only one interview; not three, four or five. There are specific recruitment rules, regulations and frameworks that each government department, whether it be local, state or federal, has to follow. That’s why it’s so important to do your research, learn what is expected in a good application, understand what a recruitment manager is looking for and tailor your application accordingly. The key stages to nail to give yourself the best chance of success are as follows:

  1. Research and Understand the Role:

Carefully read the job description and selection criteria. Figure out if it is a role that you actually have suitable skills and experience for and research the department or agency to understand its goals and values.

  1. Tailor Your Resume and Government Job Cover Letter:

The biggest mistake you can make is to re-use the same resume and letter for every application. A good government job cover letter will address the recruiter, specifically address why you want the role and highlight relevant experience and skills that match the job requirements. Use clear and concise language, focusing on achievements and outcomes.

  1. Addressing Selection Criteria:

Being successful when applying for government jobs generally hinges on your ability to address selection criteria in a format and manner that is expected. This is the primary way that hiring managers evaluate your suitability for a role and shortlist candidates for interview so it’s worth getting comfortable with writing responses to these statements.  

Understand the STAR Method: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Use this method to structure your responses.

  • Situation: Describe the context within which you performed a task or faced a challenge at work.
  • Task: Explain the actual task or responsibility you had.
  • Action: Detail the actions you took to address the task or challenge.
  • Result: Share the outcomes or results of your actions.
  1. Provide Evidence:

Use specific examples from your past work experience and quantify your achievements wherever possible (e.g., increased efficiency by 20%).

  1. Review and Refine:

Proofread your responses for clarity and accuracy and ensure each response aligns with the job requirements and selection criteria.

  1. Submit Your Application:

Follow the application instructions carefully and submit all required documents before the deadline.

More Tips for Government Job Success

  • Learn The Process: the skills required to produce a successful application can definitely be learned. Find a suitable course or mentor to help teach you the basics.
  • Start Early: The application process can be time-consuming. Starting early ensures you have enough time to craft well-thought-out responses.
  • Seek Feedback: Have someone review your application to provide constructive feedback.
  • Stay Informed: Regularly check government job portals and sign up for job alerts to stay updated on new opportunities.

When it comes to how to get a government job in Australia it’s essential that you understand the unique aspects of the public sector, identifying the level of government you want to work for and mastering the application process. 

Criterial has been assisting candidates to refine their job application skills for government roles since 2018 and our team has more than 20 years of government recruiting experience. We have read thousands of selection criteria responses and we can help you develop your own writing skills, so you are competitive in any job you apply for.

By researching the role, tailoring your application, and effectively addressing the selection criteria, you can increase your chances of securing a rewarding career in the public sector.

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