What the words mean series: Amount of supervision

When applying for a public sector job you’ll find words in the information that signal to you the amount of supervision and direction that you will receive. This changes as you move up the hierarchy.

It is important to understand these terms so that you pitch to the level of the job. By that I mean that if you are expected to work with limited direction and you write about all the supervision you receive, you will likely be passed over. In other words, if you have to have someone else telling you what to do and how to do it in specific detail, then you are limited to lower level jobs. More senior jobs are filled by people who can get on with the job with only the broadest objectives and outcomes in mind.

There are four terms generally used to reflect the amount of supervision expected in a job.

Under close direction The work is likely to be routine. Clear and regular instructions are provided. Deviations or unfamiliar situations are referred to someone else. A supervisor monitors work progress and outcomes.

Under general direction General instruction is provided which covers the broader aspects of the work and unusual situations. Objectives, priorities and deadlines are defined. There is some scope for initiative with guidance readily available.

Under limited direction The work is a mix of clearly defined methods and using initiative based on experience and knowledge. Some exercise of judgement is possible. Work is generally reviewed on completion.

Broad direction Broad objectives and expected outcomes provided. Use of independent judgement is expected. Work is reviewed on completion or when outcomes achieved.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.