Applying for APS graduate programs

Three main changes have been made to Australian Public Service (APS) graduate programs in recent years:

  • To make the application process simpler, a range of programs, called streams, are offered that give access to multiple departments and agencies. Graduates can also apply for individual department and agency programs.
  • Due to COVID-19 most of the application process is completed online, including interviews.
  • While there is still some use of selection criteria, the style of written applications has shifted to pitches or statements of claims.

My revised and updated edition (2021) of How to apply for APS graduate programs explains these changes and how to respond with strong, well-structured, targeted applications.

The ebook includes six topics to research prior to applying so you fully understand the requirements and recruitment processes. Given this can be time consuming, it is wise to start preparations well before the deadline.

If you are studying at university and giving some thought to future career opportunities, what could you do now to make applying for a government graduate program easier?

Here are 12 suggestions to consider. The ebook gives further details to help with these steps.

Attend career fairs: Career fairs, whether live or online, give you the opportunity to talk to recruiters and people who offer graduate programs. A useful skill to develop for these opportunities is informational interviewing.

Visit your university careers centre: Staff can provide advice and help with job searching, understanding the labour market, and applying for jobs and graduate programs.

Keep records: Writing applications can be a challenge if you haven’t kept records of your experience and skills. The ebook offers four tools for recording work experiences.

Understand skill requirements: Not understanding what skill requirements refer to can result in application responses that are mis-aligned. The ebook sets out the main skills and qualities sought in graduates and explains what they mean.

Cultivate referees: Graduate programs ask for contact details for referees, people who can speak on your behalf and testify to your work experience and skills. It is useful to be cultivating such people during your studies and work experience.

Keep researching: This ebook suggests six lines of research that will help you choose graduate programs and make informed applications. Starting this research early will reduce the stress and burden of this workload.

Build social skills: No matter what your degree and preferred profession or career, you will need good social skills. ‘Social skills’ is an umbrella term that covers skills relating to working with people, including communication, interpersonal, and customer service skills and teamwork.

Gain work experience: Applications for graduate programs will ask about work experience. Work covers a range of experiences and is not limited to paid employment. Learn how to record this experience in both records and your resume.

Consider your extra-curricular activities: Applications for graduate programs may ask about your extra-curricular activities to find out more about your wider interests, contributions, values and skills.

Explore issues: During the recruitment process you are likely to be asked about why you are interested in a particular program and/or department. Part of your research is to know what issues a department or agency deals with and how those issues link to your qualifications and interests.

Update your resume: It helps to keep your resume up-to-date to avoid a last-minute rush.

Understand employability: The Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework describes a set of non-technical skills, knowledge and understandings that underpin successful participation in work. These skills are often referred to as employability skills. They include skills such as problem solving, collaboration, self-management, communication and information technology skills. Look for information and tools that will help you to understand and apply these skills, such as at the Jumpstart website or this Victorian government website.

Finding, tracking, and recording this information will save you time and enable you to make an informed, evidence-based application that captures your relevant skills, knowledge and experience.

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.