COVID-19 Career Help: How to apply for ACT government jobs

If you haven’t applied for a government job before, then you may find the job information somewhat mystifying, as the recruitment process is different from the private sector.

The ACT Government is recruiting Customer Service Officers, and the timeframe is very short. There is also a range of other jobs available, some in the health sector.

Here are some tips to help make the process clearer and to help you write your application.


Read all documents provided for the job, including the job advertisement, the Position Description, and the online application process, noting what documents need to be uploaded and what the size limits and formats are.

If you have any questions about the job, you can contact the Contact Officer.

Note the Eligibility and Other Requirements to make sure you are eligible to apply and are comfortable with the working arrangements, such as rosters and work location.

Note whether an order of merit will be established from the selection process. This means that if you are found to be suitable but are not offered a job, you will stay on a list to be used to fill other similar vacancies for the next 12 months.

Compare the job advertisement with the Position Description to see if there are any differences in the information provided. Take note of any differences.

The Position Description is the main document to consider for your application. Pay attention to these details:

Information on What we do, Who we are, What we offer, and The team you will work in.

Note details about the nature of the work and the sort of people being sought.

Duties/responsibilities: this information tells you what you will do in the job. Note whether any supervision of staff is required.

Selection criteria: Your suitability for a position will be assessed based on your skills, knowledge and behaviour in relation to the duties/responsibilities.  This means that the people looking at your application will be focusing on whether you have the skills, knowledge and behaviour listed as they relate to doing the job. For example for the Customer Service Officer job, an ‘ability to retain and recall learnt work practices, procedures, guidelines and instructions’ is needed to ‘Exercise attention to detail, complying with internal procedures and guidelines as well as government legislation and policies.’ Cross-referencing the selection criteria with the duties will help with writing your application.

Read about relevant aspects of the ACT Public Service, such as the Signature Values and Behaviours, and Access Canberra.

The Application

Understand what documents you must submit as your application. This information may not be in the Position Description. This information may be under How to apply in the advertisement. It may also be in the online application system, although the information here may be generic rather than specific to the job. In the case of the Customer Service Officer jobs the application details are:

‘How to Apply: Please review the Position Description for details about the role and associated responsibilities. Suitability for this position will be assessed on your Skills, Knowledge and Behaviour in relation to the duties/responsibilities listed in the Position Description. Please submit a one page written application, contact details of at least two referees and current curriculum vitae. The response should be written in the form of a pitch and should not specifically address the Selection Criteria within the Position Description but indicate your capacity to perform the duties and responsibilities at the specified classification.’

Note that you do not write responses to the Selection Criteria. Rather you write a one page pitch which shows your ‘capacity to perform the duties of the job at the specified classification.’ This means Administrative Services Officer Class 3. Information about the classification structure is found in the relevant Enterprise Agreement.

Information is provided on another website about preparing your application. This website advises that a pitch is ‘written in an engaging, conversational letter format – combine explaining why you’re interested and the best person for the job with addressing the position requirements. Do not use headings within it but structure your pitch logically into paragraphs that relate to one or more of the requirements. Cover all requirements.’

So, how can you cover all the selection criteria as they relate to the duties in one page? Based on cross-referencing the criteria with the duties, and having noted other requirements mentioned in the Position Description, such as with the Customer Service Officer, staying calm under pressure, having diverse experience, you could approach the letter in two parts:

Opening short paragraph: Summarises your experience and skills, highlighting any background information particularly relevant to the role, and giving a reason for your interest. For example, for the Customer Service Officer job, a person might say:

‘With three years experience in providing quality phone and digital information and services in Contact Centre roles, often under pressure with stressed clients, I wish to apply my strengths in communicating with diverse people to support the information needs of the ACT community.’

The remainder of the letter gives examples that demonstrate the skills and behaviours listed under Selection Criteria. The examples should ideally be as close as possible to the duties of the job. As any example will demonstrate several skills, you are looking for a few that cover all the requirements listed. For example, a situation in which you dealt with a stressed or frustrated person over the phone and digitally, would likely involve staying calm in the face of emotions, using the correct procedures and policies, demonstrate resilience in high pressure situations, and add value to the team, and sound interpersonal skills.

If you need more help with identifying your skills, go to the Job Outlook website, use the Skills Match tool, type in the Select careers or jobs box ‘Call Centre or Contact Centre Operators’, click Add, then Next, and you will have a list of skills with explanations of what they mean.

A structure for these paragraphs is:

Start with ‘An example of my xxx skills was when …..’ Explain what the problem was, who was involved, what your role was, and difficulties faced. Then list the main steps you took to deal with this situation, focusing on those skills and behaviours relevant to the Position Description. Finish by saying what the results were, that is, how the situation was fixed, resolved.

You also need to upload your resume or CV. This document should be up-to-date and provide relevant information about your education, employment history, experience and workplace achievements. Keep it simple and easy to read. You could use a template if you’re unsure what to include.

Regardless of the job you are applying for, it would add value to your resume to include under each of your recent job descriptions a short list of the results you delivered. Staff are not only expected to perform the duties of a job, but also to perform those duties to a standard, and to deliver results for the organisation. For example, for a Customer Service Officer may be expected to consistently meet any performance targets, consistently provide quality service – timely, accurate information, friendly service, generate positive feedback, handle difficult customers well.

Recruitment information

Some websites that provide recruitment information:

How we hire provides information on the ACT public service recruitment process.

Selection forms provides a list of forms used during the selection process, including the rating scale used by selection panel members to assess applications, a Recruitment Checklist that sets out what a selection panel needs to do, and Individual Assessment form used for each applicant.

Selection processes gives a broad description of how merit-based recruitment works.

For some jobs in the ACT Public Service it may be useful to be familiar with the Shared Capability Framework developed to describe the skills, knowledge and behaviour that can universally be expected of every ACT Public Servant at different organisational levels and in every workplace across the Service.

The Induction Manual sets out information on the role and structure of the public service and what is expected from staff.

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.