What’s new in government job applications?

Every five years of so the landscape of government job application requirements changes, prompting an update of How to Write and Talk to Selection Criteria.

The new, seventh edition explains and illustrates two main changes.

  1. Use of short form applications

The first is the shift to primarily asking for pitches and statements of claims. This shift means applicants accustomed to writing responses to selection criteria or capabilities must learn a new way of writing. A job application is now more a marketing exercise, explaining how what you have to offer will make a difference in a particular role and organisation.

There are several types of short form applications. They include:

·         A pitch: this document usually has a word or page limit in which you describe how your skills and experience would contribute to the position, why you wish to work in the department, why you are interested in the role.

·         A cover or covering letter or summary: this may be a one or two-page document that introduces yourself and describes your skills, abilities, knowledge, qualifications and experience in relation to the position.

·         A statement of claims: an alternative to a pitch, in which you say why you are right for the job, why you want to work in the department, what you can contribute, and how your skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications would ensure your success in the role.

·         An expression of interest (EOI): a short document (1-2 pages), often used for short-term, internal appointments.

·         Application or mandatory questions: a small number (often 1-3) of specific questions to answer that may focus on a limited number of selection criteria or application requirements.

Role descriptions are not always entirely clear about what applicants are expected to write in applications. This edition provides detailed guidance on what information to look for and how to prepare an application.

The APS continues to make reference to The Integrated Leadership System, sometimes using the capabilities as criteria, but more often as a tool to judge seniority requirements, along with the Work Level Standards. Some agencies, such as the AFP, use their own version of the ILS. The NSW public service continues to use the NSW Public Sector Capability Framework. The Queensland public service may make reference to their leadership competencies.

Selection criteria are still used, mainly by universities and local government. Job descriptions can include a long list of criteria and job duties.

Regardless of what application requirements are used, applicants must take a whole-of-role approach to their application. Role requirements, selection criteria, capabilities must all be considered within the context of the role, its responsibilities and relationships. Without considering the whole context of a role, applicants may well fall short of presenting a strong and accurate case.

2. Shifts in skill demands

The second change relates to shifts in employee skill demands and working arrangements. Public sector employees are increasingly needing skills and knowledge relating to digital literacy, risk management, leadership capabilities, social interaction and cross-boundary collaboration. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on Australia’s economy and workforce, changing how people work.

Social skills continue to be critical for applicants. While a role may have high technical requirements, the desirable skills of an ideal candidate may focus on customer service, stakeholder relationships, providing advice to executives, teamwork and collaboration.

Contextual analysis continues to be the basis of a strong application with particular attention to four work characteristics: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. The seventh edition helps you understand the nature of complexity and how it applies to judging seniority level, leadership and example choice.

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.