applying for a job in the public sector

Applying for permanent work in the public sector starts with a strong written application. This is a mandatory requirement, and your first opportunity to sell your skills, knowledge, and experience. 

Written applications typically require three areas to be completed:

  • Cover letter
  • Resume
  • A short response to target/competency-based questions

Even if you have not worked in the public sector previously, crafting a strong written application helps you pass shortlisting. In this article, we share more information with you about these three areas and our top tips for successful completion.

First, we wanted to discuss the job advertisement itself.

It is important to read this thoroughly as they provide much detail, often with a link to a position description, contact name and details, and clarity on the process/closing date. Importantly, you can read about the essential criteria that you will be assessed against, so you want to make sure all stages of your application specifically address the criteria for the role. The best applications are tailored to address the role.

top tips

  • Address the hiring manager (by name if you can), the job you’re applying for and where you found out about the job.
  • Introduce yourself by outlining your immediate professional background (your role, industry, years of experience or qualifications if you’re a student or recent graduate) and explain how the skills gained from this background relate to the criteria for the role. 
  • Give one or two examples - perhaps this could be mentioning your best achievement or a difficult situation you have overcome.  
  • Be sure to explain why you want the job and would be a good fit.
  • Write a concise letter, ideally 1 page and specifically mention the job you're applying for. 
  • Thank the hiring manager for considering your application.
  • Ensure you spell check and proofread. 

top tips

  • Tailor your resume to the role, highlighting in your work history where you demonstrate the key competencies for the role. 
  • Make it up to date, concise and well organised. 
  • Include dates in months and years.
  • Referees – name, title and contact details.

top tips

  • Read the question thoroughly to pick out keywords or see in the position description if you can read about the criteria and what the behavioural indicators for this would be.
  • Be as specific as you can - in your answer be sure to write about relevant examples detailing specifically what you did in other jobs. 
  • The technique of STAR responses always works well: describe a situation/task, the actions you took in that situation and the result always works well. 
  • Ensure you describe what you did, not what you think you should do. 
  • Think about your transferable skills and knowledge.
  • Be concise, but ensure you use full sentences and spell-check. 

If the question asks more about your motivations, for example why you want the position: 

  • Explain what attracted you to the role and why it stood out.
  • Explain why you suit the job.
  • Consider areas such as your values, passion for the sector/role, how it helps you to serve the community.

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