Think about the recruitment processes you may have heard about at some of the biggest companies in Australia. Things like cover letters, multiple interview stages, generic emails and a lot of disappointment may come to mind. Fun, right?
Now consider that the government as a whole is the largest employer in the country and that individual departments can receive thousands of applicants each year. That is a lot of CVs to sift through, and you’re going to have to wait your turn.
The sheer number of applicants means that the application process for the public sector can be likened to a marathon – it is a bit of a gruelling slog but the more you practice, the easier it becomes, and it is immensely satisfying to make it through. And at the end of it all? Another few months of waiting before you find out if you got the job or not. All in all, the process can take over eight months. It is not for the impatient or faint of heart.
Because there are generally more applicants for federal government graduate programs (you’ll find people from all over Australia applying for these roles as opposed to the state government roles which predominantly attract people from that state), there may be more stages in the recruitment process when compared to state government positions.
In terms of what you need to know, and how you should prepare, the recruitment process is virtually the same for state and federal government positions. Though the specific tasks may differ between departments and agencies, they all follow a similar multi-stage process which uses a combination of the following steps:
Not all departments will utilise all of these stages. You might find that there is no initial interview, or that for some of the smaller agencies there is no assessment centre. However, you should be prepared to face a process that includes all of these stages.
To get a better idea of the timeframe of the overall recruitment process for a federal government department, let’s use a Department of Human Services (DHS) graduate program timeline as an example. Applications for this program opened in March and closed in late April. If your initial application was successful, you would then have faced the following stages in the recruitment process (assuming you made it past each one!):
After all of this, if you made it that far, you then had to trudge through reference checks, an entry-level check and a medical check before offers were made. Some people received their offer as late as October and the program didn’t start until February the following year.
As we said, a marathon. Make sure you stay hydrated.
Though the process may seem daunting, you can breathe easy as we will go into detail about the written application, interviewing, and assessment centres in the next few sections so that you are fully prepared to tackle each stage as you come to it.