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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

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  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Application Process & Interviews at Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

9.2 rating for Recruitment, based on 51 reviews
Please describe the interview process and assessments.
Recruitment takes one year, including progressively more intensive interview processes (online testing, individual and group assessments, followed by an intensive clearance process).
I went through a rigorous and multi-stage interview process to get into DFAT. It involved written tests, aptitude testing, video interviews, group work and a panel interview.
1. Written application, including selection criteria. 2. Online intelligence test. 3. Essay on Australia's international profile, which had to be written and submitted in an hour. 4. Face to face interview, comprised of: a) group simulation exercise b) written report on group simulation exercise c) standard interview.
Long interview process over a period of months. Involves an initial phase of answering selection criteria, cognitive and psychological tests, online essay, and a face-to-face interview. I believe a video interview has also been introduced as a step in the process since I was recruited.
Extremely rigorous, involving multiple stages and taking the best part of a year from start to finish.
Selection criteria, cognitive testing, interview, group exercises, written test. The process was rigorous and lengthy, but I don't think there was anything unusual compared to other departments.
This process was quite long and arduous but positive overall. Other than the usual written response to key selection criteria, the assessment process involved testing of literacy, numeracy and abstract reasoning; psychometric testing; a written exam; video interview; group interview and an individual interview.
The process for getting into the department involves multiple rounds - application, academic testing, a timed writing task, video interview, in-person interview, more writing tasks, a group task, psychometric testing, and finally a security interview.
Initial application; 1st round cognitive testing; 2nd round extended responses to selection criteria; 3rd round online, timed essay; 4th round online interview; 5th round assessment centre (group task, written task, hour-long panel interview).
Written application, cognitive tests, one-way video interview and writing task, then re-testing (cognitive) and assessment centre (group task, writing task, panel interview).
Written application, cognitive testing, written assessment, group interview, individual interview
1. Online assessment centres 2. Video interview 3. Face-to-face interview and assessment
It is roughly a 5 stage process. 1 - responding to selection criteria with full application 2 - cognitive testing 3 - written and psychological testing 4 - cognitive testing 5 - interview and assessment centre
Online application, online video interview, online test, online written test, online personality test, face to face interview, security clearance.
The recruitment process was very rigorous, involving a written application, cognitive testing, video interview, online exam, (more) cognitive testing, group exercise, written exercise, interview, and security clearance.
The interview process is very extensive with multiple rounds. The assessments were not difficult in terms of specific technical knowledge but were testing and hard to prepare for.
Very rigorous and competitive process of selection at the graduate level - the whole process takes about 11 months and involves a series of steps, including online cognitive and written testing and a day-long assessment centre.
What questions were you asked in your interviews?
Questions specifically linked with my CV, but fairly broad leaving the applicant to tailor the answer to the organisational objectives. Group questions were specific to the organisation.
I was asked about my own background and experience as well as questions relating to DFAT and international affairs relevant to Australia.
What foreign policy challenges Australia was facing, what the main roles of an Australian Embassy or High Commission were. There was also a light-hearted conversation about Facebook (which I didn't have at the time). For the group simulation exercise, we were given a scenario of a development in a hypothetical foreign country, and we were playing representatives from different areas of the department who had to formulate a proposed response and 'brief the Minister'.
All the usual questions about my cv and background, particularly time spent abroad and learning languages and leadership roles I held in student organisations at Uni Also questions about Australia's trade priorities and the US pivot to Asia.
A range of questions, from views on Australian foreign and trade policy objectives, to national security priorities, to more personal and generic questions such as discussing times you faced adversity in the workplace or in your personal life and how you overcame them etc.
I cannot reveal specifics, but generally they were looking for an interest in and knowledge of international affairs and Australian foreign policy, good interpersonal skills and teamwork, and the ability to present your point of view and back it up with logical assertions.
Why do you want to work for DFAT? What do you understand DFAT does? Tell us about the work of DFAT with specific reference to senior executive statements.
The questions were about who I find inspiring and why, and about the work and priorities of the Department. I found the initial questions to be open and easy (which I imagine were to help us get started) but the interviewers then drilled down into my answers with more probing questions about me and my views.
Who inspires you? How should the department's work be evaluated for effectiveness? What is Australia's place in the world and how can it effectively influence events?
Some behavioural and motivational, as well as wide-ranging questions on Australia's foreign, trade and development priorities and policy.
Standard interview type questions about times when you've shown the ability to achieve and given examples. Questions aimed at suitability for living and working overseas. Other questions about the Department and, broadly, what its functions are.
Unfortunately we are required to keep that specific detail confidential - but by the final interview stage the questions were more focused on personal motivations and perspectives of current issues than on particular detail regarding policy etc.
A series of foreign, trade and development policy questions. A few personal questions, e.g. about strengths and weaknesses and flexibility/adaptability.
The questions varied and included (but were not limited to) foreign policy-focused questions, questions relating to your area of expertise, and questions designed to throw you, to see how you acted under pressure.
Do you have any specific tips and advice for candidates applying to your company? How would you recommend they best prepare?
Make sure to do the available research - be up to date with the major current issues in foreign and trade policy (it's not enough, but one helpful tip is to read the Economist in the week of your interview or week before). Get used to looking at an issue through the framework of national, bilateral and international implications or interests affected. Listen to radio national, topical and relevant issues covered everyday.
Read widely on the work of DFAT, Australian foreign policy and international affairs more generally. Make sure you cover all areas of the department's work including foreign policy, consular assistance, development and trade. There is a lot of material on the DFAT website and the Lowy Institute has a number of great publications and blogs.
Talk to people who already work at DFAT - friends, friends or friends; we're all very happy to speak to people who are keen to apply. Read extensively on the DFAT website, particularly about the hot foreign affairs topics of the moment.
Read the Ministers' and Secretary's speeches and be up-to-date on current affairs.
Get to know someone who has been through the process, it is very formulaic and can be learned. Endear yourself to the selection committee and be prepared to answer questions you will not know anything about.
Invest a significant amount of time and effort in crafting responses to the selection criteria. The selection committee refer back to these at each step of the interview process, so they form a crucial part of your application. Obviously read key documents on the DFAT website prior to the essay and face-to-face interview, as you will be asked about current priorities.
Subscribe to Foreign Affairs and The Economist, read departmental and ministerial press releases, get to know the departmental website. Know what issues are important to Australia now. It won't hurt to learn a foreign language, get some relevant experience and get great marks at Uni, but don't buy into the myth that they are only looking for people who "fit the DFAT mould" diversity is welcomed. At the end of the day, the only way to get in is apply. So if you're interested, have a go!
Don't put all your eggs in one basket - it's a big wide world with many opportunities and DFAT is but one of them. Consider a range of employment opportunities. Reading key statements of Ministers and the Secretary is helpful preparation. Also have a viewpoint - regurgitating ministerial talking points will only get you so far.
Get some advice on writing to selection criteria from different people in the public service (definitely get more than one perspective). Understand what the department's objectives are. Ask questions and don't be scared to clarify what the interview panel are asking of you.
DFAT are not looking for people with significant expertise in areas of international affairs - you can learn this on the job if and when it's needed. Instead, know why (in a genuine sense) you want to have a career in international affairs. And then, most importantly, have experiences which highlight the point that you are a generally capable person in whatever you do.
Do an international internship. Make sure you don't get knocked out in the written stage for not answer questions properly.
Read widely, form your own opinions and demonstrate interest and commitment to advancing Australia's foreign, trade and development priorities through internships/volunteering/study.
DFAT places a premium on clear, concise and persuasive communication (written and oral) backed by rigorous analysis. Your responses should be considered, structured and well written.
Read widely about DFAT and what is contained within their Annual Report. Understand the key pillars of international relations through the Australian Government's eyes.
I think the best advice for this kind of process, where there are so many stages and so many variables along the way, is to apply more than once. A number of people (including myself) made it into DFAT having been rejected in previous recruitment rounds.Volunteer work, broad interests, have an opinion