Insider tips for Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet graduate applications

Erin Delaney
Team GradAustralia
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GradAustralia surveyed recent graduates at Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to bring you the top five essential insider tips for applying to the DP&C grad program, straight from successful graduates themselves.

1. Do your homework

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is one of the most high-profile public service grad programs, so they need to know you know your stuff.

“Read the annual report to get a good sense of what the Department does. Talk to people who already work there.”

Graduate, Canberra

“Ensure you understand the work and the role of PM&C. Have a strong understanding of issues the government is facing and the policy objectives the government wishes to achieve.”

Entry level, Canberra

“Come up with some ideas. There's a new recruitment process that places value on alternative experiences and new ideas. This may be a little difficult for those outside the public service though.”

Entry level, Canberra

2. Get ready for some tricky questions

Knowing that you can rise to the occasion and think on your feet is important to DP&C, so expect a few surprises in your interview!

“What skills can you bring? Why do you want to work for the Department? What is a difficult situation you have faced and how did you overcome it?”

Midlevel, Canberra

“Behavioural questions, such as name a time you did not get along with a colleague and what did you do to resolve the issue and ‘describe a time when something went wrong, or you failed to achieve something’. Subject matter questions such as ‘What are the types of issues facing Indigenous Australians today, and what do you think is the Government's role to address these issues?’.”

Entry level, Canberra

“Questions included understanding the work of the Department, knowledge of key government priorities. Ability to show critical thinking analysis skills and the ability to show resilience.”

Entry level, Canberra

3. Highlight your ability to get the job done

DP&C are a busy bunch. If you can demonstrate your ability to multi-task, embrace change, work on serious matters and finish tasks autonomously you’ll find yourself at the top of the application heap.

“On a daily basis I will have a number of tasks including short-term, time-sensitive tasks, and open-ended research tasks. It is often a solitary role that requires a large degree of self-motivation. Skills utilised include writing and analytical skills.”

Entry level, Canberra

“Day-to-day responsibilities are very varied and often I will arrive at work and not be able to predict what I will be doing by the end of the day.”

Midlevel, Canberra

“I have a level of access and responsibility greater than I had ever anticipated. I work on issues that matter to Australia’s national security and place in the region and the world.”

Graduate, Canberra

4. Make sure you communicate clearly

While it might seem impressive to only use words with four or more syllables, it will actually hinder your cause! Get across the complex issues and then explain your understanding of them simply. Focus on behaviours and results over listing your previous job descriptions.

“Use plain English, don't waffle or use lots of jargon.”

Midlevel, Canberra

“Write in simple prose. Make an impact. Convey what you want to say about yourself clearly and succinctly.”

Entry level, Canberra

“Give examples of your behaviour, rather than listing activities or duties undertaken.”

Entry level, Canberra

5. Be prepared for a lengthy recruitment process

So you made it into the recruitment process. Good job! Now just keep going.. and going. It’ll be worth it!

“Assessments were lengthy and quite difficult relative to other organisations. The process itself was very long and quite arduous.”

Graduate, Canberra

“I went through online testing, a phone interview and finally a group assessment centre. The assessment centre included a group activity, individual interview, written task and retesting of the online tests.”

Midlevel, Canberra

“Written application was followed by psychometric testing, then an invitation to an assessment centre for written test, group interview and individual interview. This was followed by a phone interview.”

Entry level, Canberra