<< Back to News

Things You Should Know Before Applying for a Government Job

We work with a lot of candidates looking to move into government. And for good reason.

Government employers offer stability, job security, very diverse development and progression opportunities, and a lot of support for their employees (e.g. when they want to pursue study or start a family).

Here are some things we think all candidates should be aware of before deciding to pursue a government job.

1.Expect to be up against stiff competition

For all the reasons we mentioned above and more, government jobs are in high demand.

If you’re going to be successful in an extremely competitive candidate pool, you need to be prepared to invest a good deal of time in understanding government recruitment processes, deciding which roles you’d be considered a strong applicant for, and of course, perfecting your application.

2. Be realistic about your salary expectations

Many of our clients expect to be able to move into the government sector at a comparable salary to their private sector salary.

This is often not the case. The vast majority of our clients moving in or out of the government sector take a considerably lower salary, with a view to progressing once they have a foot in the door.

3. Understand that government recruitment can be totally different to private sector recruitment

If you’re a first-time government applicant, you should familiarise yourself with the government recruitment process so you know what to expect.

For instance, many of our clients have been hugely frustrated by the length of time a government job can take to fill.

This is due to a couple of key reasons. Government recruitment is subject to statutory requirements that can take time to fulfill. These include length of time a job needs to be advertised, the formation of a selection panel and merit list, the conduct of panel interviews, advertising of preferred candidate (this can be formally contested by other candidates, which then triggers another 2–3 month process), and many more.

Aside from these factors, most things in government generally take just that little bit longer. Approvals need to be sought, funding for a role can be lost, or departments can be put on a hiring freeze due to budgetary issues.

4. Make sure you meet position requirements

Even if you’re applying for a similar job to your private sector job, you may not meet minimum requirements for a role.

These can be related to Australian residency, formal qualifications, licences or experience in a certain field.

If you don’t meet the listed requirements for a role, it’s best to get in touch with the position contact to check that you’d be considered even though you don’t meet all the requirements.

That way, you can save yourself the time in applying where you’re unlikely to be considered, and instead focus on roles where you would be.

5. Make sure you submit a full application

Government departments can vary greatly in what they ask their applicants to submit.

Typically you’ll be asked to submit a resume, a cover letter and a response to selection criteria. Although some roles will ask for only one or two of these.

Selection criteria responses can vary greatly in word/page length, so it’s extremely important to make sure you’re clear on what is being asked for.

Be sure to read the position documentation thoroughly – perhaps read over it several times.

Your selection criteria response needs to be strongly evidence-based and highly relevant to the position.

You need to cite specific and relevant examples that demonstrate the capabilities listed in each criterion, and for most jobs you need to provide a categorical response to each criterion.

Selection criteria responses are where most government applicants falter, so be sure not to make the same mistake.

Written by Edward Grant, Director of Metro Resumes

Looking for professional help with your government application and selection criteria response? For a quote from our friendly experts, visit us at

Start typing and press Enter to search