3. Applying for an APS job: cracking the code
Get the facts
APS job ads usually include the following, which will help you decide if it is the right job to apply for:
- the name or title of the job
- the location of the job
- the salary range and the classification level
- a description of the job
- whether it is ongoing or non-ongoing (temporary)
- a web link to the job description and information pack
- the name and contact details of a contact officer.
Good applications make a positive impression and can lead to an interview or further assessment. Don’t apply just for the sake of it. Select the right job for you and prepare a strong (and accurate) application highlighting your skills, abilities and experience, and
how they meet the requirements of the job. Your application will be assessed on the basis
It is important to provide all the information specified in the information pack. This may include some or all of the following:
- a cover sheet
- a copy of your CV or resume
- a statement or ‘pitch’ about how your skills, abilities and experience meet the job requirements
- addressing the selection criteria or answering any questions if they have been included
- contact details for your referees.
You may be asked if you identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, are from a non-English speaking background or are a person with disability. This information is used for statistical purposes—it will not be used to assess your suitability for the job. It is not compulsory to provide this information.
However, some jobs are advertised as only available to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, or people with disability. In these cases, if you wish to apply you will need to respond to questions about your eligibility. See info sheets 5 and 6 for more information about these vacancies.
Writing your application
Most of the time, your CV alone will not be enough to get you an APS job. When applying for a job it is likely that you will be asked to submit a written application with your CV. This could be in the form of a statement addressing particular selection criteria, or a short ‘pitch’ or statement setting out your skills, abilities and experience relevant to the job.
Selection criteria, if they are used, describe the personal qualities, skills, abilities, knowledge and qualifications (if any) a person needs to perform the role effectively. Agencies may ask you to separately address a number of criteria or to write one general statement expressing your claims for the job. The job description will help you understand the responsibilities and tasks required in the job.
The agency’s selection panel will assess the responses of all applicants. Sometimes, this will be enough to identify the best person for the role. More commonly though, this process will create a shortlist of applicants suitable to move to the next stage—usually an interview but it may be another form of assessment.
Most CVs are between two and six pages long. Sometimes a selection panel may request a specific length or that you include particular details. Otherwise, your CV should usually include:
Personal details—your name, contact email address and phone numbers. There’s no need to include your age, gender, or marital status.
Education—details of relevant education and qualifications.
Work experience—your work experience and highlight the main responsibilities and achievements that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Organise your employment history in chronological order, starting with the most recent, and indicate actual dates of employment. You should look to explain any gaps in employment.
Other experience—if relevant, briefly mention any activities, interests or volunteer/community work that you participated in and highlight what you gained from that experience. If your hobbies aren’t relevant to the job you are applying for, don’t include them.
Referees—the name and contact details of referees who can validate and support your application. Make a note if there are any sensitivities with contacting your referees, i.e. any referees who should not be contacted unless you are in contention for the job.
Addressing selection criteria
Some agencies will ask that your written application address specific selection criteria. Common examples of selection criteria include:
- demonstrated capacity to communicate effectively
- good organisational and administrative skills
- proven ability to work as part of a team
- well-developed customer service skills
- proven ability to manage projects.
You should respond to each criterion and, following any guidance in the information pack, explain how you have demonstrated the particular skill or quality. Provide relevant examples from your work, study or community roles. Be clear and to the point. If a word or page limit is set, make sure you stick to it, and edit your responses for grammar, spelling and punctuation.
It is important to provide evidence to back up your claims. Where possible use actual, specific examples of what you have done, how well you did it, what you achieved, and how it relates to the requirements of the job. The STAR model can help you form your answer.
Find out more
What is the STAR model?
The STAR model is one way of presenting information against selection criteria. For each criterion, think about the following and use these points to form sentences:
- Situation—Set the context by describing the circumstance where you used the skills or qualities and gained the experience.
- Task—What was your role?
- Actions—What did you do and how did you do it?
- Results—What did you achieve? What was the end result and how does it relate to the job you are applying for?
Using the STAR method, we’ve come up with an example of how you might plan and set out your evidence.
Situation—role as Research Support Officer at XYZ Bank.
Task—needed to ensure that managers were kept informed of policies and procedures.
Action or approach—initiated monthly newsletter, which was emailed to each manager. Took responsibility for writing the main articles. This involved obtaining ideas and input from other stakeholders to ensure that the articles reflected managers’ needs in terms of content and language.
Result—led to improved lines of communication between managers and the Research Support Unit. Feedback was consistently excellent. Received divisional achievement award for newsletter quality.
Once this has been achieved, you can then write the draft paragraph in full. For example:
As Research Support Officer at the XYZ Bank, I needed to ensure that managers were kept informed of policies and procedures. To do this, I initiated a monthly newsletter, which was emailed to each manager. I took responsibility for writing the main articles in each publication. This involved obtaining ideas and input from other stakeholders to ensure that the articles reflected the needs of managers, both in terms of content and language. I received consistently excellent feedback in relation to the newsletter from these internal stakeholders and my own manager. I received a divisional achievement award for the quality of the newsletter. Importantly, this initiative resulted in improved lines of communication between managers and the Research Support Unit.
Remember to use only one or two of your strongest examples to respond to the selection criteria.
What if I’m asked for a ‘pitch’?
Some agencies ask for a ‘pitch’ or short statement of your claims for the job. Your pitch is a chance to tell the agency why you are the right person for the job. They might want to know why you want to work for them, why you are interested in that particular role, what you can offer, and how your skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications are applicable to the job. In a nutshell—why they should hire you.
Try not to duplicate information that can already be found in your CV, but do highlight any specific examples or achievements that will demonstrate your ability to perform the role.
Remember to stick to the word limit—are they asking for a one or two page pitch or 1,000 word limit?
Myth vs reality
My application needs to be very detailed and address specific selection criteria
Long and complicated selection criteria are becoming a thing of the past. While some agencies still use selection criteria, many agencies now only want to see your CV and a one or two page document that sets out how your skills, abilities and experience fit the job. Read the information pack or call the contact officer to ensure you are providing the right information.
An internal person is already lined up for the job
The job may be vacant, or it may be temporarily filled by an APS employee. However, this does not guarantee them the job. All applicants, including people already working in the APS, have to apply through the same process and be assessed against the strengths of all other applicants. If you want the job and are confident you have the skills and abilities required, then you should apply.
In the know
Be clear and to the point
Be honest and factual
Check what form your written example should be in
Use relevant examples
Make sure you provide all information requested.
- Write lengthy responses
- Rely just on your CV.