Professional Resumes for Government Roles
Resumes | Cover Letters | Selection Criteria Responses | Expressions of Interest | Application Questions
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Writing Resumes for Government Roles
As with any role, a public sector resume needs to cover your knowledge, skills, experience and achievements. In general, government agencies are conservative in their resume preferences and want to see a traditional presentation of work experience and education, arranged chronologically. Standing out is a matter of highlighting the achievements you’ve had and the unique qualities you offer, appropriate to the level of the role.
Most government agencies will assign a level to the role. The categories below relate to APS (Federal government) roles.
- APS 1 – 2: general administrative and service positions, cadetships and trainees
- APS 3 – 4: technical, project and service positions and graduate positions
- APS 5 – 6: senior administrative, technical, project and service positions
- EL 1 - 2: middle and upper management positions
- SES 1 – 3: senior leadership and positions
The achievements as well as general work experience in the resume should match the role you’re applying for. One easy way to do this is to use similar verbs in the resume as in the job advert. If the advert talks about “coordinating”, “facilitating”, “processing” and “implementing” it is probably at the APS 3-4 level.
The resume you write needs to show that you are capable of taking an idea and running with it, without being micromanaged. A job advert which talks about “overseeing”, “leading”, “strategising” and “directing” is probably a senior management or executive role and the resume needs to reflect your ability to make an impact at a whole of organisation level.
Public Sector Priorities
Government roles are likely to value people who can demonstrate a commitment to the social purpose of the organisation. As well as talking about your interest in their area of practice, it is worth including any community work, volunteering roles or outside interests that might demonstrate commitment to the good of society.
If you are moving from the private sector bear in mind that you may need to do the work of translating your skills and capabilities and showing your new employer how they relate. For example, a Business Development Manager who consistently exceeds sales budgets would typically include this aggressive pursuit of commercial targets in the resume. For a government role, the dollar performance may be less relevant but the underlying skills in communication, rapport-building, client account management, operating environment analysis and so on will be highly valuable. Remember it is your job to show the team reviewing your resume how your experience applies, not theirs to guess.
Applying for Government Jobs
Government agencies need to be able to show that their job application process was fair and transparent. For this reason, everyone needs to go through an identical application process. If the job advert calls for a selection criteria response, only candidates who submit one will be considered. Government departments are generally strict about other requirements as well: if the job advert calls for a resume of no more than 4 pages then longer resumes may be excluded.
It is vital to review public sector job adverts early and thoroughly and make sure that you understand what is going to be required of you. This may be some combination of the following:
- Cover letter
- Selection criteria
- Expression of interest
- Application form (with or without application questions)
Some State governments have phased out selection criteria but the Federal government (APS) still uses them for most roles. Local governments often do too.
Writing Selection Criteria
If you read government job websites, they will suggest that applicants use the STAR model (Situation, Task, Action, Response). This is a slightly clunky way of telling you to use examples. We tend to tell clients to treat each question like a worked example or miniature case study, explaining what the problem was, what you did in response to the problem and what was different and better as a result. Be concise; be specific.
Wordsmiths can help you choose strong examples and formulate clear responses, which showcase your skills, experience and qualities. We can help you write them professionally.