Applying for Australian state government jobs
Tas Gov, VPS, NSW Gov, WA Gov, ACT Gov, QLD Gov, SA Gov and how they differ.
By Jacquie Liversidge
Applying for Australian Government Jobs - State by State
By this point, I’m sure you’re familiar with the STAR approach for selection criteria response. If you’re not, go read this first and then come back.
Selection criteria state by state in Australia varies widely.
It is not simply enough to know how to structure your response using STAR—compounding the complexity of applying for government are each state government’s own unique requirements for applications.
And then there can be departmental preferences. This is far too long to detail, but I’ll give you the run down on to whom this applies (WA Government, eyes on you).
Each of these requirements can be found either on the information for applicants guide separately listed on each government website, from the information listed within each job advertisement or by perusing a range of jobs on government website and learning what is generally required.
That last one takes a bit of practice.
So, state by state, here is the low down.
Tasmania - Tasmanian Government, or Tas Gov
Our hometown. The Tasmanian State Service could certainly elucidate their requirements.
We find these ones to be generally a little more confusing than some of the other state governments. Tasmanian Government jobs are listed here: https://www.jobs.tas.gov.au/ and are occasionally advertised on SEEK.com, but not always.
If you are looking for a government role with the Tasmanian State Service, don’t rely on SEEK to find it.
There are generally two different ways that Tas Gov will ask you to apply. Either in the form of a long-form application–our traditional selection criteria responses—or in a short form application.
These short form applications are two pages long and require you to address the selection criteria in the context of the role.
It’s a little different to a traditional selection criteria—you need to address the selection criteria of course, but you don’t include the question, and you structure it a bit like a cover letter.
More information about structuring these specifically can be found here.
There are no page limits on resumes.
You will be able to determine whether a short form application applies by clicking on the job listing and scrolling down to the bottom of page to the How to apply section.
This is an example of a job listing with a traditional selection criteria:
Note how there are no directions specifying otherwise.
All applications for Tas Gov departments go through the Tas Gov careers website, unlike some state governments where applications are redirected to that specific department’s website.
This is an example of a short form application:
In these directions, there is specific reference to the Short Form Application.
Important to note: some applications will ask for a cover letter accompanying a selection criteria, and some will not.
However, no cover letter is required to accompany a short-form application ever.
Sometimes responses must be copied and pasted into pre-allocated sections, and some will require a file upload. Always preview the application form prior to embarking on the application.
Working our way around the country anti-clockwise:
Victoria - Victorian Public Service, VPS
I personally find the Victorian Public Service, or VPS, to be disastrously confusing to navigate, and having completed over 700 government applications, I completely sympathise with clients who approach us completely baffled by what approach to take.
You can search for jobs listed here: https://www.careers.vic.gov.au/
The VPS, unlike Tas Gov, has a separate page dedicated to outlining how applications should be made.
Similarly, there is little consistency in whether a document should be uploaded or whether responses must be copied and pasted straight into the website. There are no page limits on resumes, unless otherwise stated for a specific role.
The information listed on the VPS website for how to apply is listed here. https://careers.vic.gov.au/how-to-apply
To save you the time, from the follow through link for Preparing your application, it states:
“Response to key selection criteria
The key selection criteria lists the most important qualities you need to do the job. The criteria will specify things like personal values, knowledge, skills and experience. Here’s how to prepare a response to the selection criteria:
- Create a separate document with a main heading ‘Key selection criteria’.
- Copy all of the selection criteria from the position description and paste under the heading.
- Format each criteria item in bold.
- Write a short statement (60 to 120 words) under each criteria item with examples of how you meet the criteria.”
It’s not true for all roles. Some roles want a cover letter addressing the selection criteria, and some will state that they want responses capped at 300 words. So, while the VPS How to apply guide is there, and it exists, I would to a degree actually ignore that unless the application has no directions contained therein.
Here’s an example of where it contradicts itself as listed on a job for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. You can find these directions listed at the bottom of each job listing.
The application wants a cover letter and a resume – not 60-120 word responses as per what the VPS How to Apply page dictates.
We like the NSW Government. The NSW Government are clear. We are generally pleased to take on jobs for applications for the NSW Government. You can search for jobs listed here: https://iworkfor.nsw.gov.au/
The information on how to apply for roles is listed here: https://iworkfor.nsw.gov.au/how-to-apply
There is however still some ambiguity.
In the About the application section of the above link, it states that “An application usually consists of the following:
- cover letter
- short statement against one or two targeted questions.”
This is not always the case.
But, the position descriptions are very clear here and you will know what to do.
The How to apply page also clearly states that “A good cover letter is:
- concise and logically written (no more than 1 to 2 pages in length)
- tailored to the job you are applying for
- specific about the work you have done or managed previously.”
And, “Your Resume
Your resume – also known as curriculum vitae or CV – is a summary of your qualifications, experience, skills and qualities. A resume needs to be clear, concise and neatly organised with content relevant to the role you are applying for.
Your resume should include:
- education, qualifications and details of any courses or areas of focus that might be relevant to the role.
- experience, paid and volunteer, with most recent experience first. For each job, include the role title, name and location of employer, and dates of employment. Briefly describe your role responsibilities for each job using dot points or a brief paragraph.
- special skills, computer skills, achievements, and membership in organisations.
- names of referees.”
This page previously stated that resumes should be five pages and under.
This is also still reflected in some position descriptions where this is specifically outlined. It is a good measure to adhere to—keep it under five pages for NSW Government, and generally, a five page resume is pushing the limit anyway.
Some roles will take you to the departmental website, and some will not.
Here’s an example of the directions for one presently listed role on the NSW Government website:
Australian Capital Territory - ACT Government
The ACT Government list all of their available jobs here: https://www.jobs.act.gov.au/opportunities/all
Their selection criteria will generally ask one of three things: a word limited response to roughly six selection criteria, a page limited response to the selection criteria, or a straight out and out, old-school selection criteria. It is very much department to department.
The ACT Government have some vague directions available here for general ACT public service applications: https://www.jobs.act.gov.au/how-we-hire/submit-your-application
But, each department also have their personal preferences for applications, and some departments have a dedicated page detailing how you should apply, and some do not.
For these application, read very carefully the job listing and follow through on all the links it asks you to.
ACT Government applications can be tricky in determining what is required.
Here’s a couple of examples of currently listed jobs and the directions included:
And then, different again:
Queensland - Queensland Government , QLD Gov
No consistency, zilch, zippity.
You can search for available jobs here: https://smartjobs.qld.gov.au/jobtools/jncustomsearch.jobsearch?in_organid=14904
It is very much department to department as to what is required.
There is a page dedicated with quite broad information on how to apply listed here: https://www.qld.gov.au/jobs/finding/resume
Similarly to the ACT Government, there are also separate ‘How to apply’ pages for each department.
Some applications will ask you to submit a cover letter, selection criteria and resume, some will ask for a one page pitch, some will ask for two page expression of interest, some will ask for a two page selection criteria.
With these applications, you need to determine what is uniquely required based on what is listed at the bottom of each job listing.
Here’s an example.
There is nothing detailed on page limited resumes, and cover letters, where these are not the selection criteria responses contained therein, must be limited to one page.
Northern Territory - Northern Territory Government, NT Gov
I both love and despise these applications.
On the one hand, I know what to expect every time. On the other hand, they are always very challenging. You can find their available jobs listed here: https://jobs.nt.gov.au/Home/Search
The NT Gov jobs require a one-page statement for each and every single role.
The position descriptions are almost always in one page, and contain a high number of selection criteria questions. The challenge with these applications is selecting examples which cover off on a number of these questions.
All guidance for these jobs is listed on the job search page of the NT Gov website.
With standard margins, default font and 11-point font size, you have 750 words to work with and often nine selection criteria questions to answer.
Keep resumes down to a sensible page size and ensure that every word counts.
Western Australia - Western Australia Government, WA Gov
Where do I begin with WA Gov?
WA Gov and QLD Gov can be lumped together as two states with possibly the most confusing application requirements.
I’ll give credit where credit is due, however; at least QLD Gov jobs all close at midnight.
You can find WA Gov jobs listed here:
There are a lot of variables in WA Government, and most of these come down to the fact that each department has their own requirements for applications.
Without expanding this article into a 72-page document, my advice on applying for WA Government is this:
- Find the job you want to apply for
- Scroll down to the first page to the How to Apply section
- Go to the department’s website and check whether there are any specific instructions for their applicants regarding cover letters, resume page length and font size. This is important
- Contact the Contact Officer if you are still confused, or even if you are not, do that anyway. They are likely to tell you to do something else entirely.
It is not that the WA Government are inherently organised—if anything they are extremely organised, but each application can be thought of as existing within the silo of that department.
Yes, you are on the WA Gov jobs website. No, these jobs have nothing in common with each other.
You may have to upload responses or copy and paste these. It is variable.
Because we are also so used to jobs closing at 11.59PM on the closing date, check that closing date.
Some WA Government jobs, such as the Department of Education, close at 4PM WST. Some close at 5PM WST. Some close at midnight.
Here is some of the information listed on how to apply, and it’s still quite vague:
South Australia - South Australian Government, SA Gov
Each state government has its own website, and some are better than others.
I find the SA Gov jobs website particularly difficult as a user interface.
You can check it out here: https://iworkfor.sa.gov.au/page.php?pageID=842&windowUID=0#report
Some job links will take you to department websites. Some will go through the SA Gov website.
SA Gov application guidelines are ambiguous at best. There’s a few examples below of different directions from different roles presently listed.
Keep a beady eye on the time the role closes—the majority close at around 11.45PM, and some close at 5PM or 4PM.
Consistencies across all states:
- They all want you to use STAR
- They all want you to get the point quickly
- Long documents are likely going to harm your application
- All jobs close towards the end of the day listed as the closing date, but beware of the time listed
- Digital applications are preferred
- You should call the Contact Officer
- Each department have their own way of doing things
- All application forms should be previewed, or where this is not possible, create an account and jump ahead to ensure you are ready
I hope this has helped to clear up how applying for each state government works as opposed to the other.
Be diligent, and never assume there will be the same directions for each job.
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