It’s often challenging to respond to a job ad in the Australian Public Service (APS) because Government positions have their own tricks of the trade that differentiate them from jobs in the private sector.
Some describe the process as a lottery. Even those who are chosen by the selection panel are often puzzled as to how they were able to achieve that success.
While there’s no specific way to best address the expression of interest (EOI), it’s helpful to have a general idea of the format and content to improve the quality of your EOI.
In my five years’ experience assisting clients in the public sector, I’ve seen candidates fall short because their EOI:
- Had disorganised flow and structure, or lack thereof
- Didn’t make a strong case for why they were the best candidate
- Had no specific examples and just used general statements
- Didn’t follow the application instruction (i.e., exceeded the word limit)
Hopefully, my tips below could help you identify where to focus your attention to maximise the impact of your EOI.
Step 1: Review the applicant kit
Read very carefully the wording on how to apply, which is usually found in the applicant kit or candidate pack. Also read the role description thoroughly, as misinterpretation of the role could lead to a critical error in writing your EOI.
Usually, an APS vacancy has a list of criteria that you have to respond to. The selection criteria (usually up to six criteria) differ from one Department or Agency to another. Usual examples of criteria include ‘Shapes Strategic Thinking,’ ‘Achieves Results,’ ‘Cultivates Productive Working Relationships,’ ‘Exemplifies Drive and Integrity,’ and ‘Communicates with Influence.’ Note that the wording changes slightly depending on the job level (APS 1 to SES B2). This means that you also have to pitch your case to the level of seniority of the role.
Most EOIs will include a word count (between 500 and 1,000 words) or page count restriction (maximum of 2 pages). Always make sure to comply with the word/page count requirement. On some occasions, the selection panel will entirely disregard EOIs that exceed the required count as following directions is always part of the required ability when applying for any advertised job.
Also, make sure to check for specific font style or size requirements. Some Departments/Agencies would require the use of common fonts (e.g., Arial, no smaller than size 11). Failing to comply with these requirements could be used by the selection panel to eliminate EOIs.
Step 2: Prepare you examples in advance
Successful EOIs rely on strong examples.
However, it usually takes an average of 3-7 days to prepare an EOI. That’s really not much of a time. So you’ll need to have a method of compiling your examples not just when you’re looking for a job. Having a pool of examples that you can immediately access and connect to the selection criteria is key to your success.
Carefully consider if your examples show your strengths or those of others. Review your examples and make sure that team achievements are converted into personal accomplishments. This means you’ll have to turn ‘we’s’ into ‘I’s.’
From your examples ‘database,’ you have to select which achievements best relate to the selection criteria.
Contrary to what most think, it’s not necessary to provide a specific example for each criterion. Always look for examples that could already address multiple criteria or combine different skills together. In general, you should try to have a minimum of two examples in your EOI. The reason for this is that if for some reason, your first example doesn’t resonate with the selection panel, you give yourself a second chance to impress them. Make sure to put the stronger example first.
Step 3: Structure your EOI
You can structure your EOI around three sections.
First section: A short opening paragraph on how your skills and experience could help solve specific issues or meet the intended goals of the Department/Section/Group.
Second section: Several example-based paragraphs that address the selection criteria and demonstrate how you applied role-related skills to deliver outcomes.
Third section: A short closing paragraph to reiterate the contribution you wish to make and your enthusiasm for the opportunity.
- Update and customise your resume so that it perfectly complements your EOI.
- Use bullet points, if allowed. Dot points not only reduce your word count but also improve the readability of your EOI. Note: Some Departments/Agencies don’t allow bullet points, in which case, use asterisk (*) as dot points.
- To cut down on words when writing your examples, you can condense ‘what you did’ and not ‘how you did it.’ The selection panel is more interested in your ‘actions’ that led to ‘results.’
- If you still have difficulties in writing your EOI, consider contacting a team of specialists in this area.
If you need to complete your selection criteria or pitch, there are tips on our website on how to put together your responses in line with the APS writing style. You can also contact us if you’re seeking assistance in preparing your application documents for the APS.