Procedure proves a staple of the public sector

FAILING to put a staple in the top left-hand corner of a job application could rule you out of a position in the public sector.

Government agencies have a rigid recruitment process and failure to follow instructions detailed in the application kit, even for something as minor as forgetting to staple the application, could cost you the job.

Commonwealth Rehabilitation Services WA divisional employment consultant Mark Drage said that many applicants, from lower level to senior management roles, did not follow or understand the public sector recruitment process.

“Government departments and educational institutions have to have procedures because the process [recruitment] needs to be open and equitable,” he said.

“They have to back up why they appoint someone. If 400 people apply for a job and only 10 do it right, then the other 390 people do not get an interview.

“People do not read the application kit. It says how the application should be presented; it should have a selection criteria document, resumé, referees and letter of application. Some even ask for it to be stapled in the left-hand corner. If you do not follow it you don’t go on the pile [to be reviewed for interview].”

While the process might seem longwinded for those used to the fast pace of life in private enterprise, Mr Drage warned job applicants not to rely on the CV ‘cufflinks’.

“Most private sector people say: ‘Why should I do this; they should realise I can do it from my CV?’ Judgements of a CV are not transparent enough,” Mr Drage said.

“The person who can write the best application, not necessary have the best skills, will get the interview.”

He said applicant screening took place at the human resource or personnel level and, no matter how good a CV might be, failure to attach the required documentation meant the end of the line.

Many people applying for public service jobs also fail to address the crucial selection criteria document correctly.

A guide to responding to selection criteria, Write a Winning Job Application, has just entered its third print run and is used by Mr Drage and other employment agencies to help guide people through the process.

“There is a simple structure for selection criteria. You have to show how good you are at the characteristic, where you’ve used it, and use a specific example to show how and the results you achieved,” Mr Drage said.

“The best thing about it [the book] is it uses real criteria and examples, so you can see how it’s done and you can replicate it.”

Northern Suburbs Career Options lifeskills consultant Pauline Meecham said she called Lloyd Smith (author of Write a Winning Job Application) her “secret weapon for job hunters”.

“Information on the process is not readily available and there have been a lot of changes over the past two to three years,” she said.

“A lot of agencies are using very old information. There are not too many publications that are as detailed as this.”

Ms Meecham said that, while the selection process was complicated to ensure fairness, many departments did not sufficiently explain how that process worked, making it unfair to many applicants.

“Often they [applicants] write: ‘I’ve done this’,” she said. “That is not going to score them points at all.

“In the private sector the weight is on the resumé but in the public sector its in the selection criteria.”

Department of Planning and Infra-structure workforce development officer Lorraine McPherson said she offered the book to participants in the Winning the Job seminar, which is designed to help those in the public service get jobs in other departments or other fields of work

“One thing he does very well [White] is provide the tools to break down and analyse the requirements and give a template for a CV,” she said.

And don’t think a public service job application can be done in an evening. According to the experts it takes nearly 10 hours and, if you are starting from scratch, leave yourself 20 hours.

“For a level 5 and above job [management], if you want to do it properly, I’d set aside 10 hours for the first draft and allow one to three days to complete it,” Mr Drage said.

“The more senior the position the more you have to prove your ability against the selection criteria.”

Lloyd White spent 10 years working for the WA Government’s Public Sector Management Office, where he trained people on job applications and interview skills.

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