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Applying for grad jobs? Want to stand out from the competition? Here's how!

Are you one of the thousands of Uni students hoping for a foot in the door of the public service? Most government agencies, as well as many private firms, recruit new graduates into entry level jobs every year. These programs offer valuable on the job experience, mentoring, and a chance to get a taste of the "real world" of work. The good news is, there are hundreds of jobs available. The bad news is, they are highly competitive. How can you get a leg up on the other candidates?

Like any job application process, the first step is research. To find out about grad programs in the Australian public service, go to Click on the graduate portal to see the agencies accepting applications. If you think it's already too late guess again; several agencies are taking applications for another 6 weeks or more!

Once you've settled on a potential role, carefully research the agency. Showing knowledge, interest, and enthusiasm about the organisation is a great way to demonstrate that you are engaged with a role. Make sure you communicate this in your application.

If you are successful in your application, start limbering up to jump through some more hoops. As in any large recruitment process, a fair assessment of candidates requires multiple data points. This may include psychometric testing, work examples, and an interview.

Psychometric testing can assess numerous things; personality, abilities, values and more. In my opinion, I don't think there is much one can do to prepare for these kinds of tests. In fact, by trying to select more socially desirable responses, your assessment may be flagged as potentially suspect if your answers trigger a "lie scale".

Work examples might include a writing test, numeracy assessment, or technical questions. Depending on the job, each agency may want to assess how quickly you can comprehend information and synthesise it into a brief, or address problems in your area of technical expertise. How should you get ready for these tests? It's likely you've been preparing your entire university career for these types of assessments! You've already practised many times over the years, and been assessed by experts. Utilise the strategies you probably already know; manage your time, read the question carefully, and picture a successful result.

The interview is another matter. Most Uni students can count on one hand the number of professional job interviews they've had, if any! The interview is your chance to be better prepared than the competition, make a positive impact on the assessors, and enhance your chances of securing the role. But how?

For interview preparation, I recommend researching the organisation, anticipating questions, preparing answers in the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format, crafting your personal presentation, and getting some practise. Your interview may be face to face or in a video format. Practise is crucial. Try some role plays with someone who can give you experienced feedback.

Interviews are your chance to let the selection panel see the real you, and imagine you in the role. A genuine, polished personal presentation and well thought out answers can really influence the assessors. For instance, last year I interviewed more than 150 candidates for entry level roles within 10 Australian Government agencies. I still remember some of the candidates, both excellent and terrible!

The bottom line is, focus your preparation on the interview! I'd love to help, in person in Canberra or by Skype anywhere else in Australia.

Good luck!


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