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The Integrated Leadership System in a Nutshell; Tips for Australian Public Service Interviews

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

If you know about the Integrated Leadership System already, the title of this article alone may have you running screaming away from your device. There there, dear public servant! I’m going to do my level best to tell you why I love it, how it can help you prepare for interviews, and best of all, simplify it. Take a deep breath and read on!

The ILS, for the uninitiated, is a capability framework which describes expected behaviours for Australian Public Service Employees; On first blush, it looks pretty overwhelming. Here’s how it breaks down.

It is made up of five core capability clusters; strategic direction, achieves results, productive working relationships, personal drive and integrity, and communicates with influence. It’s very useful if you’re thinking about a promotion in the APS, as it defines what’s expected from employees at various levels. The profile of each level gives a one-page snapshot for each level from APS 1-6, and EL1- SES B3. There is also a dandy document which shows comparisons at each level, highlighted so that you can see exactly what changes are expected from one level to the next. There are additional tools as well, to guide capacity building and self-assessment.

Why do I love it? Because you can hang your hat on it. Figuratively speaking, that is.

Candidates often ask me what an interview panel wants to hear. I’m no better at mind reading than the next person. But the ILS provides a standard that an applicant can use as a benchmark. The ILS is often used as a sort of marking rubric for APS interviews, so it’s a solid bet to use it as a base for your interview preparation.

When I work with APS candidates, I always write practice questions against the ILS criteria for the level of the job and give feedback on their answer accordingly. If I give a candidate my opinion, I make sure and tell them so, otherwise, we refer to the ILS.

So how can you use it to prepare for an APS interview? Understand the five capabilities in simple terms and recognise some common questions that may be used to assess them.

Supports Strategic Direction/Shapes Strategic Thinking

My shorthand for this capability is; do you understand how your day to day tasks relate to the “big picture” for your organisation? Are you thinking both short term and long term? If you have to solve a problem, do you seek information from many good sources, and then make evidence-based decisions based on your research?

Possible behavioural questions might be; Tell us about a time when you solved a problem, Give an example of a time when you managed short term and long term goals, or Tell us about a time when you had to research and analyse data to make a decision.

Achieves Results

Where strategy is about problem solving and making a plan, achieving results is about getting the job done. Key components include using resources wisely, managing competing priorities, dealing with change and uncertainty, and delivering outcomes.

Expect questions like Tell us about a time when you met a deadline despite competing priorities, Give an example of a time when you allocated resources to assure completion of a project, or Tell us about a time when you showed flexibility during a time of change and uncertainty.

Cultivates Productive Working Relationships

Every interview panel wants evidence that you’ll play nicely in the sandbox. The key relationships to provide examples around are internal and external stakeholders and team members. Valuing diversity is key, as is listening to others and sharing information.

Typical questions include Give an example of a time when you coached a team member, or Tell us about a stakeholder relationship you have developed.

Personal Drive and Integrity

Here’s a tip; before every APS interview review the APS Values and Code of Conduct. Many an interview panel has asked how these standards have informed your decision-making during times when your integrity is challenged. This capability is about showing that when the chips are down, you’ll do the right thing, and that you have the backbone to stand up and challenge issues constructively.

You might get a question here like Tell us about a time when you made a poor choice and how you rectified the situation or Give an example of a time when you persevered and showed resilience during difficult circumstances.

Communicates with Influence

Sometimes this capability is assessed throughout the interview instead of having a targeted question. The key points are making sure you know what message you need to deliver, you take your audience’s needs into consideration, and you negotiate persuasively.

Standard questions are Tell us about a time when you delivered a message to a diverse audience; How did you assure they understood your message? Or Tell us about a successful negotiation you conducted.

I hope this helps de-mystify the Integrated Leadership System and gives you a stake in the ground to work with as you prepare for your Australian Public Service interview. Best of luck!

Need more help? Give me a ring, drop me an email, or make an appointment to practise in person! Cheers,

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