Public Sector Job Applicants


Public sector appointments applications are unlike many job applications you will complete. Along with a deadline that might be many weeks away, it is not uncommon for an application to drag on right up to the closing date for entry. On the surface of it, they seem long and complicated, asking for a lot of thought in the application. They also rely on applications that you write or type yourself, not relying on the submission of a CV and cover letter. This of course is the time-consuming element to the application.

They are, however, well designed documents with the purpose of identifying suitable candidates as well as creating an even playing pitch for all applicants and applicants who would be nervous about the process. Each applicant is given space to show they have the relevant knowledge, skills and attitude to compete for the role. It weeds out those who fail to answer what they are asked and those who cut corners on the application. They also prepare you well for how the interview will be structured, should you be called. The interview will faithfully stick to your competencies and your application.

If you make up or give vague or ambiguous answers to these competency questions you will come up short. There are various techniques to structure answers both in applications and also in interviews, namely the STAR technique, which requires you to put answers into contextual scenarios which showcase your relevant competencies. The STAR technique is particularly suited to Public Sector recruitment.

Another danger on applying for a role is failing to keep a consistent standard in all the competency answers. One section could leave you down after a number of high-quality answers in other sections. This sometimes happens due to deadline pressure and lack of time management in your application.

It is also advisable to adhere to guidance from the recruitment portal Publicjobs on how to complete applications.

Some examples of competencies sought:

  • Teamwork
  • Delivery of results
  • Judgement and decision making
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Specialist knowledge and competencies unique to various roles

Different roles require different competencies, but the competencies are tested the same way. The application process focuses you, makes you aware of your relevance to a role, and serves as the backbone of your interview preparation.

The elephant in the room here is that it is clearly flagged to you in the application and subsequent interview, what is being sought. It is like an open book exam, where you just have to follow the instructions. Making your application fully relevant is the first hard part. The second is carrying through the application to the interview, presenting your competencies and suitability with clarity.

Finally, do you have the drive and commitment to Public Service values? This is at the centre of each application and interview and an opinion will be formed about yours throughout the recruitment process. Knowing about the Public Service and its ethos is a first step.

Grades in the Public Appointments Service Competency Models

  • Clerical Officer
  • Executive Officer
  • Administrative Officer
  • Higher Executive Officer
  • Assistant Principal
  • Principal Officer

Here is an example of the layout for an Administrative Officer application form

Coaching/mentoring for public sector applicants

Will include some or all of the below points according to need

  • Get the results you need to get into the interview
  • Career overview coaching session: are you right for the job?
  • Complete the application form to a high standard using STAR technique
  • Improve readability and impact of your application?
  • Communication competencies, LinkedIn and personal brand issues
  • Application process
  • Utilise what you have learned for other applications
  • Possible aptitude tests

Price for four sessions €420 (€800 for both)

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Coaching/mentoring for public sector interviews

Will include some or all the below points according to need.

  • Overview/research of your role and competency-based interviews
  • Identify and develop a strategy for each competency using STAR technique
  • Develop scenarios and examples that are flexible and interchangeable under questioning
  • Roleplay and practice for interview. Practice. Practice. Practice!
  • Recording and analysis of mock interview session
  • Preparation for the day: nerves, Zoom, dress code, impact, tips for success
  • Seeking feedback

Price for four sessions €420 (€800 for both)


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