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Getting a job within government

By George Fripley - posted Wednesday, 11 February 2009

To get a job within government, you need to do two things as a matter of urgency. First, you need to do some comprehensive research on the Five Paradigms that all government employees should know off by heart (see my previous article that outlines these paradigms). Second, you need to find out the specific job-related jargon that applies to the position.

The selection criteria are the main part of any application for government, and should therefore take up most of your time. This will not be a problem, as often there will be numerous criteria, although some unenlightened agencies may have less due to their human resources processes not being particularly stringent. Sure, your resume and referees are important, but it is the selection criteria that will be foremost in the minds of those on the selection panel.

These criteria have been developed with the aim of weeding out all those practical and “can-do” types who would not be suited to the government machine: basically, the people who are intent on making decisions and stirring up trouble. However, those who can effortlessly peel off jargon and spend 10 minutes talking about what should only take two minutes will be well suited to this process.


When it comes time to address the numerous criteria, it is important that you know what the key phrases and words in each criterion actually mean, and what type of response is necessary. This may sound like a fairly basic thing, but the unwary are caught out when they show their ignorance of the government system. Examples of criteria that you may have to address are:

Demonstrated leadership skills including the ability to provide direction and influence outcomes

To successfully address this criterion you will need to show that you have not only the required skills but also the demonstrated experience. To do this you need to show rather than tell. Therefore you need to provide a complex explanation about how you managed to delay a project for months (purely on the basis that you felt that there was information lacking and an unsafe decision might be about to be made), when it should have been completed within weeks. Your explanation should also provide a convincing argument about why the delays were necessary.

This will show the selection panel, in no uncertain terms, that you are more than capable of showing the type of leadership required in government. Explain how you have called unnecessary meetings, requested ridiculously vague legal advice, sent a statutory authority off on a tangent, or even cast doubt on the integrity or need for the project in the first place. As you apply for more senior jobs, you should ensure that you use more complex examples of obstruction to hinder projects

Synthesise complex and disparate information into clear, articulate advice. Confidently prepare and present advice focusing on key issues

This criterion will require you to demonstrate that you have the ability to gather irrelevant information from a number of sources and use it to provide advice on whatever matter is currently being considered. For clear, articulate advice, read the use of government jargon that sounds meaningful, but in reality says nothing much at all. The use of words like “synthesise” and “disparate” in the first part of the criterion, is a clue that the job requires people who can use language not commonly used by the general public, and use long words where short words would provide a clearer message to the majority of the population. They certainly do not want people who use clear and easily understood phrases.


The second part of the criterion should be addressed with examples of how you have been able to take government jargon and present it confidently to numerous audiences, without being discovered as the fraud that you are. Focusing on key issues requires you to demonstrate that you know the difference between key issues and important issues. Key issues are those that should be discussed publicly to provide an impression of calm and control, while important issues should never be discussed publicly, as they might result in too many people knowing how bad the problems really are!

Knowledge of the development of management strategies for (insert as appropriate)

Knowledge of “things” relates to a criterion that does not require you to have had actual experience in what is being talked about. This gives the prospective government employee a chance to show how good they at convincing others of their abilities in spin and bullshit. This particular criterion relates to management strategies, so a cursory glance at some previously developed management strategies should be sufficient to get you on the right track. If you are able to confidently talk about an area you have had absolutely no experience in, without betraying yourself as completely “green” in that area, you are likely to be snapped up. You should also consider a career in politics.

So, as you can see, you can’t take selection criteria lightly or at face value. You need to do enough research to find out the key words that you need to address. You should also understand that the selection panel wants to do as little work as possible. Therefore, answering the criteria using copious amounts of government jargon mixed in with an emphasis on process rather than outcomes, will allow them a great degree of comfort in their decision-making process. Being seasoned public servants themselves, they may have the nagging feeling that you may not be quite suitable for the job, but your ability to spout jargon and talk process will convince them, and everyone else, that you are eminently capable of dealing out the necessary spin to implement the five paradigms of government. This being the case, they can have the confidence that you will fit smoothly into the system.

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About the Author

George Friplely has worked in the public service for more than eight years, and in that time has risen to the dizzying heights of managing an agency (for a brief period of time). He has a great deal of experience in dealing with the day-to-day decision-making processes and has a wealth of knowledge about government process. He is currently in hiding among the stacks of files in his government department, hoping that his revelations do not cause him to become the subject of an ASIO investigation, or worse still, that somebody realises that he actually exists and sends some work his way! George blogs at and George's thoughts on government and bureaucracy are now available in the definitive government employees manual, You Can't Polish A Turd - the Civil Servant's Manual, published by Night Publishing. His next book provisionally titled The Dregs of History is due for release in 2011.

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