A guide on how to apply for a job in the federal public service

Why join the public service?

The public service (organizations, Crown corporations, the Canadian Forces, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) offers a wide variety of employment opportunities, including:

  • Positions are available across Canada, some perhaps in your neighbourhood;
  • Diverse fields and areas of specialization in a wide assortment of settings, whether outdoors, in an office, in large urban centres or in rural areas;
  • Fulfilling careers and a chance to make a difference in the lives of Canadians;
  • Attractive benefits and working conditions: paid vacations; flexible work arrangements; access to continuous learning; on-the-job-training; and a commitment to employment equity.

How to find out about current job openings

  • Visit the Job Posting section to find job advertisements for available opportunities.
  • Consult the Canada site and select links to individual organizations and Crown corporations to learn about their priorities and mandate and to find any job opportunities.
  • Review advertisements at least once a day. Some positions are only posted for 48 hours!
  • Take advantage of the Job Alert e-mail notification system. This free automated system sends e-mail notifications whenever a job opening matching your predefined criteria is posted.
  • College and university graduates should consult the Post Secondary Recruitment (PSR) section under the Specialized Recruitment Programs menu to find details on how to apply, exams, career choices, and much more.
  • Other recruitment programs on the Web site include the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP), Post-secondary Co-op/Internship Program, Recruitment of Policy Leaders (RPL) and the Research Affiliate Program (RAP).
  • Applicants can visit the Web sites of several external recruitment programs.
  • If you do not have access to an Internet connection, you can phone the automated Infotel Job Line at 1-800-645-5605 - 24 hours a day. All jobs available in your calling area will be listed on this telephone line.

The Application Process

It is important to review the Who Can Apply section of each job advertisement, to ensure that you are eligible. You may be eligible to apply based on where you reside or where you are employed (if you are a student, you are eligible to apply based on the location of your permanent residence or the educational institution you attend.)

Applying on-line

  • Look for the "Apply Online" link at the bottom of each advertisement. You need to use this link to submit an application to the public service.
  • The "Apply Online" link allows you to login to your file in the Public Service Resourcing System (PSRS).  If you do not have an account you will be directed to a page where you can create one. Once you have entered your login information you can apply to job opportunities that are in line with your qualifications, create an account to match jobs currently advertised, view the status of your application, and even view your scheduled tests or test results.
  • You may only submit applications for jobs that are currently advertised. Unsolicited applications will not be considered.
  • Do not send your application via e-mail. We do not accept e-mail attachments.
Do not send your résumé via the "Contact Us" button in the navigation bar.

Internet Access

  • If you do not have Internet access in your home or through friends, relatives or neighbours, consider alternatives such as campus career centres, libraries, community centres, Internet cafés, Service Canada Centres for Youth and PSC regional offices.
  • On-line applications must be received by the closing date indicated on the job advertisement.
  • Applicants may also call 1-888-780-4444, or TTY/TDD (telecommunications device for the hearing impaired and speech impaired persons) at 1-800-465-7735, for information on the nearest public Internet access location.
  • If, after trying these options, you still cannot access the Internet, please contact the nearest PSC office.
Note: The public service is committed to building a skilled, diverse workforce reflective of Canadian society. As a result, it promotes employment equity and encourages applicants to indicate voluntarily on their application if they are a woman, an Aboriginal person, a person with a disability or, a member of a visible minority group.

Alternative Methods of Applying

When indicated on the advertisement, applications in alternate formats (i.e. fax, mail) will be accepted.

Persons with disabilities preventing them from applying on-line can always submit a hard copy application if they wish to do so.  The advertisement provides information on who to contact in this regard.

Your résumé

Do not forget that your résumé (see section below) or a section of the electronic application (e.g. text, essay) must contain information that demonstrates how you meet the requirements listed on the job advertisement. If you fail to clearly demonstrate that you meet the requirements, your application may be rejected.
  • Your résumé is a marketing tool that provides a snapshot of how your skills and experience could benefit the hiring department or agency. It is vital for your résumé to make a clear connection between the job requirements listed on the advertisement and your previous experience. Failure to do so may result in the rejection of your application.
  • The more your résumé highlights the skills and experience outlined in the Statement of Merit Criteria the more effective your résumé will be. You should not hesitate to:
    • review the Statement of Merit Criteria, available with each opportunity poster, to obtain a detailed description of the job requirements; and
    • scan the poster to find information about education, official language proficiency, experience, knowledge, abilities/skills, personal suitability, assets, operational needs, organizational needs, conditions of work, and professional or occupational certification.

For more details, see section entitled Review the Statement of Merit Criteria.

Tips and Suggestions on Applying

If you went to school outside of Canada

  • Make sure your certificates and diplomas are evaluated against Canadian education standards. This will enable you to provide proof of Canadian equivalency when applying for a job in the public service.
  • The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) can assist you in obtaining an assessment of your educational, professional, and occupational credentials through referral to an appropriate organization.
  • The CICIC does not itself grant equivalencies or assess credentials, nor does it intervene on behalf of individuals or in complaints. They can be contacted at:

Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials
95 St. Clair Avenue West, Suite 1106
Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1N6
Tel: 416-962-9725
Fax: 416-962-2800
E-mail: info@cicic.ca

Applicant testing and assessment

Information on the most commonly used tests, including the General Administration Test (GAT), the General Competency Test (GCT), and the Office Skills Test (OST), is available on the PSC Web site

Tests are often used in combination with other methods of assessment. Some methods assess your skills while others evaluate your behaviour in different situation:

  • Skill tests: your specific skills, such as typing or welding are assessed
  • Written tests or exercises: your knowledge and/or abilities are assessed
  • Interviews: you could be interviewed by one person and/or a panel
  • Situational questions: how would you handle a given situation?
  • Behaviour-based questions: how did you behave under particular circumstances?
  • Simulation: a real work situation is replicated
  • Presentations: you are asked to make a job-related presentation
  • Role playing: you are asked to play a particular role, such as a supervisor, to show how you interact with others
  • Work samples: you have the opportunity to show examples of your past work
  • Review of performance evaluations: your past performance evaluations could be looked at
  • Reference checks: your references may be contacted to confirm your background

Job interview

The interview is a key event in any job search process. To increase your chances of having a positive interview, you should be aware that job interview in the public service usually follows a pre-determined structure.

You will be interviewed by an assessment board, often consisting of two or three people. The board is likely to include a hiring manager (from the department or agency), an expert in the field for which you are applying and a human resources representative (most likely from the department or agency.)

The assessment process may involve more than one interview. Once the interview or interviews are finished, the interviewers (the "assessment board") meet to make their hiring decision.

Note: The public service is committed to developing inclusive, barrier-free selection processes and work environments. If contacted regarding an appointment process, please advise the departmental official of the accommodation measures which must be taken to enable you to be assessed in a fair and equitable manner. Complete details concerning accommodations are provided in the policy on Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities.

How to Get Ready for the Job Interview

Find out about the organization

  • Go directly to the organization Web site or visit the Canada site and consult the Departments and Agencies section to find a direct link to that organization's site. You should find out about the organization's:
    • Mission Statement
    • Mandate
    • Programs and services
    • Minister
  • Get information from official publications (annual reports, program brochures and promotional material). Most of these documents are readily available in the reception areas of federal organizations, or from your local public library.
Consider the following questions when conducting your research.
  • What is the history of the organization?
  • What is the product or service offered by the organization?
  • How many people does the organization employ?
  • What challenges or issues is the department or agency currently facing?
  • What new technologies does the organization use?
  • How does the department or agency relate to the federal government in general?
  • What are the major activities of the organization?
  • Is the organization often in the news? If yes, why? Is the coverage positive or negative?
  • What are the future plans of the organization?
This will:
  • show your prospective employer that you have initiative, are truly interested in the work the organization does, and understand the services it provides; and
  • help you decide what questions to ask the assessment board.

Review the Statement of Merit Criteria (position requirements)

The Statement of Merit Criteria provides a detailed description of the job requirements of the position and enables you to anticipate some of the questions you may be asked. This document is usually available as a link on the job advertisement itself, or upon request from the department or agency. Reviewing it may enable you to anticipate some of the questions you may be asked during the interview and to prepare your answers accordingly.

Think about questions you may be asked at the interview.

Related to past work experience
  • Briefly summarize your work experience to date.
  • Explain more fully your responsibilities with your previous employer.
  • What has been your major accomplishment?
  • What are you most proud of? (may be professional or personal)
  • What is important to you in your work?
  • What have you enjoyed the most? Least?
  • Describe a problem situation in your past work experience and explain how you resolved it.
Assessing your skills
  • What are your major strengths?
  • What are your major weaknesses? Your limitations?
  • Why do you feel qualified for this job?
Your managerial strengths
  • Describe your management style.
  • As a manager, what would you look for when hiring people?
  • What do you see as the most difficult task in being a manager?
  • Why do you feel you have good potential to be a manager?
Your self-evaluation and motivation
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What is it about our organization that attracts you?
  • Why do you think we should hire you?
  • Why are you seeking a change at this time?

Think about questions you may want to ask at the interview

At the end of the interview, most assessment boards allow enough time for applicants to ask their own questions. This is another opportunity for you to make a good impression. Remember to:

  • Prepare these questions ahead of time. This will show board members that you have prepared for the interview.
  • Tailor your questions to the organizations with which you are having the interview. Do some research on their Web site or in your local paper's archives (see Find out about the department or agency).
  • Here are possible questions you may consider asking the assessment board:
    • When will you make a hiring decision?
    • What do you see as the priorities for someone in this position?
    • Could you describe a typical "day on the job"?
    • What training programs are available to your employees?
    • What level of responsibility could I expect in this position?
    • What qualities do you look for in new employees?
    • Is there a typical career path for a person in this position?
    • How are employees evaluated and promoted?
    • What are your organizations plans for the future?

The Interview Itself

What to bring with you

Bring additional copies of your résumé, a list of references, as well as samples of your recent work (if applicable). Make sure that you contact all of your references ahead of time, in order to get their permission and to let them know about the position for which you are applying.

Be on time

Arrive on time for the interview. It is always a good idea to obtain a telephone number to contact the interviewer(s) or the departmental human resources officer before the interview, in case you are late.

During the interview

The main purpose of the interview is to enable the interviewers to assess your qualifications against the merit and asset criteria. You can expect that:

  • The assessment board will ask you a series of questions, established in advance, to gauge your merit vis-à-vis knowledge, abilities/ skills, and personal suitability for the job. Your answers will be given a rating (as will those of other applicants). Once all references have been checked, the person who is the right fit will be offered the job. The interview normally follows the same structure for each person interviewed, to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equitably. Obviously, the specific questions asked at interviews differ according to the job being filled. However, here are some general tips on answering interview questions:
    • Organize your thoughts, either mentally or on a piece of paper, to make sure that you cover all the important points.
    • If you do not understand a question, ask the interviewers to repeat, clarify or rephrase it.
    • Mention all relevant information on the topic.
    • If you definitely do not know the answer to a question, say so.
    • Be brief and to the point.
    • Answer carefully and honestly.
    • Avoid being critical of past jobs and specific people.
  • Make sure that your knowledge, abilities and personal qualities are clearly communicated to the interviewers. If you feel that one of your strong points has not come across, point it out - but in a factual way. Watch for an opening, and tell the interviewers about your supervisory experience, your extracurricular activities, or whatever you want them to know. You could also bring a sample of any outstanding work you have produced, and present it to the interviewers if they are interested in seeing it.

Ending the interview

It is important to leave the interviewers with a positive impression of you, no matter how well you feel the interview has gone. Here are some pointers:

  • Remain confident and determined to the end. Each question the interviewers ask is important, including the last one.
  • Ensure that you are aware of all conditions of employment that apply to the job (travelling, medical exam, security check, etc.). You may want to discuss these conditions with the interviewers at the end of the interview.
  • Ask when you will be notified of their decision. If the answer is unclear, offer to call them yourself.
  • Watch for signs that the interview is coming to a close, and thank the interviewers for their time and consideration. Do not overstay your welcome.
  • Address the interviewers by name, if you are sure of their names.

After the interview

Whether or not you are successful in being chosen for the job, you can make the interview a positive learning experience.

  • Contact the human resources officer for feedback on how you did at the interview. Ask for specific comments on your performance - both your strong points and what you need to improve.
  • Analyse information regarding deficiencies in your merit or asset criteria, if any, and determine how you can best "fill in the gap". Note: under the new Act, asset criteria can determine who wins a competition. These criteria are not mandatory, but play a large role in the event of a close call or tie between two or more applicants.

If you are not successful, do not be discouraged. Most importantly, do not take it personally! Your preparation before each interview, your practice during the interview, and the feedback you receive after each interview can only improve your future performance.

Each interview is a learning experience.

Good luck!

Checklist of Things to Remember

  • Your résumé should be brief.  It should focus on relevant requirements such as your experience.
  • Make sure that you provide all relevant information requested in the job advertisement such as:  the advertisement reference number; your citizenship; your language proficiency; and (if applicable) whether you are a member of a designated employment equity group.
  • It is your responsibility to inform the Public Service Commission or the department official in a timely fashion of any accommodation you require to enable you to be assessed in a fair and equitable manner. Information received relating to accommodations measures will be treated confidentially.
  • If you attended a school outside of Canada, you must include proof of Canadian equivalency for your degree, diplomas and/or certificates. For more information on obtaining equivalencies, visit the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials Web site.