Friday 24 Sep 2021 | 22:18 | SYDNEY
Friday 24 Sep 2021 | 22:18 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: APS job applications


Sam Roggeveen


31 July 2009 16:32

I had a little fun at the expense of the Australian Public Service yesterday, but when you're actually trying to start a career in the APS, the impenetrable management-speak in the job advertisements is no joke. A reader writes:

First off, congratulations on the running of The Interpreter, it's truly an excellent resource with the perfect mix of serious analysis, good humor, and debate. Keep up the good work!

I noticed your article on the linguistic — and stylistic — problems in APS recruitment. I, too, read the advertisement in this week's Economist, but it didn't raise my ire so much as it has yours; not because I don't agree with you, but because, after six months of responding to entry-level selection criteria, I have become quite accustomed to it.

Take, as an example, the following, which is the first selection criteria for an APS4 position: 

  • Achieves Results
  • Acts with integrity, has high ethical standards and uphold Values.
  • Performs under limited direction.
  • Ability to operate flexibly.

Perhaps the type of candidate most suitable to this position might have had experience as a judge, or in religious circles, and would be able to show their credentials for acting with integrity, with ethical standards, and the ability to uphold 'Values' (capitalised, but with no explanation). The candidate, however, might also have had a stint as a stage actor in a poorly directed troupe, necessitating him or her to perform under limited (if any!) direction.

This first pairing seems unlikely. Although, not as unlikely as the candidate whom, after fulfilling the first two aspects of this criterion, can aptly describe a situation wherein they have successfully completed surgery while performing a circus manoeuvre, or perhaps an interpretive dance? Or a gymnast’s routine?

The candidate capable of fulfilling these criteria, and the four others of identical absurdity, will no doubt be suited to working in a plethora of areas, both inside and outside the public service. However, I wonder if such an accomplished applicant will really be suited, considering their skill-set, to work as an APS4 in the position of 'Defence Support Group Awards and Recognition Officer' (notice the lack of colon here, too).

The booklet available to potential APS employees is correctly titled 'Cracking the Code'; wouldn't it be better, instead, for advertisements and selection criteria to be written in comprehensible English?

I must appoligise Sam, if this has turned into something of a frustrated rant. However, the frustration felt by graduates — who have been weened off improper usage and trained to use good style, only to necessarily de-evolve to fit into the current work-force — is palpable!