What to expect when applying for a government job

Applying for a job with the federal government of Canada can seem overwhelming for first-time applicant. Here are some things to expect when applying for government jobs.


The application process takes a lot of time

Right off the bat, I’ll say - you will need to manage your expectations when applying for government jobs, especially with the Government of Canada. As an outside applicant, job competitions will take at a minimum of a couple of months, and some might over a year to get through. 

Play the numbers game when applying for government jobs

Getting into a government job is a numbers game, you will have to apply to A LOT of jobs in order to land one. Apply to every job that you meet the qualifications for, regardless of the location or agency, especially if they are creating a pool. Being in a pool a certain classification and level could allow other managers to pull you for a different role.

Also, keep in mind that while getting into a government job is hard, moving around once you are in is easy. So don’t just wait for your dream job, you can get in on a job you aren’t crazy about and move to something better relatively quickly. 

Invest time in creating high quality applications

Just because you are applying to multiple jobs, doesn’t mean you can skimp on the quality of your applications. I treated applying for Government of Canada jobs like a part-time job for a few months and dedicated significant time to the process. Thankfully, if you are applying to similar jobs, you can reuse elements of your applications across multiple competitions. Work hard to create high-quality applications at the start that you can reuse. 

Expect the application process to be standardized and formal

The government job application process is very standardized. That means you will get a lot of formal and impersonal-looking emails at the different steps. This type of communication can make you think that there aren’t humans running the process - but there are! If you have any questions throughout, you can send a friendly email to the contact person listed on the job poster (usually either the HR advisor or the hiring manager). 

But it’s important to be aware that because things are so standardized, there is a lot less flexibility than in most other types of job competitions, especially in the early steps. For example, unless you need a specific accommodation (which you should 100% ask for if you need one), then they will not reschedule a written test to better suit your schedule. Once you get to the interview stage though, the hiring manager may allow for a certain level of flexibility - so best to ask!

Want to learn my process for applying for government jobs?

Our D.I.Y Course Fedjobs help you understand what happens at each stage of the hiring process and provides honest advice from the applicant’s perspective. I also share my techniques to “tick all boxes” in the process to ensure your application moves forward to the next step. 

Here is what you will learn

6 videos that walk you through the major steps in the hiring process:

A woman with a mobile phone

Reading the job posting

There are a lot of acronyms and jargon in Government of Canada job postings that can be hard to decipher. I'll teach you how to analyze a job posting so that you can understand exactly what is being asked for.

A woman with a checklist

Preparing your application

The first step in the application process are the screening questions, which can be very time consuming to complete. I'll show you how to formulate your responses and how to create a system that will help you apply for multiple jobs fast.

A woman with a checklist

Written exercise

In my opinion, this is the most challenging part of the application process. I'll show you the key elements that should be included in a high quality written exercise and how an exercise can be structured.

An interview illustration


Federal government interviews are not your typical interview, they are extremely structured and impersonal. They are, however, usually easier to prepare for because you will know in advance what you will be asked about. I'll teach you how to prepare for the interview and how to structure you answers to get as many "points" as possible.

A celebration

Final steps

Depending on the type of competition, there are a few different things that can take place once you have successfully passed the interview stage. I'll go through the different scenarios and outline what to expect from situations like reference checks and receiving a letter of offer.

Files Illustration

Plus additional resources

3 templates that will be useful tools for allowing you to efficiently apply for jobs, nail your written tests and present your best self during an interview. 

How much does fedjobs.ca cost?

Pay once and have access forever.

Fedjobs.ca course

Self-guided online course on how to land a job with the government of Canada

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