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Jobseekers: APS Values and Code of Conduct

You’re determined to secure a public service position or contract with the Australian Government. You’re impressed with the diversity of career opportunities. The idea of servicing the public may resonate with you. Perhaps you’re attracted to security and stability.

Whatever your motivation, you must be ready when applying for an Australian Public Service (APS) position—temporary or permanent— especially if you get to interview. That’s whether you already working in government or are working outside government. Getting ready involves understanding the APS Values and Code of Conduct. Trust us, you don’t want to draw a blank during your interview. It will be a big black X against your chances.

To dive deep into this topic, head to the Australian Public Service Commission’s (APSC) website, which is a gold mine of rich information. In the meantime, this expert article summarises some helpful tips.

Why is the APS Values and Code of Conduct important?

APS Values and Code of Conduct are important when you work in the public service because you occupy a position of trust. You’re entrusted by government and the community to conduct important work on their behalf. With trust comes responsibility. And with responsibility comes the need for the highest standards of ethical behaviour.

This is so important, it’s part of government legislation, specifically the Public Service Act 1999, Part 3.

What are the APS Values?

The APS Values are:

  1. impartial
  2. committed to service
  3. accountable
  4. respectful

Discover more details on the APSC website.

The Code of Conduct requires APS employees to always behave in a way that upholds the APS Values and Employment Principles. The Code also requires employees to uphold the

integrity and good reputation of the employee’s agency (or department) and the public service as a whole.

This is outlined in Part 3, Section 13, page 11 of the Public Service Act.

Who must follow the APS Values and Code of Conduct?

Everyone who works for or in the APS must uphold the Values and Code of Conduct. This includes heads of government agencies, Senior Executive Service (senior management), employees. It also includes Labour Hire Contractors.

This isn’t optional. It’s mandatory, and everyone in the APS is responsible for understanding and being accountable for these obligations. It’s never good enough to say you didn’t know about them. If you make a mistake on the job, you won’t be allowed use lack of knowledge as an excuse, whether you’ve worked in the APS before, or not.

But I’m just applying for an APS position. Why do I need to know all this now?

The APS—just as with the private and not-for-profit sectors—expects everyone applying for positions to have done their research. For the APS, this includes existing public servants, those wanting to be public servants and contractors.

Today’s job market is competitive so jobseekers who understand all requirements of the role they’re applying for, will stand out at interview. Departments don’t want to hire people who shrug their shoulders when asked the APS Values and Code of Conduct. This is why face2face ensures the job seekers we work with are well briefed.

What could I be asked in an interview?

During interview, you could be asked:

  • if you know about the APS Values and Code of Conduct
  • to summarise them
  • to give an example of how you’ve demonstrated similar behaviours in another position, applying the STAR technique in your answer—situation, task, action, result.

Here’s a sample question and two example answers:

Q: Describe how your performance in your current job demonstrates how you could live up to the APS Values?

A1: I work in a busy family law firm compiling research for a lawyer defending a client in a complex case. In writing the research report, I was impartial and factual when presenting the facts, so as not to mislead the case. I was fully accountable for the completeness and accuracy of my research. I was ethical by abiding by Australian Government privacy legislation.

A2: I work in a high-volume call centre that is fast-paced and hectic. We’re responsible for answering queries on how to apply for program assistance. In doing so, I treat everyone with equal importance and never judge. I focus on quality customer service and am always respectful and objective when providing information and clarifying concerns.

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