Text size: A A A

Recruitment: how to beat colleagues to the punch (without a bout)

We’ve all experienced it. That awkward moment in the office when a job is announced that everyone is vying for. Convivial workplace friendships can quickly turn into ambivalent, fickle relationships as people pit themselves against each other and do what they must to win the job.

With the public service recruitment freeze and APS-only recruitment arrangements seeing no end in sight, these types of situations are increasingly cropping up in public service workplaces. Many people are willing to do whatever it takes to come out on top; in some cases the gloves come off and fair play is forgotten leading to game-playing and antagonistic internal politics.

The stories of being involved in or witnessing this negative type of competitive behaviour are rife across the public service; I even experienced it several times during my time in the APS. Tactics aside, I think this behaviour ultimately stems from a need to stand out in an environment where most contenders for the job would work in the same area and therefore have similar skills and knowledge of the work.

However, there is a better way to set your application apart while preserving your dignity by using these four tips …

Forget the humble pie

When faced with intimidating competition, some people tend to inadvertently downplay their skills and undersell themselves as a roundabout way of avoiding the contest. This is the single worst thing you could do for your application.

Although you may not want to sound like you’re bragging, you must clearly show that your skills are what will get the job done better than anyone else. By not putting your best foot forward, you are denying yourself the chance to advance and develop your career. Instead, candidly highlight your areas of expertise and how these will be an asset in the advertised position.

[pullquote] “Be proud of the role you played to achieve a certain outcome or goal, no matter how small, and clearly emphasise it in your application.” [/pullquote]

Don’t hide behind the team

Many people describe “the team’s” actions in achieving a goal and how “we” did this or that. These types of descriptions conceal your skills and capabilities making it impossible to decipher what you can offer. Be proud of the role you played to achieve a certain outcome or goal, no matter how small, and clearly emphasise it in your application. Focus on the “I” in your application and not the “we”.

Know your strengths

Think carefully about your strengths and how they stack up against everyone else’s. What are your unique skills that add value to the team in a way that nobody else can? Are you proficient at analysis, strategy, writing or maybe managing? Identify your unique skill in your application and explain how it puts you in a better position to perform the role more effectively and produce high-quality outcomes.

Differentiation is key

A great way to stand out is to specify the experiences that differentiate you from the rest of the team. This can be as simple as pointing out any projects only you’ve been involved in rather than the whole team. Highlight your achievements in the project and how these helped meet the project objectives.

If you follow this advice, you’ll be sure to differentiate your application from your colleagues’ while distancing yourself from the problematic office politics.

Author Bio

Sharon Akinyi

Sharon Akinyi worked in the public service for seven years and authored the e-book How to write competitive selection criteria responses. She is a public relations strategist currently working in the not-for-profit sector.