This is my guide to succeeding in Canadian Federal Government Competitions, part of a series of guides to government that I have planned. I have developed multiple versions of the guide over the last 18 years and I still consider it to be a work in progress.

Cover page - Be the duck
PolyWogg's HR Guide

Initially, I just had a PDF version (version 0.4) which is the version I used for presentations over the years. Version 0.5 was the first prose version on my site and only included a subset of the full list of topics. Version 0.6 followed with slight updates of some sections, as did version 0.7. Later, I updated in 2014 and 2017. I started some updates in 2020 but never finalized them. I’m leaving the older versions as linked compilations, but the latest version is below.

In the meantime, if you want the latest Powerpoint deck, you can click on the file name below to see a pop-up PDF version in your browser or click on the Download button to save a copy to your device.

Updated 2023 Version

I: Welcome

Welcome — this splash page
Introduction — Who is PolyWogg and what does a duck have to do with government hiring?

II: Understanding the HR Context

Understanding yourself — Why do YOU want to work for the government?

Updated 2023 Beta Versions

2017 Prose Version

Full prose link

  • Welcome
    • Welcome — this page explaining the version that follows
    • Introduction — The five principles that underpin my approach to competing in “selection processes” aka competitions
  • Early preparations
    • Know yourself — Why do YOU want to work for the government?
    • Types of jobs — Which type of job is right for YOU?
  • The Process
    • Overview of the process — All the elements of a selection process from start to finish and why you should care about each stage
    • Find jobs — How you find out about jobs in government and where they are posted
    • Applications — How to fill out your application so you don’t get screened out
    • Written exams — How to prepare and PASS the test so you can move on to the interview
    • Interviews — How to prepare for a GOVERNMENT interview, not a private-sector interview
    • References — How to choose the right reference and help THEM prepare to help YOU
  • Other elements
    • Language tests — Tips and tricks to be ready for the language tests of the Public Service Commission
    • Special tests — Overview of different types of unique tests you may be asked to undergo as part of the process
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Guest
Sarah
17 days ago

Hi Paul, I am taking a written exam in a few days for an AS-01 position regarding the ability to research, interpret, and apply organizational directives and policies can you advise what kind of questions they will be asking for this? Thank you!

Guest
Jonita
18 days ago

Hey everybody, I have my first exam on Friday for pm-01 payment service officer post. My first test in my life. I will be assessed on 3 competencies: thinking things through, demonstrate integrity and respect and written communication. I know the basics of these but exactly I have no idea what they are going to ask. Please could you help me by giving some ideas/ examples.

Guest
meryem
20 days ago

Hi Paul, thank you for this wonderful website. I am taking a written exam in a few days for an AS-01 position regarding the ability to research, interpret, and apply organizational directives and policies, as well as the ability to use Microsoft Excel. Any advice on which Excel functions I should review would be really helpful. Thank you.

Guest
Meryem
10 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Thanks a lot for the guidance; it was really helpful. It was indeed an increasing set of skills from L1 to L3. There was also a bonus exercise about advanced features.

Last edited 10 days ago by Meryem
Guest
Celine
23 days ago

Hi Paul,

I am not sure if this is a right place for my questions but not sure where else to post 🙂
I am currently on a one year term; however, my partner has accepted an offer in another province. Therefore, we will potentially move to that province. I am just wondering what my options are. Given the fact that HR won’t do transfer from one province to another?
Your advise would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much as always.
Celine

Guest
Wren
2 months ago

Hi Paul,

Your guide is exceptionally helpful, and something I find that I keep coming back to as I work hard to enter into the public service sector. Thank you for all of your insight!

I recently secured a casual contract with one of the smaller departments as an EC-03, and so I wanted to ask about your experience in (or knowledge of) the “Policy Analyst” role. I know that’s quite a broad ask, and a Policy Analyst’s job would vary depending on a number of factors including their level, department, and even the team they work with (among probably 100s more). However, I come from a private sector background and have recently graduated from my undergraduate degree in business with no real government experience, so this truly is a blank slate for me. If you had any knowledge on specifically the following aspects of the role, I’d love to hear more:

– What is a more useful skill for this role: writing, or numerical/ data science? Is there any third skill set that you see as being particularly helpful?
– Are there any resources that can be used for training, or to become more acquainted with the nuances of the position?
– What differentiates a good and an excellent Policy Analyst?
– Any other general advice you may have

Thanks once again. Cheers!

Guest
Alice
3 months ago

Hello Paul, I received an oral assessment invitation for a PM02 position. (It’s not a language assessment as I did not apply for bilingual position.) Do you have any information on this kind of assessment? I have never had an oral assessment before so have no idea what should I prepare for this…
It says it will take about 15mins and will assess the competency of
Communication (oral)
Expressing oneself clearly, concisely, and openly, to effectively exchange information and ideas with others, and to demonstrate understanding, respect, and appreciation of others’ perspectives.
Conveys ideas and information clearly and concisely
Demonstrates understanding
Expresses oneself in a manner appropriate to the audience
Shares information appropriately

Thank you!

Guest
Savannah
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Thank you for replying to this! I am also in the same boat and was unsure how to prepare since English is my first language and I did not apply for a Bilingual position.

Guest
Savannah
2 months ago
Reply to  Alice

Hi Alice,

Not sure if I am allowed to ask, but how did it go? I am in the same boat!

Guest
Alice
2 months ago
Reply to  Savannah

Hi Savannah, I was told it’s confidential so I can’t go too specific but actually Paul was right about everything, if you haven’t done the assessment yet make sure you follow Paul’s advice here. It helps a lot. Good luck!

Guest
Elaine
5 months ago

Hi, I’ve written an EC06 exam, and I was screened out. I opted to go for informal feedback, hoping to gain knowledge for the next time. During my ‘informal feedback’ session, I was told that I failed 2 criteria by 1 point each. The board member, let’s call her Sarah, mentions that I was to provide 3 risks and I did not. I responded to Sarah, that on my copy of the English instructions, there was no reference to the number of risks to be identified.

The informal feedback session with Sarah was not helpful at all, as she only said, “this is where you lost marks”; there was no guidance for ‘in the future, you could try this….’. I have been a board member before, and I always like to give the applicant my time and suggestions for the ‘next time’.

After my meeting with Sarah, I decided to review the English and French instructions for the exam. I discovered two errors where the English and French translation differ. Additional information was provided in the French exam which wasn’t included in the English. These findings included information that was to be included in my deck submission.

How do I go about grieving this process based upon the information I have just discovered?

Guest
Trevor
5 months ago

I have been informed that I did not meet the following staffing requirements for a position I had applied to: “Dependability” and “Performance Validation”. Is there somewhere on PSC website where I can read the definitions of these terms?

Guest
jason
6 months ago

Paul

Do know of any resources regarding briefing notes?

Guest
Mark
6 months ago

This is a great guide. Thanks you Paul!

I would recommended this guide to everyone looking to get a Federal Government job or move up to higher positions in the public service. It helped me get an acting EC-02 position when I was a clerical staff (CR-04).

I assumed all EC staff are analysts. But I was surprised to see positions like Policy/Research/Data Management Officer. Would it be correct to say that the general description of all EC people is analyst even if the job title says officer?

Guest
Mark
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Thank you Paul for this detailed commentary/explanation.

(snip of personal details)

Guest
jason
8 months ago

Hi Paul

I was recently directed to your page when I had posted a question about the hiring process within the Govt of Canada in a chatroom. Over the past couple of days I have been reviewing your site – thank you for the work.

Do you have any advice on Personal Suitability questions (Working effectively with others, Showing initiative and being action-oriented, Dependability, Adaptability, Thinking things through, etc)?

Thanks.

Guest
Martin
11 months ago

I am a retired public servant and always found Govt HR to be complex and often times opaque. Your guide shines a bright light and a gives a North Star. Many of my students at Algonquin College have used it, very good reviews so far! Keep up the good work.

Guest
Guest
11 months ago

Hi Paul,

Thanks for all this useful information. I would like to gain more insight about job descriptions for ECs. How they are developed, who is or should be responsible for developing these documents (e.g., HR, management, or a combination of both); what are the distinctions between levels (i.e., between the role/responsibilities of an EC-07 manager versus an EC-06 supervisor etc.). Looking for some guidance to ensure staff are working according to the level and not being under tasked or over tasked. In my experience, I’ve noticed responsibilities have varied depending on the department.

Regards

Guest
Katie
1 year ago

Thank you thank you for all of this amazing information! You are a lifesaver!

Guest
Ram Basco
1 year ago

Hello Again Paul, I’m preparing for an interview and wondering if my answer to a question about “ability to work independently” can include elements of other skills…like saying “I think the most important elements of working independently are prioritizing and integrity, these 2 skills have always helped me work independently, and here is an example….” and my example will illustrate how I work independently using STAR methodology. Does that make sense? The job poster included 6 abilities and 6 competencies and I feel they are all relative…so probably I can use the words prioritizing, integrity, and adaptability in questions about working independently, networking, alliance building, etc. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this. Thank you once again for your help.

Guest
Ram Basco
1 year ago

Hello Paul, I’m a public servant on a long term Leave Without Pay (LWOP) and living overseas due to Spouse Relocation. After passing a written exam, I’m going for an interview for a Locally Engaged Staff (LES) position at a Canadian Embassy in Europe. Do you have any special tips or recommendations for an LES interview? and from your experience, being on LWOP would be an advantage or disadvantage given that I was not working for GAC?

Guest
Ram Basco
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Thank you for the information Paul. I will follow your interview guide and do my best. To my surprise, the written exam tested many of the abilities and personal suitabilities while less than 50% was about knowledge, but basically I will structure my answers using STAR methodology and Problem Solving Skills (Identify, Analyze, Develop Options, Implement, and Review).

Have a good week ahead! Thanks 🙂

Guest
Ram Basco
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Yes it is interesting they are running a formal process. By the way the listed 6 competencies and 6 abilities and I’m running out of example 🙂 Any thoughts about good example on ability establishing interpersonal skills with external partners, and the ability to independently research analyze and synthesize information?

Guest
Ram Basco
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul, I wanted to update you regarding my LES interview. I prepared well for the interview and I believe I did well. It was the usual GAC official process, 30 minutes pre-interview and 3 persons who asked 6 questions in 60 minutes. They said they will provide feedback within one week. Now after almost 2 weeks I haven’t heard back. My experience with government interviews, and your suggestions were very helpful. I felt they were pleased with my answers, and I know I did well in the exam. However I’m very nervous and anxiously waiting especially relevant opportunities are limited in Europe. Hoping for the best…Thanks again for your guidance.

Guest
Ram Basco
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul. Welcome back :). Unfortunately haven’t heard back yet (5 weeks now). I sent them an email asking for application status and they didn’t reply (2 weeks). I know in PS this stage could take 2 to 3 months, but they indicated that they will get back in a week. I still hope things will work out because I did everything I could, and it paid off in the exam and interview, but it seems PS rules apply to LES. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you once again! Ram

Guest
Ram Basco
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Hello again Paul, it has been almost a year since I contacted you. I’m still living overseas and on a LWOP in Europe. So, the last competition I tried ended up with hiring an internal staff, and I was put in a pool, then never heard back.

Now going through a new competition but they are using a different format. They asked me to attend a pre-recorded Vidcruiter interview that will assess “Effective Interactive Communication – communicating effectively with others orally”. Do you have any advise on how to prepare for that? Thank you once again for the help. Ram

Guest
lala
1 year ago

Do you provide services in terms of helping with applications? Really need the help

Guest
lala
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Any chance you can point me to the right direction for such services?

Guest
lala
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Thanks for the genuine response, very much like it.

Guest
John
1 year ago

Hi Paul,

I am currently serving in the Navy for the last few years as a Human Resources Manager and Administrator, I am thinking of leaving the Reg Force (Full-time) to commission as an officer in the army part-time while hopefully getting a civilian job in the federal government. I was wondering if you have any advice or help for me, as the military was pretty much the only job I had since high school, I did get my degree in political economy and French, a double major, and also the one thing my coworker was saying is to add many courses we did in the military such as GBA+ on the resume as it is the same as the federal government sector. Do you have any tips and tricks on how to write a resume and CV, or any resources I can access?

Thank you in advance!
John

Guest
Ana
1 year ago

Hi Paul,

I received an email informing me that I’ve been found qualified for a position that I applied to as an external candidate, and that my name has been added to the pool of qualified candidates and they’ll be in touch if I am selected for an employment opportunity. During my interview, I was told that they want to on-board someone for the position by the end of the summer, and that clearance tends to take 4-6 months.

Does this mean that they’ve picked someone else for the position? I’m not a current PS employee – is there any way I can find out if someone has been appointed to the position?

Thanks!

Guest
Sam MN
1 year ago

Hi Paul,

Thank you for putting this together
I have been successful in 3 competitions over the years by following your guidance. I recently got interested in the IRCC Foreign Service Development Program and was wondering if there was a way to get feedback on my perfomance. I was screened in and invited to write the exam, which I failed. I’m still interested in the process but I don’t know what/how to improve since there was no feedback provided. I know that’s only fair since it’s an external process, however I would like to give it another try. But do you know if there are ways to get feedback? I think even just knowing my grade would be a great indicator of what was missing.

Thank you!