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
Martin
1 month 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
1 month 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
2 months ago

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

Guest
Ram Basco
4 months 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
4 months 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
4 months 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Guest
Ram Basco
4 months 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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
4 months 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
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul. Welcome back :). Unfortunately havenโ€™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
lala
5 months ago

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

Guest
lala
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul

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

Guest
lala
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Thanks for the genuine response, very much like it.

Guest
John
5 months 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
5 months 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
6 months 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!

Guest
Sun
10 months ago

Do you offer review services or interview coaching in person?

Guest
Sun
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Thank-you! Really appreciate your effort and the site you’ve put together.

Guest
Steve
10 months ago

Hi Paul – I have a question about pools. I am in a competition where the intent is to create a pool of fully/partially qualified candidates to staff a number of positions at the EX-01 level. I have made it through all stages of this process and the hiring manager called me to offer me a job. However, I have not yet received notification that I qualified in the pool (which I wanted). I’ve never been in a situation before where I received a job offer before I was notified that I’d qualified in the pool. Any advice for how to navigate this?

Guest
Steve
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Thanks so much, Paul. In this case, I have been trying to make a pool elsewhere so that my home department could appoint me. After I received the verbal offer, I followed up with the HR contact and was told that I am a qualified candidate but I haven’t been placed into a pool since I’m being considered for one of the positions. If I accept, I was told, I would be appointed directly from the process.

This was a head-scratcher for me – the person who offered me the job told me I fully qualified for the pool, and the HR contact is saying I haven’t actually been placed in it. I’ve asked around and no one has been in a situation like this.

Guest
Zach
11 months ago

Hi Paul,

Thanks again for your efforts.

I found an exactly same question below, so no question anymore. But thanks again!

Last edited 11 months ago by Zach
Guest
Elina
11 months ago

Hi Paul!
Your blog was such a blessing and provided insight to federal govt jobs. I’ve successfully been hired for a term of a year, and I was wondering if you will be writing about promotions and other job info such as secondments, assignments, etc.

Thank you!
Elina

Last edited 11 months ago by Elina
Guest
Ying
1 year ago

Hello Paul,
Thank you for writing the book. It is constructive. I made it into a pool very recently.

As I wait to be picked, I wonder if it is okay for me to email the hiring manager. I found the contact information of the director for the department I applied for. Is it something people do? Do you think it is okay for me to email him and express my interest? How does the manager feel about receiving this kind of email? Or should I just wait and do nothing?

Thank you,
Ying

Guest
Zach
1 year ago

Hi Paul,

Often in a job post, it says ‘Preference will be given to veterans first and then to Canadian citizens and permanent residents’. Does this mean citizens and PRs are treated equally for selection? I read somewhere said that they will consider Canadian citizens first. I am not sure which is true?

Guest
Zach
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the detailed answer. I found that they changed to that ‘Permanent residents now have the same preference as Canadian Citizens when appointments are made through external advertised hiring processes.’ since July 2021. But I guess it is still up to the manager as they have to choice to choose whoever they think is the best fit, and Citizenship can be one of the considerations.

Guest
Bill
1 year ago

How often does HR apply for security clearances for multiple candidates? If I am being asked to complete a security clearance and reference checks does the manager want to hire me provided I pass the checks? Do managers often do this for multiple candidates simultaneously?

Many thanks for all your fantastic information by the way!

Guest
Ying
1 year ago

Hi Paul,
Thank you for this guide. I have used the information from the guide to pass my written exam and interview for Health Canada, now I am finally moving to the reference stage. They asked for three references with at least two two management referees. I only had two managers in my job and one of them is extremely unreliable with emails or phones. She will give a good reference but she probably will never reply to her email. So I want to try to avoid using her. I did a doctoral degree. I wonder if I can use my supervisor for my doctoral degree as a management referee. Do you think a supervisor from graduate school count as a management referee?

Guest
Ying
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Thank you. I read more in your section regarding the reference. My current supervisor has been my supervisor for almost a year. Is that going to be an issue? It is very unfortunate my 5-year manager is the one that is hard to reach. I cannot even get a hold of her right now, so there will be really no point in listing her.

Guest
Matt
1 year ago

Any update for 2022 hr guide?

Guest
Lori
1 year ago

Hi Paul,

I wanted to thank you for creating this guide. I’m glad I saw this earlier in my journey.
I followed your advice on how to prepare stellar applications, pass the written exams, and finally, prepare for, and excel in the interviews. I have passed all of the written tests I was given, and all the interviews I’ve had. I’m in several pools already! Got an offer, too!

So, thank you!

Guest
Jim
1 year ago

Iโ€™ve spent time reading through this and – maybe I just didnโ€™t notice it – but are there any government tests I can take before applying for a position? A way to point at some PSC tests Iโ€™ve passed? Or will I only be asked to take tests once Iโ€™ve reached the interview stage?

The reason I ask is that I was not considered due to an ED1 education issue and was told:

โ€œThe employer-approved alternatives to a secondary school diploma are:
1. A satisfactory score on the Public Service Commission test approved as an alternative to a secondary school diploma; orโ€ฆโ€

I have a secondary school that I posted in the application. Could I have just taken the PSC test and submitted that?

Sorry for this lengthy post.