HDR Career Conversations

Supporting research student career development and employability at UOW

From PhD to Public Service: The Recruitment Process


Guest post by Dr. Katia Alferova

Introduction: Research on the career outcomes of research graduates show approximately 6% are working in the government sector after graduation*.  Public service recruiters recognise the added value that a Higher Degree Research graduate can bring and actively welcome applications.  Dr. Katia Alferova applied successfully for a government department role in 2018 – here she shares her experience of the recruitment process. 

Considering various opportunities to apply my skills and knowledge in practice, I was determined to find a job that would allow me to use my analytical capabilities and research experience while performing day-to-day professional duties.  This opportunity arrived with a position of a policy officer in the area directly connected to my research domain and the responsibility to provide advice to the government and inform its decision-making process. I would like to share my experience with those researchers and PhD graduates who are interested in careers with government agencies, with a focus on the recruitment process.

Know what you want

Looking at job opportunities across different domains may be overwhelming – you might realise that your capabilities and the skills you developed while doing your research could be applicable in many realms, not just in the field of your research expertise. However, narrowing your search to the vacancies in the area where you feel comfortable and which suits your personal interests is important – that means that you might be able to position yourself as a passionate and determined candidate during an interview, if selected. Can you think of how the present vacancy could contribute to your further professional development? Great! It might also increase your chances to be considered as a serious candidate for a position, if you are planning for the future.  So – be precise with what you are looking for and where you see yourself in the future. Be honest with yourself and first, clearly define your objectives and goals

Selection Criteria

Be very clear when addressing the selection criteria of the vacancy. Prior to applying, I had a sought careers advice on my application (thank you, Sarah!) to gain a thorough understanding of how to approach each of the criteria and position myself properly in accordance with the requirements of the Department you are applying to, its division, branch, and section – that is your future workplace.


If you have made your choice, applied for a position, progressed to the next stage and were invited to an interview – don’t be shy to show your excitement and enthusiasm with this opportunity! It is also okay to be nervous, it is totally understandable. After being employed, I spoke to many people on the hiring panels. They all have stories to tell of many cases when interviewees behaved strangely due to the stress they experienced during the interviews, and in all cases the panellists felt very compassionate and sympathetic.

Additional processes

If you progress further and have been chosen suitable for a position, be aware of the possibility to undertake an additional scrutiny to get a clearance at the level required. Most of the vacancies within government agencies require at least the baseline vetting. It will take some time, too! (In my case, it took five months and several additional interviews with the vetting agency officers).

Starting the job

When the waiting is over and you have been offered a position with the government agency or department – congratulations! – Please be aware that for some time you will be treated as a “novice”. That might mean that you will perform the duties below your expertise and you will need to reassure your supervisors that you comply with the principles of public service and a public servant. The probation period for PhD graduates is usually three months, and if you prove yourself a competent and knowledgeable public servant, many opportunities for professional development, growth and career prospects are open for you! The careers with the public service can be very rewarding, and PhD graduates are very welcomed by the government departments. You could be the one who will make a difference!


Katia graduated from the Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Education in 2018. She studied identities of highly skilled migrants in Australia under the supervision of Ass/Prof Irina Verenikina and Dr Steven Pickford.  She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Multicultural Communication, and worked previously as a journalist, teacher, and interpreter.  Her current job involves data analysis to provide an evidence-based advice to the development of government policies.


* more recent statistics are available on research graduate outcomes, however they do not report on career sector.

Thank you Katia and congratulations on your role!

Graduate programs for Australian Government Agencies are usually advertised between February and June each year.  Check out the range of programs here.  Individual vacancies are advertised through APS Jobs website throughout the year.

Dr. Josip Matesic has written about the what to expect from public service life in another blog post from the ‘From PhD to Public Service’ series. 

Register for careers and employer events on campus here  

Have you any experience of public service recruitment that you can share with other research students?  

Any other questions or comments?  

Please add them below

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

Skip to toolbar