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What fresh grads must know when applying for a job in the public sector

There's always a sense of fear and excitement that comes with doing something for the first time. In job-hunting, it's all the more nerve-wracking to take the steps towards landing a position—from building a noteworthy resumé to acing the interview. But it's understandable to get anxious over the whole process. After all, you'd like every aspect of your strategy to work out if what you're trying to promote is yourself. Don't worry; we've all been there. Even the very people who will go over your profile to deem you worthy of a job have gone through this stage. That's why when fishing for recruitment tips, there's no better person to ask than the hiring managers themselves.

What should I put in my resumé? How should I answer the interview questions? You've probably asked these yourself. To help you get useful, expert answers, we at Hallo Hallo Job chatted with our own Director to ask these questions for you.

Mapping fruitful years of service in the government

With over two decades of experience handling key roles in various government offices, HHJ Director Nicon Femeronag is certainly a man of service. Having dedicated his recent years of duty to the Department of Labor and Employment as an undersecretary, he doesn't just have a finger on the pulse of the working class; it's in his vision to uphold policies that would protect and benefit the common Filipino worker. Suffice it to say, he is an ideal person to ask about the ins and outs of working in government. We sat down with Dir. Fameronag, and went straight to the big question: What is the number one tip that fresh grads must keep in mind when applying for a position in a government office?

1. Pass the Civil Service Exam

“Civil Service eligibility. That is the number one requirement,” Fameronag said. “Applying for a government position requires that you should be Civil Service eligible, and this eligibility is your passport towards working in the government”

He went on to say that civil service eligibility is a must for all workers in any government instrumentality, including local government units. “During the interview, the first thing that the interviewer will ask is whether you're a Civil Service eligible when did you pass the Civil Service examination. You might also be asked about your passing rate, as well as where you took the exam.”

2. Be service-oriented

Asked if this eligibility is enough to get one foot in the door despite the lack of experience. He said that experience does help, but an applicant should demonstrate a public service orientation, the main factor that could make one an ideal candidate for a government job.

“Fresh graduates will be asked 'Why would you like to work in the government?' They should answer this satisfactorily,” Fameronag said. “Your heart should be in the right place. Government work is public service. It's not just an eight-to-five job. In the government, you can be asked to do overtime, work on Saturdays, travel, do front-line operations. If there is a natural calamity, and the office says that all employees of the department will conduct a calamity or disaster relief service, you must go. This is public service.”

So government work is not just a job but rather a duty?. we asked. He said yes, further explaining that, “Accountability to the public is not the same as the accountability and the service orientation in the private sector. Because unlike the government, private companies are for profit. Even if the government loses a lot of money, it continues to operate. That is the difference.”

3. Demonstrate good character

But how can applicants show this in their resumé and interview?, we further asked Dir. Fameronag.

He said that aside from a series of clearances and tests, an applicant needs to undergo a background check. “HR officers will go to the community to ask about who that applicant is; what his activities are; etc. Does the applicant has vice? Does he gamble? Does he stay late at bars and drink a lot? Things like these will be considered, he said.

To put it simply, the applicant's reputation will be weighed along with his experiences, so do not just polish your name on the surface—have a genuinely good character. “What are the groups that you are associated with? Are you engaged in community civic projects? Or do you join rallies? Or church groups?” These are some an applicant should be ready to answer.

4. Understand government employment culture and structure

When aiming for a position in the public sector, it helps to understand office hierarchies and employment systems and processes the government uses to have an idea of what you should expect. Salary negotiations, for instance, is out of the question. “You cannot negotiate salary in the government. It's the government that determines the fixed salaries of its employees. That is etched in stone. So if the Congress says that your salary will increase tomorrow, everyone in the government would cheer!” the HHJ Director quipped.

“There is what we call the Compensation and Position Classification System or CPCS, which lists the levels like Clerk 1, Clerk 2, Clerk 3, and so on. The same positions have the same salary levels all around, so you can't choose. If you're a division chief in DOLE, your salary is the same as the division chief of DENR,” he explained, adding that slight differences may however be observed in certain benefits and allowances. “Productivity incentive pay, for example. The bigger the savings of an office, the bigger the incentive is.”

5. Have long-term plans

But the absence of a chance to haggle for your desired compensation package is not much of a downside considering the perks that are in store for you once you get in. “The number one benefit of being part of the public sector is your security of tenure. Once you are in the government, and you serve very well without any blemish, you will serve until your retirement age of 65 years. Security of tenure is guaranteed. You will not be removed without cause.”

The retirement pay, according to Dir. Nicon, is also higher than what most in the private sector can offer. “Another benefit is the feeling that you have the power or self-fulfillment. This is not a material benefit but rather an emotional perk.”

It is therefore desirable that an applicant planning to join the public sector to actually have plans of staying long. “The government would like to see long-term plans and goals in their personnel. If you are asked the question, 'For how long would you like to be part of the government? Will you just use this as a stepping stone towards a higher position?' your answer will become a factor.” the former DOLE executive said noting, “What the government is looking for are those who are in for the long haul. Those who are admitted to government service, once they are there, see how rewarding it would be for them to stray, so many do not leave.”