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Correct response to APS interview question?

By Rollersk8r 13 January 2011 22

Being a new year, with new hopes, I wanted to canvass the correct answer to a very standard APS interview question.  I’ve been in the APS long enough to know I should see this coming and slam dunk it several times over – but seemingly I’ve been unable to.

The question is: “The minister’s office (or someone suitably important) rings and urgently requests some information. Your manager is away and there is nobody else you can go to for authorisation. What do you do?”

I’ve taken a few different approaches but they seem to want a rock-solid no exceptions answer rather than a flexible case-by-case response.

In summary my answer has generally been that this has never happened to me, because it honestly hasn’t. I follow this by saying that while you might think you can make a judgement, if it’s sensitive enough to need authorisation (and there are no other options for authorisation) then the bottom line is you cannot give out the information. I then might add there are usually standard procedures for giving out information and you could try to assist the person requesting the information by using those correct channels.

I assume the question is about whether you are capable of making decisions and also whether you are aware what you can and can’t do at various levels within the APS?

The above response appears to amuse interview panels –and also sounds like you like to pass the buck.  They will say “So the minister urgently needs something… and you’re NOT going to give it to them….???  Ok….  Ok….  Hmmmm…”

Any ideas?  What’s the right thing to say?

What’s Your opinion?


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22 Responses to
Correct response to APS interview question?
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jasmine 10:55 am 25 Jan 11

I have worked in a ministerial section. Why would you not give the Minister’s office what they want? The APS works to support their Minister’s office and to provide services to the public. I know that is probably not the answer they want (depending on the deparment). Fact is there is always someone you can ask if you are not sure. Usually in the policy section relevant to the request or a corporate services related section like Ministerial Liaison, corporate governance, ministerial support. Each Minister’s office has a Departmental Liaison Officer (DLO) who can usually advise.

Pandanus77 9:05 pm 21 Jan 11

The answer is simple, There are proper channels for the ministers office to go through and they do not involve phoning staff at random. Tell whoever rings to *&^% off, politely, by reminding them of the protocol that they are supposed to follow, i.e. put it in writing through the correct channel. If it is staffer tell them to &^%$ off anyway!

Remember the Public Service serves the Public through the Minister, BUT there are processes in place to do so. Unless you are in the exec service you should never be expected to take phone calls from teh ministers office. AND if its Friday afternoon what do they expect, fully staffed offices?

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