How to Apply for the Federal Student Work Experience Program

The 2015-2016 Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP) campaign launched on October 28th. FSWEP is a national job inventory that full-time students from across the country can register for.  Then, students are matched for positions in the federal service and interviewed. One of the great things about the program is that you do not need previous work experience to apply! Some of the featured departmental programs include:

  • Student border services officer
  • Student guide in France
  • Crew member and coxswain for the Inshore Rescue Boat Service
  • Science students supporting the work of the Great Lakes Area Program
  • Aboriginal student program
  • Guide interpreter at Rideau Hall and La Citadelle
  • Capital information officer and tour guide
  • Scientific computing student
  • Student security officer program (separate application required)

Positions can be offered by various federal departments including the Department of Foreign Affairs, Health Canada, and Aboriginal Affairs.

How does the FSWEP application work?

Students apply to the inventory online through jobs.gc.ca. Students answer questions and submit a resume. When an employer is looking to fill a student position, they send their requirements to the Public Service Commission. Next, the Commission performs a random search of the inventory based on the employer’s criteria. A selection of students who match these requirements will be sent an email asking if they are interested in the job. Students then have 48 hours to respond to the job posting.

If students respond positively, they may be selected for an interview. While it may sound like a lot of work, these positions can be very rewarding. If you are daunted by the idea of applying to a national inventory, there are several tips and tricks that can help make your application stand out.

Tips and Tricks for the Application

Your FSWEP resume is not a typical resume. The resume builder allows you to include up to 32,000 characters. Therefore, resumes can be longer than two pages and you can go into a lot of detail. Like many online application portals, the randomized selector relies on keywords. So, include important keywords! Vital workplace skills like “communicate effectively”, “organization”, and “research and analysis” should be included. Incorporate these keywords at least 2-3 times so that the algorithm ranks you higher.

If you are studying in a specialized field, take some time to go through the jobs.gc.ca website, and see what skills are required for similar positions in your field. Where possible, incorporate these skills in your resume (never lie on a resume though!).

One section of the application allows you to select skills that you have that may be useful for certain jobs. Since you only get to choose a limited number of skills, choose carefully. It might not be in your best interest to select “ability to use Microsoft Word” because most employers assume students know how to use this program. Thus, employers would not consider that skill to be eligibility criteria.

Another thing to consider is work location. If you are not willing to move, do not select that you would be willing to consider jobs in another city or province. It is a waste of your time, and the time of the potential employer.

Finally, if you are sent an email saying you have been selected, don’t say that you are not interested in the position. Even if you are unable to take a job currently, or the position is of no interest to you, select yes! You may never get an interview, and if you do, doing the interview will be good practice. If you decline interest in the position, the algorithm will likely push your application to the bottom of the pile, and it is doubtful you will get any more hits. I learned this the hard way while I was out of the country this summer. I opted out of 4-5 summer positions because I knew I couldn’t take them, and received no hits this fall.

While the FSWEP application can be a lot of work, getting a position can be a great foot in the door for public service and an excellent learning opportunity. Best of luck to everyone who applies!

Photo Credit: Becky McCray via photopin (CC)

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