Frequently Asked Questions about the Policy Officer Recruitment Programme

About the selection criteria for applicants

I see on the Statement of Merit Criteria that language requirements are either bilingual imperative or bilingual non-imperative. What does that mean and can I apply if I am not bilingual?

Yes, you can apply if you are not bilingual. Applicants must be proficient in English or French. However, positions within the Policy Officer Recruitment Programme are bilingual and it is required that hired candidates become bilingual as part of the program.

Second-language training (SLT) is provided to new employees who are not already proficient in both official languages. SLT may last anywhere between a few months to a year during which you are paid to study the language full-time. Once you have successfully obtained the required level (BBB), you resume you role as a policy officer.

To learn more about language requirements, please visit: Language requirements for candidates.

Sample self-assessment tests are available here, for your reference: Self-assessment tests.

I have a Bachelor’s degree, but also have either pertinent work experience or have published several academic articles. Can I apply?

No. All applicants are required to possess a minimum of a Master’s degree.

I have a Juris Doctor (JD) law degree. Am I eligible?

No. While a Juris Doctor is a professional degree, universities consider it to be an undergraduate or first law degree needed to pursue a graduate law program. As such, a JD does not qualify you for the Policy Officer Recruitment Programme. You need to have completed (or be very close to completing) a master’s degree in a relevant field to be considered eligible.

I have a Master’s degree, but my specialization is not in economics, sociology or statistics. Can I still apply?

Yes. The main education requirement is that you hold a Master’s degree in social sciences, arts or humanities, such as, but not limited to, history, political science, conflict studies, international affairs/international development, public administration/public policy, law, sociology, anthropology, gender studies, philosophy, environmental policy, cultural or political geography, economics or other security and defence related disciplines.

Specialization is broadly defined: You must have taken at least one university-level course in sociology, statistics or economics, or demonstrate a combination of education, training and/or experience in one of these subject areas.

I am finishing my Master’s program and have limited work experience outside of my research work. Can I apply?

Yes. Please note, however, that all graduate coursework, thesis or final projects of successful candidates must be completed before appointment and proof of all completed academic requirements must be provided by 31 July 2022. You do not need to have attended convocation or received your diploma by that date, but you will need to submit a letter from your institution confirming that you have successfully completed all degree requirements.

I have a Master’s degree and work experience, but this is an entry-level position. Can I still apply?

Yes. Whether your experience is in a field related to defence and security or not, or are looking for a career change, we value diverse perspectives and are committed to hiring accordingly. That said, all members of the PORP are hired at the EC-02 level and salary, regardless of their previous experience. You can find more information on the rates of pay: Economics and Social Science Services (EC) – Appendix A.

I obtained my degree outside of Canada. Am I eligible?

Yes. However, if you were educated outside of Canada, you will need to have your certificates / diplomas validated. An Educational Credential Assessment is required and will benefit you. Follow the instructions here: Foreign Credential Validation against Canadian Standards.

We recognize that this process can take time. It is your responsibility to obtain and provide proof in a timely manner.

In addition, if you are currently living abroad or have spent six months or longer outside Canada (consecutively) in the past five years, we strongly advise that you obtain a police clearance certificate that provides a summary of your criminal record, or a declaration of the absence of any criminal record in that country. That document, along with a proof of address abroad and a letter of good conduct from your school or employer abroad, will be necessary to obtain your security clearance and be offered a position.

Information on how to obtain a police clearance certificate can be found on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website.

I already work for the Government of Canada. Can I still apply?

Yes. Candidates who are already in the Federal Public Service are eligible to apply, but would be hired as EC-02 regardless of their current level. The programme is competitive and does not hire through lateral moves, deployments or secondments.

About the advertised process

After I have submitted my application, what are the next steps in the application process?

There are three stages in the process:

  1. screening, wherein your application is evaluated to ensure it clearly demonstrates that you meet all essential criteria;
  2. a written exam that will test your ability to conduct research, analyze and synthesize information and communicate in writing; and,
  3. an interview that will assess your personal suitability, including judgement, initiative, ability to think things through, work on a team and communicate verbally.
What specific knowledge should I possess to be successful on the written exam?

The written exam is meant to assess your ability to research, and analyze and convey information. General knowledge of Canada’s defence policy, as well as current events that relate to defence and security will help position you for success.

How much time should I allocate for the take-home exam?

The take-home exam is based on a task that could be accomplished within three (3) to six (6) hours. Candidates have five (5) days to work on the exam.

What kind of question should I expect on the take-home exam?

The exam simulates a task policy officers perform on a regular basis. It is designed to assess candidates’ ability to conduct research, to analyze and synthesize information, and to communicate effectively in writing.

Please see below for a sample exam question:

One of Canada’s allies has recently updated its defence policy. Your Deputy-Director asks you to read the document and to analyze how it relates to Canada’s own defence policy and key priorities, and to prepare a high-level two-page briefing note including key considerations for National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

I participated in the interview stage in a previous PORP competition. Do I need to re-write the take-home exam when re-applying?

Yes.

What happens after I submit my exam?

Each exam is individually assessed through a thorough anonymous process (also commonly known as blind marking).

Depending on the number of positions available in a given year and the number of candidates who successfully pass the exam, some candidates will be invited to continue with the process for further assessment.

Candidates who have passed the exam but are not considered for next steps will be placed in a partially assessed pool and may be assessed at a later date if necessary.

I was placed in a partially assessed pool in the previous PORP competition. Do I need to re-apply?

Yes. Pools are valid for a limited period of time and candidates need to apply to every new competition in order to be considered.

I wrote the exam last year but was not invited to an interview. Can I get feedback on my exam?

No. We receive a large number of applications and exams every year, and unfortunately we are not in a position to provide individual feedback. 

When will the interview take place?

As our process depends on the number of applicants and the time required to assess the candidates, an exact timeframe for the interview process is not yet determined. Applicants invited to an interview will be notified in writing via email.

How will the interview take place?

All interviews will be conducted via an online virtual platform. Applicants invited to an interview will receive further details as needed.

What type of interview should I prepare for?

The interview, which lasts approximately one hour, is behavioural, situational and competency-based and contains no knowledge-based questions. In addition to evaluating personal abilities (such as judgment, flexibility, capacity to work under tight deadlines, etc.), the interview is also used to assess your oral communication skills.

Are there any other evaluation exercises on the interview day?

No.

Why am I required to complete security forms?

Upon receiving a policy officer position at the Department of National Defence, applicants are required to pass an enhanced reliability clearance prior to beginning work at National Defence. PORP members must then obtain a Secret security clearance. The process is lengthy and must be started as soon as possible after joining the programme.

If you are currently living abroad or have spent six months or longer outside Canada (consecutively) in the past five years, we strongly advise that you obtain a police clearance certificate that provides a summary of your criminal record, or a declaration of the absence of any criminal record in that country. That document, along with a proof of address abroad and a letter of good conduct from your school or employer abroad, will be necessary to obtain your security clearance.

Information on how to obtain a police clearance certificate can be found on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website.

When will I be notified if I have been selected for a position in the Policy Officer Recruitment Programme?

All applicants who were invited for an interview will generally be contacted several weeks after the interview, and be informed on whether or not they were successful in the process.

About the selected applicants

My application was successful; when will my appointment begin?

It is anticipated that appointments for the 2021-2022 advertised process will begin in September 2022, but could start earlier, in certain circumstances, for candidates already in possession of a Master’s degree.

My family and my friends do not live in Ottawa. Is it possible to request a position in Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver?

No. While we are open to some flexible work arrangements, policy officers regularly have to work on classified files that require them to be in the office.

Will I receive benefits such as group insurance and a pension fund?

Yes. Members of the Policy Officer Recruitment Programme receive the same benefits as other civilian employees at the Department of National Defence. For more information, please consult the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada website.

How many weeks of vacation per year will I receive as a member of the Policy Officer Recruitment Programme?

Employees of the Department of National Defence receive, during the first 8 years of employment, 15 vacation days, 11 public holidays and 15 sick days per year, in addition to other types of leave.

Is it possible to request a specific position within the Department of National Defence?

No. Policy Officers are assigned to various positions as part of their development training. The combination of the assignments throughout this program are selected to provide participants the experience and competencies required of EC-05 defence policy officers.

What will my status be as a civilian employee at the Department of National Defence?

Members of the Policy Officer Recruitment Programme hold an indeterminate employment status, which means that they are considered full-time employees of the Federal Public Service at the Department of National Defence.

However, in accordance with section 61 of the Public Service Employment Act, employees appointed from outside the public service into a Professional Development or Apprenticeship Program are subject to a probationary period for the duration of the Program or 12 months, whichever is longer, excluding any periods of leave without pay, full-time language training or leave with pay in excess of thirty consecutive days and any off-duty periods in the case of seasonal employees. Your probationary period will continue with any subsequent appointments or deployments until the complete probationary period has been served.

Participants appointed from within the Public Service who have already served a probationary period, will not be subject to another probationary period. However, if a participant enters the program and has not finished serving his/her probationary period, the remainder of the probationary period will apply.

As a member of Policy Officer Recruitment Programme, is it possible to submit an application for a position in another department within the Public Service?

Yes. As a permanent employee at the Department of National Defence, members of the Policy Officer Recruitment Programme may submit applications for internal processes within the Federal Public Service.

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