General recruitment

Who we want

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) operates in a complex and dynamic international environment. In our employees, we value:

  • responsiveness to the Government we serve, and to a wide range of other clients, such as parliament, business and individual members of the Australian public
  • knowledge of the international environment and issues relevant to the promotion and protection of Australia's national interests
  • the capacity to operate with sensitivity in many distinct cultural environments, while projecting clearly and confidently our Australian identity
  • vigilance in the protection of sensitive information handled in the department, both in Australia and overseas
  • high standards of ethical and personal conduct, especially overseas where, in representing Australia, officers have a real impact on our international reputation
  • contemporary management approaches, encompassing best practice, family friendly policies, continuous improvement, performance evaluation, strict accountability and a strong commitment to training and development, and
  • personal and corporate flexibility, versatility and adaptability, all of which are necessary in a portfolio characterised by a uniquely diverse agenda and an often demanding and unpredictable environment.


At the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the majority of our people are ‘generalists’. Generalists do not require specific qualifications or professional expertise to do their job, but use skills and experience gained through study, training and other roles within the department and elsewhere.

While no specific qualifications are required for generalist roles, we strongly encourage economists and legal practitioners to apply, as there are numerous roles across the DFAT that require economic analysis and legal experience.

During your career as a generalist, you will have the opportunity to apply to work in a variety of roles and in different work areas and locations in Australia and overseas. These roles may suit your existing skills and expertise or they may challenge you to develop new ones.

Throughout your career you will be involved in interesting and fulfilling work, some of which may include:

  • developing and implementing foreign or trade policy, including country or region political and economic analysis
  • providing advice to the Australian Government, in particular the department’s portfolio ministers, about international strategic, political, economic and trade issues, or treaties and other international legal matters
  • providing advice or services to the department's clients, such as the Australian public, other areas of the Australian Public Service and foreign governments
  • liaising and negotiating on behalf of the department and representing the department or the Government at meetings, conferences or seminars
  • providing media liaison and public affairs support, including contributing to the enhancement of Australia's image overseas
  • providing corporate services such as financial management, human resource management and property management, or administrative support
  • delivering passports and consular services to Australians
  • managing security of the department's information, staff and property.

Opportunities for economists

As a generalist with an economics background, you may find yourself working with our Chief Economists, negotiating trade agreements, managing an aid program to help to advance developing country economies, working on trade policy and investment issues, or working on a bilateral economic desk or at an embassy or high commission overseas providing analysis of other countries’ economies.

Opportunities for lawyers

As a generalist with a legal background, you will have opportunities to undertake specialised legal work in commercial, administrative and international law, as well as to use your legal skills and experience in other areas across the organisation. You may provide advice on contracts, employment law and diplomatic privileges and immunities and manage litigation in Australia and overseas, or work on a wide range of bilateral and multilateral legal issues, including on international trade matters, law of the sea and international human rights.

Overseas service

As a generalist, you can apply for overseas postings, which are usually for a period of three years. Working overseas can be one of the most interesting and challenging parts of a generalist employee's career. Overseas service provides unique professional and personal opportunities. Employees are not required to go on postings.

How do you become a generalist?

The department typically uses bulk selection processes to fill generalist positions at particular levels, i.e. APS Level 4 to SES Band 3. In bulk selection processes, we will select a number of candidates for employment in different work areas across DFAT. Bulk rounds usually attract large numbers of applications and are highly competitive, which means the process can take some time to complete.

Check our current opportunities page for generalist opportunities.


As a ‘specialist’ in DFAT, you will need to have specific qualifications, expertise, professional knowledge, skills or experience in order to do your job.

We value the skills you offer as a specialist and recognise the contribution you make in your field of expertise.

If you are recruited or promoted as a specialist, you will be required to remain in your area of specialisation, usually in Canberra, for the duration of your employment with DFAT, unless you are successful in a subsequent merit-based generalist selection process. This will ensure that these skills remain available to the work areas that need them.

Specialist vacancies are advertised throughout the year as needs arise. Check our current opportunities page.

Last Updated: 17 January 2018