Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Chance to serve community

If your mission is to make Hong Kong a better place and hope to deliver quality service to the community, then joining the civil service is a career move to consider.

There are more than 500 administrative officers (AO) and about 2,400 executive officers (EO) serving in 12 bureaus and government departments. The responsibilities of an AO include assisting in formulating and promoting government policies, representing the government in district offices and providing frontline services for the betterment of local communities.

"From the minimum-wage legislation [and] the development of the West Kowloon Cultural District, to the production of the [recent] political reform package, the work of AOs often affects society," says Billy Woo Tak-ying, assistant secretary for the civil service (administrative service), adding that the most aspiring officers with directorate potential may fill leading positions in the government.

EOs provide human and financial resource management, administrative support and systems planning to government units, and offer direct services to the public, boards and councils.

Brendan Au Ho-wah, CEO for training and development, at the general grades office, says job rotation is a prominent feature of AOs and EOs, appointed to a wide variety of posts at regular intervals to gain exposure and experience, and develop different skills to prepare for career advancement.

When Au was appointed an EO in 1984, he was posted at the Department of Justice, overseeing its recruitment scheme.

Eighteen months later, a job rotation landed him at the Hong Kong Coliseum, where he had to scrutinise the venue's finances.

"It was in the 1980s, during the `golden era' of local pop music. The financial plans and reports involved a huge sum of money," Au says.

"It was a very precious chance, as well as a heavy responsibility for a fresh graduate, and the job satisfaction that ensued was great."

AOs and EOs enjoy attractive packages of on-the-job training, competitive salaries - entry pay for AOs is HK$36,740 and HK$22,985 for EOs - and comprehensive fringe benefits. In last year's recruitment exercise, more than 17,000 applications were received for an intake of 20 AOs, while about 24,000 applications for EOs were received. About 150 candidates were appointed.

Any permanent resident of Hong Kong, with a bachelor's degree, a level two in the Use of Chinese and Use of English papers - or equivalent grades in public exams - and a pass in the aptitude test in the Common Recruitment Exam, is eligible for AO and EO jobs.

They will then be invited to sit the Joint Recruitment Examination. Candidates with satisfactory performances will proceed on to interviews.

For AOs, there is a preliminary panel interview. Candidates will be tested on their analytical thinking, judgment and insights on various issues. "Candidates who can give a thorough analysis on any given social issue have an advantage," Woo says. "But what we are looking for in AOs is the ability to look at things from different perspectives."

Next comes a group discussion, where candidates get to role play representatives of different government departments and engage in meetings.

Candidates have to defend their views and respond proactively to any adversity. The screening process ends with a final, individual interview with a panel of five or more officials.

EO candidates also face a tough selection process. Candidates will also have to undergo a panel interview. Applicants must show that they can calmly handle emergencies, as EOs are expected to help at the frontline and respond to crises.

To equip selected officers, training and development programmes are provided during different career stages. These range from studies abroad, attachment programmes and sponsorship for part-time studies.

Woo encourages graduates of all disciplines, who have a passion for working for the government, to apply for the officer posts. He stresses that no specific university, local or overseas, is favoured. He adds that it is a misconception that only MBA and law graduates will be hired. Overseas applications can be made online, and recruitment exams can be taken in major cities in Canada, the United States, Australia and Britain.

The next round of recruitment for AOs and EOs will start in September. For more information, go to