Working in DFA

In common with other Government Departments, most permanent posts in the Department are filled from panels of candidates selected by competitive examination. These examinations are conducted by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) which is the central recruiting body for the whole of the Irish Civil Service.

On the PAS website, www.publicjobs.ie, you can read more about Civil Service roles, including those particular to the Department of Foreign Affairs. The PAS website also offers an email alert service which notifies one automatically when jobs of interest are advertised. At present, however, there is a moratorium on recruitment into the Public Sector, so it is unlikely that positions will arise in the near future. Any new competitions will be advertised through the PAS.

Grades which are recruited through the Public Appointments Service are Clerical Officer, Executive Officer , Assistant Legal Adviser and Third Secretary. The Third Secretary and Assistant Legal Adviser grades are the only grades which are specific to the Department of Foreign Affairs. There is no guarantee that persons who are successful in either the Clerical Officer or the Executive Officer competitions will be assigned to the Department of Foreign Affairs; assignments are made to Departments by the PAS as and when vacancies arise.

In addition, the Department directly recruits Services Officers, Services Assistants, Nightwatchmen and Cleaners from panels which are established following competitive interviews conducted by the Department. There are no vacancies at present in any of these grades.

Unfortunately, due to resource constraints, the Department does not currently have any scheme in place which facilitates short-term voluntary placements.

NOTE: Under Public Service regulations, recruitment is always on the basis of a competition. It should be noted that any attempt, direct or indirect, by a candidate, or any person acting on his/ her behalf, to influence the selection process will automatically disqualify him/ her.

Clerical Officers

Clerical Officers may be engaged in drafting letters, asking for or giving factual information, making and checking calculations, analysing reports, preparing, scrutinising and verifying documents, statistics, records, etc. They may also be engaged in operating office equipment such as computer terminals, photocopiers and fax machines etc.


While no specific minimum educational requirements are looked for (other than a good general education) all applicants are required to undergo qualifying tests designed to assess abilities required for clerical level work.

Executive Officers


The Executive Officer grade has been an extremely important source of quality staff for the civil service. A high proportion of the most senior civil servants have entered the service at this level. At one time Executive Officer recruitment was primarily aimed at school leavers but changing educational patterns have altered this position and an increasing number of graduates have been entering the service as Executive Officers in recent times.


The work of an Executive Officer


Executive Officer work requires judgement, initiative, resourcefulness and creative thought. They are engaged in critical analysis of proposals and reports and in examining the more complex, non-routine cases on which decisions are required. Executive Officers and Higher Executive Officers (a grade to which Executive Officers may be promoted after five years and which is equivalent to the Administrative Officer grade) also have a number of specialist roles, for example, as Systems Analysts in the Information Technology area or as training officers in the departmental training centres. Some Executive Officers have a management role, organising and supervising the work of clerical staff.


Executive Officers work in all Departments. Recruits can thus be assigned to a very wide range of functional responsibilities dealing with, for example, education, the health service, environmental protection, industrial development, worker protection or the development of marine resources.
In recruiting Executive Officers the Civil Service Commissioners are conscious of the fact that many of the most senior positions in the service will, in time, be filled by people recruited at this level. For this reason, we are looking for people who show the potential to take on high level responsibilities in the management of public services and the analysis of policy issues- We are thus seeking to establish that candidates

  • can think clearly and logically, are capable of identifying options and making balanced decisions
  • are articulate and can write clearly and concisely
  • can relate successfully to and work with people from a variety of backgrounds
  • have an interest in public affairs and a commitment to the concept of public service. Educational Requirements

At present, requirements for this position are such that applicants must:

(i) have obtained a recognised degree; or
(ii) have achieved a satisfactory standard in the Leaving Certificate or an examination of an equivalent standard, in Mathematics and Irish and/or English and any of the following:

  • a pass in the first year examination of a course leading to a recognised degree or
  • a certificate or other qualification obtained following a course of at least two years full time duration recognised by the National Council for Educational Awards or
  • the Professional Examination 1, or equivalent, of a recognised accountancy body; or

(iii) have obtained a pass or Grade D in Mathematics and Irish and/or English in the Leaving Certificate or equivalent, with a minimum of Grade C in Higher Level papers in at least five subjects in the examination.

Assistant Legal Advisers

Assistant Legal Advisers, based in the Department's Legal Division, are responsible for the provision of legal information and advice to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Departmental colleagues in relation to such areas of foreign policy as are assigned to them from time to time, under the supervision as appropriate of the Legal Adviser or Deputy Legal Adviser.

Assistant Legal Advisers also liaise as appropriate with other lawyers within the Government and State legal service and with colleagues from other Foreign Ministries. Assistant Legal Advisers may be asked to represent the Department in intra and inter-Departmental meetings and in appropriate legal fora abroad and in the preparation of legal pleadings in international dispute settlement mechanisms. They are also involved in the general management and administration of the Legal Division.

Third Secretaries

The Third Secretary is the recruitment level for the Irish diplomatic service and is the first step towards more senior posts in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The work of a Third Secretary following recruitment
Third Secretaries are initially assigned, usually for 2 to 3 years, to a range of responsibilities in the headquarters of the Department in Dublin. During this period, under the guidance of experienced colleagues, they are involved in aspects of the work of a number of divisions (Political, EU, Development Cooperation, Legal, Anglo-Irish, Protocol, Administration) and receive on-the- job training in such areas as the preparation of analysis and research papers; drafting of briefing material for the Minister and for EU meetings; liaison with Irish missions abroad and with other Government Departments, etc. Formal training opportunities, including foreign language tuition, are also provided.

On being posted to an Irish Embassy or Consulate abroad, the Third Secretary will become involved in many aspects of the mission's activities, particularly such areas as the provision of consular assistance to Irish citizens; assisting Irish business contacts in local markets and generally in the promotion of foreign earnings; trade and economic reporting to the Department in Dublin; providing information on Ireland and briefing the foreign press on Irish affairs.

The qualities required for the diplomatic service
A Third Secretary can expect to divide his/her career between service in the Department in Dublin and in over 70 Irish missions abroad. The Civil Service Commissioners are looking for graduates who have the skills to undertake the demanding and varying responsibilities of the position and also demonstrate that they have the potential to represent Ireland abroad and to progress to the most senior positions of the diplomatic service. A good third level degree (first or second class honors or have qualified as a Solicitor/Barrister) is required and candidates will also be expected to show that they have

  • the ability to analyse complex situations and to put forward practical recommendations for action
  • the capacity to make effective presentations and to communicate well, both orally and in writing
  • an interest in Irish public affairs and in international relations
  • an ability to work independently and to deal effectively with people
  • knowledge of foreign languages is an advantage.

Vacancies with International Organisations

Information on employment opportunities with the European Union Institutions or with the United Nations may be found at the following links:

European Personnel Selection Office: http://europa.eu/epso/epso_index_en.html
United Nations Human Resources Office: https://jobs.un.org/elearn/production/home.html
The International Organization for Migration http://www.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/current-vacancies

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