The giant Department of Human Services has been deluged by 41,000 applicants for only 1250 jobs at Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency.
The tens of thousands of hopefuls came forward in response to the department's announcement in October that permanent jobs were available throughout the organisation and across Australia from the low-ranking APS level 2 through to middle management EL2 roles.
A Canberra employment specialist says the sheer numbers of applicants reflects the desperation for permanent work in and around the federal public sector after years of Australian Public Service downsizing and a hiring freeze.
Thousands of unsuccessful job-seekers were given the bad news by email this week. The department advised them not to ask for feedback, as the sheer volume of interest in the jobs meant it could not provide it.
Most of the jobs, in the department's service delivery, IT and programme support units, were only open to applicants already working in the public service, in line with the Abbott government's tough hiring restrictions.
A departmental spokeswoman said most of the vacancies were for service delivery positions ac
Human resources specialist Susan O'Neill, of Canberra consultants White Pillar, said the level of interest in the department's jobs reflected a lack of permanent jobs with the Commonwealth.
"It is a lot of applicants, there's a lot of people trying to stay in the Australian Public Service," Ms O'Neill said.
"Then you've had a lot of people who've been caught out in the [hiring] freeze whose departments have had to let them go, but who are very good people.
"There are heaps and heaps of candidates, it's very competitive, there are lots of people looking and anything permanent is really attracting big numbers."
Ms O'Neill said she and her colleagues were advising candidates they could beat the job drought by applying for departmental roles for which they were overqualified.
"If you go for a lower-level position, you're more competitive," the specialist said.
"Then when you get into the department, you'll find that because they can't advertise and hire people externally they're acting people up like nobody's business.
"The department can then permanently promote them once they're in-house, that's how a lot of departments are keeping their favourite people."
The department's spokeswoman said the hiring process would continue for some time, but 512 of the jobs had already been filled.
"Recruitment actions are at various stages for the different selections and there are varied milestone dates for each process," she said.
"To date, 923 offers have been made with 512 acceptances."
The spokeswoman said the department was pleased with the number of indigenous public servants it had managed to hire in the process.
"Of the 512 acceptances, 124 identify as being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander," she said.
"The Department of Human Services continues to operate within its affordable staffing level.
"All recruitment is being undertaken in line with current recruitment guidelines specified by the Australian Public Service Commission."