Toolkit Hompage Link


Candidate Information Booklet

Junior Diplomat (Third Secretary) for the Department of Foreign Affairs


The Public Appointments Service is committed to a policy of continuous improvement in its approach to recruitment and selection. We are interested in providing you with some realistic and objective information about the roles & work life of a Third Secretary, in the expectation that this will further inform your approach to this selection process and inform you about what you can expect in the career if successful in the competition. Detailed information about the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs is available on

Eligibility Requirements

The competition is only open to persons who are citizens of Ireland or to those who are entitled to such citizenship.

Candidates must on or before 1st August 2005-

  • hold a recognised first or second class honours degree,
  • hold a qualification which would be acceptable to the Public Appointments Service as being of at least an equivalent standard;
  • have qualified as a Solicitor or as a Barrister. (A qualification as a Solicitor or Barrister will be accepted under this paragraph provided the standard reached in the final examination is sufficiently high).

The Third Secretary and a career in the Foreign Service

Third Secretary is the entry grade to a diplomatic career. This is a training grade and, subject to suitability, a Third Secretary can aspire to promotion to First Secretary after a number of years. Thereafter, further competitive processes open the door to promotion to Counsellor and higher, including Ambassador.

A diplomatic officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs can expect to work both at Headquarters in Dublin and at one of 70 diplomatic missions abroad. During a career, postings to six or seven different countries would not be unusual. After recruitment, a Third Secretary will work for a period at Headquarters in one of the main Divisions. This is followed by a posting to a mission abroad for about three years.  Candidates should remember that a key condition of service throughout one’s career is readiness to accept a foreign posting.

The work of the Third Secretary and of other diplomatic officers - both at home and abroad - is related to the main tasks of the Department of Foreign Affairs:

  • Working to achieve the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the sustained operation of all its institutions;
  • Pursuing Ireland's foreign policy through the development of our bilateral relations with other States, our participation in the European Union's Common, Foreign and Security Policy, and our active and principled participation in international organisations;
  • Promoting and protecting Ireland’s interests at the heart of the European Union as it continues to evolve and enlarge through the further development of our relations with our current and future EU partners;
  • Promoting Ireland’s trade, investment and other interests, including its culture, in close co-operation with other Departments, State Agencies and the private sector;
  • Making a substantive and effective contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and to poverty reduction and sustainable growth in developing countries;
  • Protecting and supporting the interests of Irish citizens abroad, maintaining and strengthening links with people of Irish ancestry, and providing a modern and efficient passport and consular service.

Information Booklet

Overview of the skills & qualities required of a Third Secretary

Particularly for work abroad, certain personal qualities are required of a diplomatic officer. Given the requirement to serve over a period of time in different countries, an officer must, in the first place, have a high degree of adaptability and a willingness to work in foreign languages. While this provides significant opportunities for opening up new horizons in one’s personal life, it may also make considerable demands on family life.  Candidates should bear in mind that Ireland has missions in Western and Eastern Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

Particular qualities are also required in one’s professional life as a diplomatic officer. Working in a mission abroad may be particularly challenging (many missions have only two diplomats), and, as such, an officer must display a high degree of resourcefulness, organisational ability, flexibility and alertness to opportunities to advance and protect Ireland’s interests. The day-to-day challenges will range from organising high-level Irish Government visits to assisting Irish citizens in difficulties.

Significant communications skills are essential in the work of a diplomatic officer abroad. To be effective, he/she must be able to persuade and influence and be ready to cultivate institutional and personal links at many levels in foreign countries and international organisations. This will frequently involve the hosting of small or large social functions. In addition, in order to promote a positive image of Ireland abroad, an officer must have a high degree of awareness of Irish political, economic, social and cultural life. More specifically, in order to be effective in the role of a Third Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs, you will need to be:-

  • able to produce thorough and comprehensive evaluations of complex documentation or situations and suggest practical recommendations for action
  • highly capable of planning projects in detail and anticipating problems
  • adept at co-ordinating own duties/workload and that of others to ensure accurate project delivery to sometimes tight deadlines
  • excellent at communicating in a clear and accurate manner (orally and in writing) and able to appreciate alternative points of view
  • very comfortable at building and maintaining good relationships with a wide range of people, so that co-operation can be maximised and conflict minimised
  • strong in presenting a position and persuading others of its benefit
  • prepared to take personal responsibility for completing work and to put forward solutions to problems
  • willing to apply energy and commitment to fulfilling own role within the Department of Foreign Affairs
  • interested in Irish public affairs and in international relations

Some of your questions answered:

What is the salary for a Third Secretary?
The salary scale is €27,981 - €49,529 Increments are granted annually if the job-holder’s performance is satisfactory.

Can I start on a higher salary if I have higher qualifications/experience?
Starting salary is negotiable based on relevant experience and qualifications.

Are there any special allowances for working abroad?
Foreign Service Allowances are paid to officers working abroad. These vary in accordance with the cost of living at the post.

What sort of training is involved?
Much of the training is "on the job". Third Secretaries will be required to make a substantive contribution to the work of the Department from the beginning. Training courses in specific skill areas, such as effective writing, staff supervision, speech-writing, foreign languages and Irish are provided and the cost of any relevant supplementary language classes or of many types of third level courses attended by Third Secretaries will be refunded.

In what areas of the Department is a Third Secretary likely to work?
On appointment, a Third Secretary will most likely be appointed to one of the following areas:

  • Anglo-Irish Division: deals with Anglo-Irish relations and Northern Ireland;
  • European Union Division: coordinates Ireland’s approach within the EU;
  • Political Division: has responsibility for international political issues and managing Ireland’s participation in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy;
  • Development Cooperation Division: is responsible for the administration of the Irish overseas development programme and for the conduct of Ireland’s development policy;
  • Protocol: is responsible for the organisation and management of visits by representatives of other countries to Ireland, visits abroad by the President of Ireland and arrangements for foreign embassies in Ireland;
  • Cultural Division: has responsibility for cultural relations with other countries
  • Irish Abroad Unit: coordinates the provision of services and assistance to Irish emigrants abroad

What kind of work would a newly-recruited Third Secretary expect to be doing in the Department?
The type of work will largely depend on the area of the Department to which the newly-recruited Third Secretary is assigned. In general, the work will include researching and assembling information, preparing briefing material for Ministers and senior officials, organising and participating in meetings and co-ordinating with other Departments and organisations.

What kind of work would a Third Secretary expect to be doing in a diplomatic mission abroad?
This will vary from one mission to another. In a typical bilateral Embassy, a Third Secretary’s work will include assisting the Ambassador generally,monitoring the country’s media, promoting economic, social and cultural links with Ireland, assisting Irish citizens in difficulty, issuing passports and visas, providing information on Ireland and managing the administration of the Embassy.

The Selection Process

The selection process comprises of 3 separate stages as outlined below. Candidates should pay particular attention to the key dates proposed for each stage as it may not always be possible to give lengthy notice.

Stage 1

The first stage consists of cognitive tests (which shall be obligatory and qualifying) which will comprise Verbal and Numerical Reasoning tests and a Job Simulation exercise. Test familiarisation material will be available on our website after the closing date has passed.

Key dates for stage 1 tests
It is envisaged that all tests will take place on:

  • Thursday 31st March, Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd April 2005

Candidates can expect to receive details of their date, time and venue before 18th March 2005. Correspondence will be via e-mail, therefore, a valid e-mail address must be provided when applying.

Stage 2

The second stage will consist of a group exercise and a written exercise, both of which will take place on the same day. Candidates will also attend an orientation providing them with information on the role of a Junior Diplomat.

Key dates for stage 2
It is envisaged that all group & written exercises will take place on:

  • Tuesday 26th to Friday 29th April 2005

Stage 3

The third stage will consist of a competitive interview for those candidates who reach satisfactory standard at stage 1 and stage 2. The number invited to interview will be determined by the Public Appointments Service from time to time having regard to the number of vacancies to be filled.

There is an optional language test (which shall be competitive) for those candidates who are invited to competitive interview and who wish to have an assessment made of their ability to communicate effectively in Irish and English. The test will comprise of a conversation on ordinary topics and on matters relating to the duties of the position of Third Secretary, to the extent that this may be appropriate. Knowledge of unusual technical terms will not be looked for. Candidates who, as a result of this assessment, satisfy the Public Appointments Service that they are proficient in both Irish and English will be awarded marks in respect of such proficiency.

Key dates for stage 2

It is envisaged that interviews will take place on:

  • Week commencing 9th May 2005

The onus is on all applicants to make themselves available for the obligatory stages on the dates specified by the Public Appointments Service.

Closing Date:

  • Applications must be made on-line directly to the Public Appointments Service through . The completed application form must be submitted not later than 10th February 2005


Certain items of information, not specific to any individual, are extracted from computer records for general statistical purposes. Subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 & 2003 applications will be treated in strict confidence.

Canvassing will disqualify.

Deeming of Candidature to be withdrawn:

Candidates who do not attend for interview or other test when and where required by the Public Appointments Service, or who do not, when requested, furnish such evidence, as the Public Appointments Service require in regard to any matter relevant to their candidature, will have no further claim to consideration.

Complaints and Requests for Review:

The Public Appointments Service will consider appeals from candidates made in writing within 10 working days of receipt of the notification of the decision. On receipt of an appeal the selection decisions will be re-visited and the candidate will be informed of the outcome of this review.

Data protection Act:

When your application form is received,we create a computer record in your name that contains much of the personal information you have supplied. This personal record is used solely in processing your candidature and is updated as the competition progresses.

Such information held on computer is subject to the rights and obligations set out in the Data Protection Act, 1988 & 2003. You are entitled under this Act to obtain a copy of information about you that is kept on computer at any time. The Public Appointments Service charge a fee of €6.35 for each request. You should enclose a cheque or postal order and address your request to:







Codes of Practice

The Recruitment and Selection of a candidate for this post will be in compliance with codes of practice established by the Commissioners for Public Service Appointments.

The code reflects the following core principles.

  • Probity
  • Merit
  • Best Practice
  • Fairness and Consistency
  • Openness, Accountability and Transparency

Under these codes of practice the Public Appointments Service is obliged to :-

  • provide all eligible candidates with a reasonable opportunity to apply for the post
  • ensure that the eligibility requirements are appropriate to the duties and requirements of the post
  • treat all candidates in a fair, impartial and equal fashion and ensure that their applications dealt with in confidence
  • select candidates according to merit using sound, objective and appropriate selection techniques
  • ensure there is appropriate expertise among the board selecting candidates
  • comply with all relevant legislation for example Employment Law, Data Protection, Freedom of Information, Equality.

For further information on the Codes of Practice, please see or contact the:

Commission for Public Service Appointments,
Chapter House,
26-30 Abbey Street,
Dublin 1.

Key Features of this information Booklet

It provides information on:

  • Work of the employing organisation
  • Type of activities candidate would be involved in if
  • Demands of the role
  • Skills required
  • The selection process
  • The application process
  • The complaints and appeals process.

^ top