More than 28,500 people — including thousands of third-level graduates and post-graduates — have applied for entry-level civil service jobs on a starting salary of just over €11 an hour.
The closing date for applications for the Clerical Officer positions was July 3.
But the volume of applications has been so large that the Public Appointments Service has decided to extend the time available to fill out the initial assessment questionnaire to be completed online.
The Sunday Independent understands there will be just 400 to 600 positions to be filled in the first 12 to 18 months of the recruitment drive.
And it could be October before the first new recruits will begin employment.
It suggests competition will be fierce for jobs that were once snubbed during the Celtic Tiger years.
In the years before the crash, similar front-line positions in the public service were filled without the requirement of a formal interview.
And they were mostly filled by those who had left education after the Leaving Certificate.
Now a huge number of applications have been received from graduate and post-graduate job seekers.
The avalanche of applications to become part of the public service is the largest since 1993, when there was a major recruitment drive at the tail end of the last major downturn.
Though many of the jobs will be based in Dublin, there are positions for clerical officers to be filled all over the country in a range of government departments.
Some of those who have applied are already filling temporary clerical officer positions in the civil service.
Health service and local government managers will be able to draw on the pool of candidates.
Private education agencies are, for a fee, offering a range of courses for applicants, including modules on filling out the initial assessment questionnaire and completing aptitude tests, as well as improving verbal and numerical comprehension.
Eoin Ronayne, General Secretary of the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU), said that because of austerity cutbacks, the entry salary of about €22,000 is now down to 2004 levels.
It will take 18 years to reach the top of the scale, which stands at €36,000.
“The jobs are very badly needed. The big change is the quality of the candidates, with many graduates now attracted to these positions that were so difficult to fill during the boom years,” he said.
Mr Ronayne said the hourly rate for the new positions on entry is about €11.43. The minimum wage is currently €8.65 an hour.
“If you think about someone from a rural area getting one of these positions in Dublin and having to pay for accommodation, then it would be tough to survive when a two-bed apartment is now costing €1,450 a month,” he added.
Last year, 20,000 people applied to become a garda.