Friday, July 22, 2016

How Can I Ace the Federal Interview?

What is the purpose of a Federal interview?  It is a two-way communication test.  It is a confirmation of your technical skills and a test of your personality to ensure a good fit into the Agency’s environment.  It is also an opportunity for you as the interviewee to test the job requirements, the interviewer’s personality and the presentation of potential employment. 

There are a few ways that a Federal job interview differs from that in the private sector. 

  • You will probably be faced with a panel interview (generally a panel of three or more).  Be prepared for three sets of eyeballs as opposed to one staring at you.  The interview is a test and it will most likely be formally scored, especially if you are interviewed by a panel.

  • You may encounter behavior interview questions.  These are questions that start with the phrase, “Describe a time when…”.  The panel will attempt to determine if you are a good fit for the agency, based on your responses.  These questions allow the interviewer to explore your past behavior and probe into your responses.  The interviewer is looking for a story with “Goldilocks” detail (just enough, but not too much). 

The best way to ace the interview is to be prepared. 

  • Research the Department/Agency, its mission, and the unit in which you are interviewing.  Find out what they do and how they do it.  All the information you need is on the web.

  • Find out as much information as you can about the interviewers.  How will you know who will interview you? When an interview is extended to you, ask who will be interviewing you.  Go to your social network and find out about them.  Remember, you have a short amount of time to build report with the interviewers.  Do your research before the interview and use your findings to leverage relationship-building in the actual interview.   

  • Prepare your responses in advance.  Some typical questions might be:

“Describe a time or a situation when you…
…were faced with a stressful situation.”
…used good judgment in solving a problem.”
…showed initiative to contain costs.”
…motivated others (team or direct reports).”
…effectively handled a difficult customer.”
…tried to accomplish something and failed.”

For more information on developing your federal job search strategy to attract the attention of the HR hiring team, visit us on the web at

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