Government job interview process
After you make it through the online application round you, and probably a dozen other applicants, will be invited for the next step in the process. There are several elements to take into consideration when you’re invited to a government agency job interview. First of all, there are different types of government job interviews. One or more of the following interview processes can be conducted when you’re applying for a government position.
- Interview invitation call or email
Some government agencies will use emails to clarify and kick off the interview process. Usually, these emails contain the information you need and what the next steps in the interview process are.
If you receive a call for an actual job interview, it’s important that you pay close attention. In most cases, you will get an additional follow-up email that provides you with the information you need about the actual job interview.
However, to be sure, write down the following information before you end the call:
- The name of the person you spoke to on the phone, their agency, and title.
- A phone number you can call if you have any further questions.
- Confirmation of the title of the position in case you applied for multiple jobs at the specific agency.
- The exact time and date of the interview
- The location of the interview
- Who you will be interviewing with and the format of the interview.
- Any items that you should bring to the interview, besides your resume
- Information on additional assessments you might need to take during the interview. Think, for instance, of case study, writing test, psychometric test, etc.
- Screening government job interview
This can be considered as the first round of the interview process. Government agencies use this to filter out the candidates whose skills match the job requirements and invite them to an on-site job interview.
In general, these conversations are relatively short, and you will be asked several interview questions about your background and qualifications that are relevant to the job. It’s also possible that the interviewer asks you about your salary requirements and your availability to work.
Based on the initial screening, government agencies decide which candidates will move on to the next round of the interview process.
The goal of this step in the interview process is to find out whether or not you have the necessary skills and abilities for the job and if your salary expectations match what the agency can offer you. In this early stage of the interview process, interviewers are already focussing on finding the person that is the right fit for the job.
During this interview, you can expect basic interview questions such as:
- Can you tell me about yourself?
- Describe your work history.
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- Can you tell me about your salary requirements?
- Specific competency-based or skills-based interview questions.
Tips to ace a screening interview
- Thoroughly analyze the job description to make sure you exactly understand the requirements.
- Make sure you know your resume and what details you have included.
- Read into what a phone interview entails, what is expected of you, and how you should prepare.
- Be honest and straightforward to the interviewer. You have little time to make a great impression.
- If applicable, follow-up with a thank you note to the interviewer.
- On-site government job interview
The traditional job interview on location is still the most common type of interview used by government agencies. In this setting, you, the interviewee, and the interviewer are having a conversation to discuss the job you applied for. This type of interview is also called a ‘one-on-one interview,’ ‘traditional job interview,’ ‘individual interview,’ or ‘face-to-face job interview.’
Typically in this interview, you get to sit and face one or more interviewers and answer interview questions. So although it sometimes called a one-on-one interview, it’s possible that you’re observed by others.
Interviewers are usually human resource employees or other representatives of the agency. This type of interview allows interviewers to ask more in-depth questions to the applicant to assess their skills and abilities. Furthermore, it allows them to analyze body language while being able to dig deeper into their personalities as well.
The advantage for you as a candidate is that you can prepare and practice specific answers to questions that you anticipate based on the job description. This means that you get an opportunity to demonstrate that your skills and abilities match the requirements for the job.
In general, interviewers use a structured interview format approach. This means that each of the job applicants will get the same type of questions. This is done to consistently get relevant job-related information about each of the applicants.
Commonly asked government job interview questions are:
- Tell me about yourself
- How would you describe yourself?
- What are your career goals?
- Why do you want to work here?
- What interests you about this position?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- What is your greatest strength?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Tell me about a challenging work situation and how you overcame it.
- Why should we hire you?
- What did you like most about your last position?
- What did you like least about your last position?
- How do you handle stress?
- What is your greatest accomplishment?
- What motivates you?
Read more about commonly asked job interview questions and how to answer them here.
- Phone government job interview
Employers usually use phone interviews in the early stages of the interview process. It’s a similar kind of interview as the earlier discuss screening interview. Usually, phone interviews are scheduled in advance by email or via a phone call.
Phone interviews are used as an initial screening of applicants to ensure that the candidates that advance to the next round at least meet the minimum job requirements.
A phone interview is probably the first time you directly talk to a representative of the hiring company. There are companies that use one phone interview, but there are also companies that use two or even three different calls before you get an invitation for an on-site interview.
It’s important to realize is that you cannot use your body language to get your suitability across during a phone interview. Therefore, focus on your tone of voice and ensure that you speak calmly and clearly. Also, use this position to your advantage. During the call, pay special attention to the voice of the interviewer and listen carefully. Just like the interviewer cant observe your body language, you can’t observe theirs.
If the call is scheduled, you can prepare for questions you expect in advance. In other words, you can have all your notes in front of you that you have used to prepare to make the best impression possible.
Tips to prepare for your phone interview:
- If the interviewer calls you at a time that is not convenient, always ask to reschedule. This way, you can increase your chances of making a great impression during the interview. However, only do this if the interviewer calls you at a time that was not agreed on via email or phone before.
- Make sure that you clear the room that your in of any distractions. A quiet room is the best way to keep your focus during the interview.
- If you have a call scheduled, make sure you have a list ready for answers that you want to give the interviewer to demonstrate your suitability.
- Always have your resume and cover letter nearby in case the interviewer wants to discuss these with you.
- Have a pen and paper nearby to take notes.
Your preparation for a phone interview is similar to preparing for an on-site or face-to-face interview. Basic questions that you can expect during a phone interview are for instance
- Background and experience questions
- What’s the reason for you to leave your current job?
- Walk me through your resume.
Read more about background and work experience interview questions here.
- Job profile and government agency questions
- Why do you want this job?
- Tell me what you know about the position.
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- What value can you add to the team?
- Are you currently interviewing with other companies?
- What challenges are you looking for in a job?
- Questions about yourself
- Tell me about yourself
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How would you describe yourself?
- What motivates you?
Besides answering questions, make sure you have some questions to ask the interviewer as well. This will show that you have thought the position through and that you are well-prepared.
Read more about phone interview questions to ask the interviewer.
- Panel interview
During a panel interview, you are being interviewed by multiple interviewers at the same time. This might feel intimidating, but remember that these people are here for you too. They see potential in you as a candidate; else, they would not have taken time out of their day to interview you.
The panel you’re interviewing with usually consists of representatives from different levels, units, or departments of the company. Think, for instance, of an HR manager, department manager, and team leader. Because all panelists come from different backgrounds in the government agency, every one of them will probably consider your resume, cover letter, and answers to questions differently.
Find out before the interview who your interviewers are. By doing so, you can research each of them to find out who they are and what they exactly do within the agency. This will give you the ability to prepare better because you can make an educated guess about who will ask you what kind of interview questions. Furthermore, during the interview, you can call all panelists by name. This way, you will leave an impression of holding your own during the interview.
For government agencies, a panel interview is an easy way for a group of people in the organization to get to know you better quickly. The panel interview, therefore, replaces the multiple individual interviews that you would normally have, which saves the company both time and money. In short, a panel interview helps to make the interview process more efficient.
There are several reasons why panel interviewers are unique. For starters, you will have to answer to interview questions in a way that is relevant for different people with different responsibilities in the agency.
Because you’re interviewing with different people, you will also have the opportunity to ask them questions about the position and the organization in general. This way, you can decide for yourself if the agency and job you’re applying for is the right job for you.
Example panel interview questions:
- Give us an example of how you effectively communicate at work.
- Why do you want this position in this company?
- How do you adjust to changing situations that you have no control over?
- What are your future plans if you get this position?
- What have you done to improve yourself in the past year?
- Give me an example of a time you had to adapt to a change in the workplace.
- What accomplishment are you most proud of? Why?
- Tell me about a time you had to think outside of the box to solve a problem.
- Describe a time you had a conflict and how you resolved it
- Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?
- Tell me about a time you managed an important project
- How have you motivated others at work?
- Video conference interview
Video conferences are used by different government agencies. They can, for instance, be used if you or any of the people interviewing you have travel barriers. Depending on the agency, you might be invited to come to a local federal office building to take part.
However, it’s also possible that you can interview from home. If you have a video conference call scheduled, make sure that you’re in a quiet room and that you have access to a connection that will deliver an uninterrupted experience.
These types of interviews are a way to save money while widening the pool of job candidates. Just like a panel interview, it’s possible that there are multiple interviewers.
Remember that the interviewers can see you as well, so make sure you prepare as you would for an in-person interview in your preparation, body language, and the way you dress.