5 Tips for Acing Federal Interviews

By Adrienne Erin - Writer

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There are interviews and then there are interviews. An interview with a Fortune 500 company or even a small local company is one thing, but an interview for your dream job with a government agency is an entirely different animal. Each has its own rules and pitfalls that can be difficult to avoid unless you spend the time to research and prepare.

There are different rules for jobs in government and jobs in the private commercial world, and learning how to navigate them can be the difference between landing a job that you love and never making it past the first round of interviews.

Interviewing for a federal job might seem like it would be difficult, but learning a little beforehand about what is expected and exploring the rules and procedures can give you an edge over job seekers who don’t take the time to research. These five tips and tricks will help you be better prepared for your federal job interview so you can feel more relaxed during an often intimidating time.

1. Ask About the Interview Beforehand

Though you might not be speaking directly with the person or persons who will be doing the interviewing, the human resources specialist who assists with setting up the interview can probably give you a lot of information. Knowing whether you will be interviewed by one person or a panel, whether the interview will be in person or by phone, how long the interview will be, and what format it will be in can help you better prepare. You may also find it easier to relax if you know a little bit about what to expect when you arrive for the interview.

2. Study the Job Duties Carefully

You will want to analyze and think about them a lot prior to the actual interview. This can help you prepare for the interview questions. The interviewer may ask you to give examples of times when you did particular tasks or acted in a certain way, so you’ll want to think about your responses before the question is asked. Preparing this way will help you give more coherent answers and avoid long pauses in the questioning.

3. Know the Nuances of the Job

Closely tied to analyzing the job posting, you should understand these nuances. They are different from skills or duties and often include soft skills which can also be called core competencies. An example of a soft skill might be solving management problems or inspiring workers to persevere at difficult assignments. All jobs require some sort of soft skill, so before you go to the interview you should know what some of the core competencies of the position are.

4. Study the Agency

This is especially important. Before the interview, you should know what the agency’s mission is, what they envision for the future, if there have been any recent initiatives or programs that they are starting, and what sort of strategies they use to accomplish their goals. It also goes without saying that you should be aware of current events concerning the organization and be prepared to discuss future growth and your possible contribution to their future efforts.

5. Create Your Introduction

Many federal interviews may give you the chance to preface or end the interview with a little introduction about yourself. If given this opportunity, you will want to briefly share your most valuable skills, your most valuable experience and what you are passionate about. Share things that make you a valuable employee. Also, make sure you practice your speech many times before your first interview. You don’t want to be reading off of your notes.

So whether you are just figuring out what you want to do in government service or you’ve been working toward a government job for years, think about these five simple tips, do your research, and you’ll have a much better chance at the job you want. 

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