How to Ace Your Federal Job Interview

Interview Tips

You’ve put in your application and now you’ve been selected to interview for a federal government job. Is it really so different from any other job interview? The answer can vary by agency, just as interviews can vary by industry. The following advice will provide a foundation to help you prepare for your interview as a government contractor or employee in almost any agency.

Do Your Reconnaissance

Take time to learn about the agency’s history, core values, and mission. Be able to speak to the agency’s future and ask insightful questions about the direction it will take and consider how you will contribute to that future. How will you make yourself essential to achieving the agency’s goals? Be ready to talk about what you are bringing to the table and why they can’t get it anywhere else.

Look over the government job posting again and analyze the job duties and skills the government agency is seeking. Be sure to spotlight these skills during the interview by referring to instances when you have used them, any credential related to them, and your related prior experience such as previous cyber security jobs or other federal contract jobs.

Did your contact for the interview give you details about the format? If not, be assertive and speak up – ask for more information about what it will entail. Will you be speaking with one person, a series of people, or a panel of interviewers? This is important to know so you can prepare accordingly, whether it will be in person or a phone interview.

It’s also useful get familiar with the confidentiality rules for the agency you are interviewing with and be prepared to answer questions about how you would handle scenarios related to them. If your work as a government contractor or federal employee will include handling sensitive data or other proprietary information, you will need to prove your understanding of confidentiality as part of security clearance procedure.

Prepping for Behavior-Based Interviews

Most federal agencies use an interviewing technique called a behavior-based interview. This type of interview poses questions that require you to draw from your past experiences and describe scenarios where you utilized certain skills. The questions may also ask you to talk about how you handled a certain type of situation. This allows the interviewer to assess your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to dealing with different tasks and situations you may encounter on the job.

It is important to take your time when responding to these questions. Describe the situation and what your goals were, what you did to achieve them, and the end result. Sometimes it is appropriate to talk about a situation where you did not necessarily meet your goal, but where you learned something valuable from the experience. These questions address not only your job skills, but how you handle yourself in different scenarios, how you interact with coworkers, and how you overcome adversity.

Practice for the Interview

This is common advice for a reason – it works! Get comfortable talking about your experiences and skills, speaking about the agency you are interviewing with, and practice answering the open-ended questions below to help you prepare:

  • Did you ever make a mistake at work? How did you handle it?
  • Have you ever had a difficult situation with a coworker? How did you handle it?
  • How do you handle a challenge?
  • How do you prioritize the projects you are working on?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your greatest weaknesses and strengths?
  • Where do you see yourself in a year? In 5 years?
  • Why do you feel you are suited to work with this agency?
  • Why do you want to work with this particular government agency?

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