Tips for Federal Government Job Interviews
Do you have a Federal Government Job interview coming up? Here are some tips that I have learned that has proven helpful to me.
Making it to the interview stage is no reason to celebrate but it is an important step in the job hunt process. Consider that by getting to this point you have certainly increased your chances of getting that job. Government Departments get hundreds and often thousands of applications for the various jobs that they post, that they then narrow down to a pool of potential candidates (sometimes tests are even involved to help narrow down these large numbers). Chances are that the number of people getting interviewed will not be very many so your odds are pretty good if you have made it this far, but your work is not over yet, you have your foot in the door, but now you need to make the big sales pitch and sell yourself.
Before you go into an interview take some time and prepare yourself, do some research (check out the Department’s website etc.) and ensure that you thoroughly know the details. Almost all Federal Government jobs have a section known as the “Statement of Merit Criteria” If you are not familiar with this and have been applying to jobs with the Federal Government then there is a good chance you have not been having much luck. This is the section of the online application where they ask you to briefly demonstrate that you meet each required criteria for the advertised position.
Chances are you will not know the actual questions but you should be able to prepare for several potential questions that may come up. Having prepared your self with mock questions like this is very helpful even if they are not the same questions that you will face at the interview. This exercise helps you focus on clearly answering questions, providing key details and demonstrating that you are with no doubt the candidate to go with. After all if you can not convince or demonstrate clearly to yourself that you are the best candidate then only imagine what they will think on the other side of the table.
Knowing the details of the job description and the merit criteria often will help provide insights onto what the interviewers may ask you. Most interviewers have certain things that they need to look for with each interview question like key words or phrases. For example your resume can say that you know how to use certain software packages, but here is where they will learn if you know what you’re talking about. So it is important that you use the appropriate terminology to match the ones that they will be looking for.
While at the interview check to see if the interviewers are writing lots of notes, and are they circling words that are already printed with the questions? The people asking the questions may be from a panel and most times have not prepared the questions themselves. Often this means that the person whom wrote the questions also included key words that are expected to accompany it. The other side of the coin here is, if the interviewers are just sitting there and not writing anything at all, then maybe you have missed the concept of the question entirely.
Beware that sometimes interviewers may write down a few words even if you do not know the answers, it could be a case where neither candidate knew the answer or had the correct one, and they may compare results. Most interviewers write down notes as you speak but do beware of those that will wait till you are finished to write down stuff. Also try not to look at what the interviewers are writing, but focus on them, sit up straight, make eye contact and show enthusiasm toward the subject.
Most often at job interviews, you are provided with a pen and paper, but if not be sure to have brought your own. Take short notes as you go to ensure that you have covered everything that you wanted. This is good so that you are not always using the same scenarios to answer every question. And remember that in most cases you can go back to a question later on if you think of something you missed or thought of some more details that you wanted to add.
Almost always, at the end of an interview, you will be asked if you have any questions. This is a chance to show yourself and you should always have some questions prepared or if not have something to bring up about the position, interviewers or the department to demonstrate some knowledge that may not have been represented in the questions asked. Do not ask questions about the job that can wait till after the interview such as ones about how the dental benefits work. You do not want to end the interview by asking some stupid questions, especially after you have done an exceptional job up to this point. Most time those types of questions can be answered after the interview stage or by someone else such as a HR rep.
The bottom line here is to fully prepare your self for various scenarios, stay calm and focused, and then sell your self to the interview panel. Most times this will be your last shot at this position so if you do a mediocre job then chances are that you will back to square one of the job hunt. However never lose focus and if you do not get the job then use it as a learning experience and build on it for the next opportunity, there is always more GIS jobs out there (start with the GIS jobs posted on our site).