How to Prepare for Your First Government Job Interview

Interviewing for government jobs is different. Here are the best tips from our recruiters and government careers experts to help you put your best foot forward.

The government job interview process is different from what you may be used to in the private sector. Here are some tips on how to prepare so you can make the best impression and land the job.

1. Do your research.

Become familiar with the mission, values, and goals of the agency you’re interviewing with. Read up on recent news stories and current initiatives to get a sense of what’s important to them. This will not only help you prepare for questions, but it will also show that you’re truly interested in the position and invested in their success.

2. Know your stuff.

Your interviewer will likely grill you on your knowledge of the field, so it’s important to be prepared. In addition to being up-to-date on current events, brush up on key terminology, relevant regulations, and industry best practices. If you have any real-world experience that’s relevant to the job, be sure to mention it and provide specific examples whenever possible.

3. Be aware of the culture.

Government organizations tend to have a unique culture and way of doing things. Be sure you understand the expectations and rules before your interview so there are no surprises. For example, many government agencies have a dress code that’s more formal than what you might be used to in the private sector. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to appearance.

4. Expect behavioral questions.

In addition to technical questions about your qualifications and experience, you can expect behavioral questions designed to assess your fit for the role. Employers want to know how you handled difficult situations in the past and how you would handle them in the future if given the chance. Be ready with examples that showcase your problem-solving skills, teamwork, adaptability, etc.

5. Be Patient

Agencies at every level of government tend to take longer to move through the hiring process than their private sector counterparts. This means that you must be patient in going through the hiring process as a candidate. It also means that you can and should continue to look for jobs until you accept an offer.

6. Practice, practice, practice.

Once you’ve done your research and prepared for the types of questions you’ll be asked, it’s time to start practicing. Role-play with a friend or family member, if possible. Practice out loud to be as prepared as you can be for your interviews.

It may also make sense for you to work with a professional interview prep coach. Coaches like those at The Contingent Plan have an extensive history of helping people successfully navigate the government interviewing process. Nothing helps more than working with someone that has been there before and that can give you honest advice on what to do in your government interviews. The more comfortable you are with the process, the better you’ll do on the actual interview.

By following these tips, you can get ahead of the competition and put your best foot forward in your government job interview. Just remember to do your research, know your stuff, be aware of the culture, and expect behavioral questions. With a little preparation, you'll be on your way to landing that dream government job in no time!