You’ve just landed an interview for a government job. Congratulations! Now what? You may be nervous and not sure what to expect. But with some basic preparation, you can make your government job interview success. Preparing for a government job interview is not difficult, but to be successful it does require some time and research.
This position is less senior than your last one. Are you okay with that?
Bad answer: “No, but Ill figure it out. Maybe I can do something on the side.”
Good answer: “If theres one thing I learned during my time in the military, it was how to put my head down and get to work. For me it isnt about prestige right now, its about pursuing a career that I love, and thats where I see this fitting in. I know that if I work hard and show how passionate and dedicated I am, I can move up the chain in time.”
Government jobs often have a certain pay scale they can hire you into. Depending on the agency, going with just a BA degree might land you as a GS-9, while an MA might be GS-11. These are not super high-paying, senior positions, and you have to realize that you have to prove yourself all over again. Get the chip off your shoulder and be prepared to shine so you can move up the ranks quickly, but dont expect handouts.
Why do you want to work at this agency?
Bad answer: “Everyone knows your Department is cool, and I think it will look great on my resume.”
Good answer: “The work that you did in the Haiti earthquake relief efforts inspired me to study humanitarian issues in the first place, which is why my internship was focused on humanitarian and aid issues. I believe my passion and experience would be a great asset to your agency, and know I would look forward to coming to work each day in a job like this where I know Im making a difference.”
Dont make it all about you, but find a way to spin it so youre telling them why you would make a great contribution to their team and agency.
Bad answer: “I graduated high school and then went into the military, where I was a cryptologic linguist. When I got out I went to college to study Asian studies, then I did a couple internships, one at the Treasury Department and another with State. I also practice trombone ten hours a week, which speaks to my commitment.”
Good answer: “I am enthusiastic about Asia policy, which is why I am applying for this position. It started when I was stationed abroad in Okinawa, Japan, and so I studied Asian studies in school and did an internship at the Asia office at the Treasury Department.”
Dont just list what youve done, but tell a story with a strong through-line about what youve done and how it sets you up perfectly for this job.
Related: To apply for jobs that match your skills, visit the Military Skills Translator.
Are you a US citizen?
Various government agencies and positions have differing requirements in terms of citizenship and work authorization in the US.
You can always expect to hear a question about this, though, no matter what government agency you’re interviewing with.
So in your first couple of interviews, most likely the phone interview, be ready to answer questions about whether you’re a US citizen or green card holder, or if you have some other work authorization status in the US.
It’s possible that the employer already confirmed this information via your job application, though, so you may not be asked this in your one-on-one interview.
You can also consider including this information on your federal resume when applying for government roles.