It’s a win to get an interview, but a dozen or so applicants may be vying for the same position. Now’s the time to polish your interviewing skills because the final selection will be based on several rounds of interviews.

Awaiting the Interview Call

Some agencies send e-mails to kick off the interview process. Others call.

If you are lucky enough to get an interview, make sure you get the following information in preparation:

  • The caller’s name, title and agency.
  • A return phone number.
  • Confirmation of the job title (particularly if you have multiple applications pending).
  • Time and date of the interview.
  • Interview location or information for a virtual interview.
  • Items to bring besides a resume, if any.
  • Additional assessments the agency might ask for, such as a writing test.

Job candidates should also try to learn the following from the person arranging the interview:

  • Name(s) of interviewer(s).
  • Type of interview.
  • How to get into the building and through security, if it’s an in-person interview, and how long it might take.
  • Transportation information, including where to park or the closest Metro station.

Types of Government Interviews

Agencies will typically interview you one-on-one or set up a panel of several people, although it’s possible you’ll do a phone or video interview.

One-on-one interviews
Before an agency makes an offer, it will probably have you interview with a hiring manager or another decision-maker as well as other agency employees.

  • Organizations use one-on-one interviews to determine how well you might interact with other people in the agency, and how your professional experiences have prepared you for the job.
  • Other people may sit in during the interview.
  • You should treat every interview as a new one, even if it seems like interviewers ask you the same questions every time. The information will be new and important to each interviewer.
  • Some hiring managers use a “structured interview” format, that is, interviewers ask all applicants the same series of questions. You may notice this kind of interview seems more formal, since the interviewer essentially follows a script.
  • Some agencies interview people at career fairs or other public events These are generally one-on-one interviews. Treat them with as much professionalism as you would an interview in an office.

Panel interviews
Some agencies prefer panel interviews, so several team members learn about the candidate at once. Panel interviews can be more efficient for the agency but may feel more intimidating to you. Deep breaths! You can do this. In panel interviews, you:

  • Need to answer questions in ways that are relevant for different people with different responsibilities. In most cases you will know who will be on the panel in advance, so you can prepare in advance with their perspectives in mind.
  • Have the opportunity to ask several people questions about the job and the organization to make sure the position is the right fit for you.
  • Benefit from remembering panelists’ names and addressing them by name, during the interview and when thanking them afterwards.

Phone interviews
Many agencies do an initial phone screen to learn basic information about you before deciding whether to bring you in for an interview.

Video interviews
Agency interviewers who are on travel, or don’t work near where you live, may set up a video conference and ask you join from a federal office building near you. If you’re asked to interview via video, prepare and dress as you would for an in-person interview.