Be Ready to Work
Depending on the position, you may expect a tiered interview process involving different types and several rounds of interviews, questionnaires and writing tests. NCIS special agent candidates, for example, begin with a prescreening interview with a senior special agent trained in interview techniques, according to Marsh. If the person passes the prescreen interview, he or she will have a panel interview with three special agents that may last for four hours. Other tests round out the process.
The details of each interview will vary based largely on the preferences of the hiring manager — and also may depend on the level of the position. For lower-level jobs, you might only need a phone interview followed by one on site. “For senior executive positions I have seen up to four or five interviews, including meeting with a panel and even the agency head,” says Palguta.
You can gather some information about the process early on. When human resources calls to set up your first interview, ask them what to expect — then repeat the question as you leave your first interview to gain insight into potential future rounds.
Do Your Homework
Career experts always advise interviewees to research the organization they are interviewing with, but it’s especially important for federal jobs. The reason: There is so much information available on federal agencies the interviewee has no excuse not to be prepared and be ready to ask substantial questions of the interviewing.
Check the web for recent news, says O’Donnell. “Do a simple Google news search by the name of the agency. What are the current issues they are grappling with? More than likely these will be on the mind of the interviewer.”
Then keep surfing. Beyond agency Web sites, Palguta recommends looking the agency up on sites including Results.gov, BestPlacestoWork.org from the Partnership for Public Service and the Web sites of the Office of Management and Budget and Government Accountability Office, where you can learn about how they rate as a place to work, recent reports and appropriations and other data.
“As a hiring manager,” Palguta adds, “I will be very impressed if someone is asking me thoughtful questions.”