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6 Tips to Prepare for a Government Agency Job Interview

Resource 6 Tips to Prepare for a Government Agency Job Interview

By John Calderon

Finding a job can feel like a full-time job of its own, so you may feel like the hard part is over once you’ve landed an interview with a government agency. Think again. Like private companies, government agencies generally have a set mission, but serving citizens is different than selling a product or service to a consumer or another business. Government agencies are looking to fill positions based on their unique challenges and needs, and you need to familiarize yourself with the agency’s goals and how they get they measure success before the interview, especially if most or all of your job experience is in the private sector. 

Here are six tips to follow ahead of your government agency job interview to put your best foot forward to and increase your chance of landing a career in the public sector.

  1. Research the agency. Many people think of government jobs as being ideal because they have stability and provide good benefits. But to stand out in an interview, you’ll need to be able to correctly align yourself with the agency’s specific mission. Things to make sure you're familiar with include: What is the agency’s exact name? Does it contain acronyms or abbreviations, and if so, do you know what they stand for? What are the key activities the agency engages in to help citizens? How does it fit into the larger context of the city, county, or state? These agencies and the leadership within them generally serve the community they belong to, and knowing how they achieve their goals could come up during the course of your interview. So, do the research. Read the website from top to bottom, check out their social channels, and learn as much as you can through Google searches, recent news, and networking (whether in person or virtually via LinkedIn). Knowing where the agency excels or what challenges they may currently be facing will help you position yourself as the right candidate for the job.

  2. Carefully analyze the job posting. Hopefully, something about the job posting spoke to you before you sent in your resume or application, but you should definitely revisit it once you’ve been selected for an interview. Examine the duties and job requirements listed in the posting, and write down all the ways in which you can and have accomplished similar projects in your previous work experience. If the job posting doesn’t explain how this role fits into the larger organization, do some research and find out for yourself so you can weave that into your answers in the interview. If there’s a section on how you’ll be evaluated, make sure you're prepared and can ace those evaluation metrics. If the evaluation criteria is not covered, ask your point of contact at the agency what to expect and how you should best prepare. 

  3. Find out everything you can about who you’ll be interviewing with. Do your best to find out who you'll be meeting with during the interview. Ask about the style of interview you're being scheduled for as well. For example, ask if you’ll be meeting with only one person or a panel of several people and what their roles are in the organization.  Make sure you're taking notes on each person so that you can research them ahead of time. Once you have their first and last names, look them up on LinkedIn. First, see if you're connected through your LinkedIn network. If you have a close contact that's a mutual friend, you may want to reach out to see if they can provide any additional insight. Even if you don't have any connections in common, you can learn quite a bit from someone's LinkedIn profile. Depending on how well they've completed their profile, you can see what they do in their current role, how long they’ve worked there, where they've worked in the past, where they went to school, and their extracurricular interests. These tidbits can be leveraged to help frame your talking points prior to the interview, as well as during the interview when you're looking to find common ground through casual conversation. 

  4. Prepare a “story” of your experience and resume. Think about how your previous experience relates to the needs of both the role and the agency as a whole. You should be prepared to recount specific examples of big accomplishments you’ve achieved, challenges you faced and how you overcame them, and so forth. Having tangible examples of how you improved a process, saved an organization money, beat a deadline, or thrived under pressure will all be beneficial. Practice sharing your experience in a way that tells a story about your job history and how it led you to this role. Particularly if your job experience is in the private sector, make sure you connect the dots for the interviewer on how your skills and talent could be transferable to the agency and its needs.

  5. Make sure your social footprint is pristine. Government officials generally do a check of a candidate’s social media channels before interviewing or hiring. Because public sector employees serve the community, you’ll want to ensure you don’t have anything too provocative or profane on any of your channels, as this may disqualify you before you even get a chance. Delete old posts that don’t portray you in the best light or at the very least, make your accounts private.

  6. Dress for success. If the government agency job you’re being interviewed for a managerial position or requires a lot of interfacing with senior-level people, dress formally – a suit in a conservative color and dark-colored shoes, with men wearing ties. Business casual is advised for most other roles – casual jackets, dress pants or khakis, knee-length skirts, blouses, and collared shirts are all acceptable.


John Calderon is the Content Strategist at and NEOGOV, the leader in developing cloud public sector human capital management solultions. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of California, Los Angeles and has spent over a decade creating content as a marketing professional and journalist.

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