The Interview Process and What To Expect

Hey all,

At this moment in my life I am awaiting a phone call for a GS-13 position. It’s funny because I know what to expect with the interview process, primarily what questions they will ask, but I’ve spent about four hours studying the questions I believe they will ask, consulted my wife as to how she would answer the same questions, and have taken the time to write out the questions and formulated answers to each of them with solid background for each based on my previous position or my time in the Marine Corps. This is what it will take for you to get ahead in the interview game. Everyone says “of course I’ve looked at interview questions and know how to answer them appropriately,” but do they really? Do they have their reflections down to a point where they sound confident, no rabbit trails while they’re explaining the situation with irrelevant details.

Today, I’m providing you with the typical questions that the Office for Personnel Management has approved for the federal interview process. I have applied to two different DoD branches, the VA, the Dept. of Interior and I have been asked many of the questions in this format. In all of the interviews except for one, I have been interviewed over the phone.

The phone interview is very different especially as it’s very scripted. A program assistant will setup the call with you. You call in, several people introduce themselves, their titles, and roles, then the interview begins. Typically they give you an allotted amount of time for the interview itself, so be wary of your timing. Obviously try to be in a place where you wont be disturbed and for goodness sakes turn your phone on to the Don’t Disturb setting so every 5 minutes your wife isn’t texting you wondering how the interview is going especially since you’ll be on speaker phone.

The format style is question and answer.

You can request to have the question repeated, which is very helpful when you have multiple parts to a question, keep a pen and paper handy to write your question/answer out.

Then the big pause while you prepare your answer…this is very uncomfortable to say the least.

You answer the question to the best of your ability. I always ask if there is anything that needs better clarification with my answer, if not they move on. Usually each person will read a different question. I have had as many as 9 questions, but I would say the minimum  I’ve been asked has been seven.

The following are the categories for each question prompt:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Customer Service
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness
  • Organizational Stewardship
  • Personal Mastery
  • Systems Thinking
  • Technical Skills 

To gain better insight into these questions vs me telling you what they sound like I’ve provided the links below.

On the VA website the link will redirect you to the Home page of the Performance Based Interview. Here you can learn about what the PBI gauges and why it’s useful. They, the interviewers are trying to gauge how well you may behave in the future based on your previous work behavior. Either navigate through this link to view the sample questions. I’ve already posted the link to save you time.

When looking at the questions you can view them as a spreadsheet or a word document. Your preference is exactly that, your preference. I choose to print them out in a word doc. The questions are numbered by roman numerals. Here are the explanations for those numerals.

Description of Levels

  • Level I—Frontline staff, those who do not supervise others.
  • Level II— Supervisors, Team Leaders, Work Unit Leaders, those who lead the work of a natural group of people, either temporarily (process improvement team leader) or as an ongoing role (foreman, section leader).
  • Level III—These Mid-level managers are generally those who supervise Level II staff or division, department, or service line managers.  Level III staff are those in charge of a major function in an organization.
  • Level IV—Executive leaders, those responsible for the overall functioning and outcomes of the organization.

My best direction here is to study and formulate answers based on the area you are applying in, for example Level II, but to be on top of your game, look at several of the Level III questions and come up with your own answers as you never know if they are looking for someone who can think BIG. I am currently studying Level III for my possible GS-13 position but I’m always looking ahead although I incline to think that Level IV are for the SES folks or GS-15.

Prepare ahead of time so you can own the interview in a confident-not cocky way. You will always have a few days to prepare yourself, at worst two days. These aren’t questions like what would be your spirit animal, the questions utilize your analytical and critical thinking processes, not too much of your imagination. By also practicing these ahead of time, the answers you will form will allow you to refresh just what it is you did in your current or previous job and this thought process should help you really begin to see the tremendous value you brought to your previous/current organization and what you can offer moving forward.

OWN your interview. Practice these questions. Don’t be blindsided. Ask others how they would answer them. This will create such a sense of calm in your interview, you’ll thank me later.

Get to studying…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *