Standing Out in the Federal Job Interview
Congratulations! If you're reading this because you've just been called for an interview to the Federal agency you've been applying for then you've most likely conquered a lot of obstacles to get to this point. With the popularity of government jobs today and the fierce competition that you are up against the thousands of American citizens all over the country (and around the world) who have lodged their applications in USAJOBS (www.usajobs.gov) and other portals of government agencies, then you must be really qualified on paper to warrant this call for an interview. Now, your challenge is to make sure that the brilliance you showed on your resume gets communicated on how you answer the interviewers' questions.
First of all, you need to do a lot of research. Once you have received that call (or even as early as when you had submitted your resume), you need to beef up your knowledge about the agency. Visiting the agency website is a good place to start. Look under their “News” section to get a feel of the issues that it is facing at this point. By being informed, you can prepare intelligent answers to questions about these pressing problems or concerns of the agency.
Second, you need to be certain that you want to be in public service. Well, you probably want to work in government because you know that compared to the private sector, you can find job stability here. While that may be true, it might not be enough for your interviewers. Actually, if stability and tenure is your only motivation then that may not be enough reason for you to work in government. Most of those who are in public service really have it in their heart to serve. So you should look into your core and answer why you applied for that particular job and why you want to be in government. If you can convince yourself then you should be able to convince your interviewer as well. Unsolicited advice: Any job all boils down to your passion and desire for doing it. If you don't feel this fire burning in you for that job then do some introspection and change course when necessary.
Finally, be sure that you can hack the clearance and background investigation process which can start during the interview. If you have no criminal history or any other bad record then you should not have problems here. But in case you do then there is no substitute for answering all questions about it honestly. There is no use hiding it as a more extensive adjudication process will still be able to uncover any skeletons you have hidden in your closet. If you weren't upfront about these then it might even cost you the job. In life as it is in Federal job interviews, honesty is still the best policy.