Interviewing Tips for a State Job

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Although government jobs are much less secure than they were a few decades ago, they do provide solid entry-level training and extensive networking opportunities to advance in your chosen career field. Learn what you need to know to ace those interviews and make a favorable impression.

Insider Information

State job titles do not yield much clue about supervisory responsibilities and actual tasks. With job titles like Staff Services Manager II and Associate Governmental Program Analyst, it is difficult to determine what a job entails. Talk to someone who already works in the division where you are applying or study a departmental organization chart to understand how the various units interface with--and complement--one another. Each state has its own government website. Access information there about job classifications.

State interviewers are usually impressed with buzz words and will feel a comfort level with anyone who casually incorporates the agency's own verbiage into a resume or a panel chat.

Panel Interviews

State interviews are generally comprised of a three-person panel. One is your prospective boss, another is either the employee vacating the job or someone who holds a similar position and the third is a representative from the Human Resources (HR) unit. Every panel member is given the same set of questions to ask you over the course of 30 to 60 minutes. The HR representative's presence is to ensure the other two do not make inappropriate or illegal inquiries. If you are asked a question you have already answered, take this as an opportunity to elaborate on your earlier reply.

Types of Interview Questions

Most state interviews will ask you to discuss the content of your resume. This is to assess your communication skills. Another approach is a written, timed exam prior to the formal interview. The bulk of the interview then focuses on the rationale you employed to address hypothetical scenarios.

It's also not uncommon for candidates to be given a real-life problem affecting the unit. By acquiring "free" solutions under the guise of a test, employers can then act on whichever ideas they like and save themselves the expense of hiring anyone. While you should always give answers that reflect your intelligence and ingenuity, it is only fair you know in advance these practices exist in cash-strapped departments.

Prepping for Your Interview

Make a list of potential interview questions and recruit friends to help you rehearse your replies.

Dress for the part. It is easier for a panel to picture how you will fit in if you are groomed as if you already have the job.

Always take your photo identification.

Never assume the front-desk person is a receptionist. She may actually be the exam proctor or a manager who wants to observe how candidates interact with individuals they think have no clout.

Be prepared for interviewers who ask, "What would you like to talk about?" Interviewees often anticipate a formal list of questions and get flustered by this open-ended surprise.

Have questions for the panel after your interview is over. Intelligent questions relate to upward mobility and training. Refrain from questions about lunch, vacations and whether you can adjust your hours because you are not a morning person.

Send a thank-you note. So few people observe this professional courtesy that you will stand out as a class act.