Ask a Coach

Q: Is USAJobs the only place to find Federal jobs?

A: USAJobs is the place where you are going to find the vast majority of all Federal positions. It's considered the clearinghouse for Federal positions, so it's the website you'll want to start with when looking for a job. It's rare that a position won't be posted on the site but will be posted elsewhere. Occasionally some agencies will post positions on their agency websites, but nearly always you'll be immediately redirected to the USAJob Posting.

Some agencies will post various positions only on their agency websites. Certain excepted service agencies, such as the CIA and the FBI, only post certain positions on their website because their hiring processes are different than competitive service agencies or positions. If you're interested in becoming an FBI Special Agent or a CIA Analyst, go to the respective agency website for the application process.

Preparing for Your Federal Interview

It's easy to get overwhelmed when you start preparing for an interview. One way to help with this feeling is to know what to expect at your Federal interview. Although Federal interviews and private sector interviews have some similarities, Federal interviews are unique. Here's some information to think about as you prepare.

First off, remember the interviewers are trying to find the best fit for the position. They're not grilling you just to be difficult. This is a hard job for the interviewers, and they might be nervous, too!

Behavioral Interview Questions

You'll be asked behavioral interview questions. This means the questions will be asked in a way that requires you to provide specific examples of when you did the actions covered in the question. You'll want to make sure your answer actually addresses the questions being asked, so it's crucial to listen fully to the question. Keep in mind that the interviewers are reading into your answer; they're assuming you'll act the same way in the position you're interviewing for. Thus, make sure your answer reflects how you believe you'd act in the position.

It's essential you prepare your specific examples before your interview. Although you won't know beforehand what questions will be asked, it's known that the questions will be based upon the duties and qualifications of the job announcement, along with the skills and core competencies of the job announcement's vacancy questionnaire. If you work on coming up with specific examples of when you did those duties, qualifications and skills, you'll have a much easier time answering the questions you'll encounter during your interview.

STAR Answer Method

The interviewers will be expecting you to give your answers using the STAR Method. The STAR Method means you'll format your answers this way:

  • What was the SITUATION?
  • What was the TASK you performed?
  • What ACTION did you take?
  • What was the RESULT?

Or, another way of thinking of it is, "What was the situation? What did I do? How did it all turn out?" The STAR Method gives a flow to your answer, making it not only easier for the interviewers to follow, but also easier for you to get your point across.

Helpful Tips

You'll generally be asked between five and seven questions, on average. It's ok to repeat one of your examples if necessary, but only repeat one example one time; any more and the interviewer might wonder why you're repeating yourself.

Try not to go too long with your questions. A few minutes per question should be sufficient. One way to prevent yourself from going into too much detail and dragging out your answer is to practice questions out loud beforehand. Having an idea of length ahead of time will help you once you're in the actual interview.

You might have an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. If given that opportunity, you'll want to ask at least one question. Use this as a time to gain additional information about your role within the position to show your interest.

The interview can be a time of nervousness, but with adequate preparation you can excel.