Q: It's been awhile since I've had an interview. What should I wear?
A: What you wear depends on the agency, company or the position. If you're interviewing for a TSA position during your shift, it's appropriate to wear your standard TSA uniform. If you do wear your uniform, keep in mind that you will want to look your best, so make sure your pants and shirt are pressed, your shoes are shined, and you look put together. You want to always put your best foot forward. For all other interviews, the rule of thumb is to wear an outfit that's one step above the everyday wear for that position. For example, if you're interviewing for a position where you can wear smart casual, which means slacks and a nice shirt, you'll want to wear a suit for your interview. It's never appropriate to wear jeans, however! If you ever have a question about what to wear, it's ok to call Human Resources to check with them.
Structured Interviews and Behavioral Interview Questions
Job Interviews can be very intimidating for some so it can be helpful to prepare beforehand so you're as comfortable as possible answering questions. It's also helpful to know what kinds of questions might be asked so that you're ready for them.
The federal system generally conducts something called a structured interview. Whether you have a one-on-one or panel interview, the interview will still be structured. What does that mean? It means that the interviews will be consistent from one candidate to the next. All candidates will be asked the same questions, all candidates will be evaluated using the same rating scale and all interviewers are in agreement beforehand on what constitutes a good answer.
The reason structured interviews are preferred is because studies have shown they produce a high degree of reliability and validity, which means the interviewers are usually successful in finding the best person for the job.
Once you're actually in the federal interview, the interviewers like to ask two particular types of questions: behavioral and hypothetical. Behavioral questions ask about how you dealt with a situation that happened to you in the past. Hypothetical questions ask what you would do in a potential situation that could happen in the future.
Although both of these questions give the interviewer a good idea of how you would act on the job, behavioral interviews are favored because studies have shown them to be most reliable in predicting your future behavior on the job. Don't be surprised if you find that many of the questions you're asked are behavioral.
What kind of behavioral questions might be asked in an interview? The interviewer could ask something like, "Tell me about a time when you reached a goal and how did you achieve it?" or "Have you ever had a situation where you had to work with a difficult co-worker to get the job done? What kind of situation was it and what did you do in order to work with this person?" These questions will be open-ended so that you can add any information you need to completely answer the question.
It's important that you answer all behavioral interview questions thoroughly but still make sure your answer is brief. More importantly, you must give examples so that the interviewer can truly understand how you dealt with these situations. An interviewer will take your answer of how you dealt with a situation in the past and will assume that you'll act similarly if that same situation arises within their agency in the future. Your example will really paint a picture for the interviewer so make sure to choose an example that shows you in a positive light.
Remember, the interviewer is trying to see if you're a good fit for the agency. Show them how your skills and abilities could really work in a positive way for the agency. In that way, you'll show them that you are the best candidate for the position.