Ask a Coach

Q: What is an SF-50? The job announcement I'm looking at says I should attach it.

A: An SF-50, also known as the "Notification of Personnel Action Form," is a form for current and former Federal employees that records any personnel actions taken regarding the employee. Most of the time these actions are promotions, appointments, reassignments, or pay increases. They can also record awards or separation from the Federal government. The SF-50 also contains your position title, which you'll want to verify is correct before you attach it. Other information included on the SF-50 include your pay plan; your position's occupational code; your current pay band or GS-Level and what step within the band or level you're at; your veteran's preference, if applicable; how long you've been in your position; and other HR-related information. If you need a copy of your SF-50, contact your personnel or HR office for guidance to obtain one.

Doing a Post-Interview Review

You finally had the interview you've been anticipating. Now it's just time to sit back and wait to see if you hear anything, right? Not exactly. It's important to engage in a post-interview review in order to learn from your interview to improve for your next one, whether that's soon or in the future.

Don't Wait

It might be uncomfortable to do, and it's probably the last thing you want to do after a nerve-wracking interview, but you're going to best remember what took place in your interview right after it occurs. Take a bit of time to think through what happened. Were there any questions that caught you off guard? Were there any questions that were hard to answer? Were there any you felt very comfortable with? What was your overall impression of the interview? Jotting down some notes will also be helpful so you can remember what you did well and what you need to work on for the future.

Identify Weaknesses

It's ok to think that you did everything you possibly could for your interview and can't think of anything to improve. Most of the time, however, you'll be able to come up with something to work on. Were you too nervous, causing you to stumble a bit or use "um" or "ah" too much? Did you go too quickly when giving your answer? Did your answer seem to drag on too long? Small issues like that can be worked on as well.

Make a Plan

What can you do in order to improve for your next interview? Identifying any weak subject matter is the first place to start. Was there a question you know you could have answered more completely? Was there a core competency you didn't have a very good example for? If that's the case, make sure you spend additional time working on that competency before your next interview. Do you think you said too many "ums" or "ahs?" Practice your answers and focus on not saying those words, or record yourself going over an answer, listening to see how smoothly your answer went.

Prepare for the Next Interview

Remember, the best way to prepare for a Federal interview is to come up with examples of when you did the duties and qualifications contained in the job announcement of the position, along with the skills and core competencies of the job announcement's vacancy questionnaire. If you find you were shaky with one of these areas, make sure you spend extra time on them for your next interview.

Ask for Feedback

If, unfortunately, you find out you didn't get the interview, don't hesitate to contact the person who arranged your interview to see if you can get some feedback on how you did. Although there's no guarantee you'll get feedback, most of the time you'll be able to find out something about how you did. Many times you'll even be told what competencies were strong and which were weaker. Take this information into consideration as you prepare for your next interview.

Post-interview review should be considered a vital part of your interview process if you want to improve for the future.