Any government job is likely to deal with people: i:e to serve the public. The emphasis would be on customer service and care, dealing with difficult clients and giving the best advice and information possible. The aim at any government job interview is to find out whether you are the type of person who can deal with others effectively, who can cope in a crisis and who has very good communication skills because that is likely to be the main part of the job at hand. Interviewers would be trying to get to know your strengths in dealing with others and whether you are the right fit for the function you would be helping to execute. Some popular interview questions would be the following:
1. Personal History: Past Experience, Present and Future
Favourite questions here are: "Tell me about your educational background", "How does your education match you up for this post?", "What training have you had to prepare you for this position?"
Always answer personal questions truthfully because lying merely stores up problems for the future. If you did not really enjoy your schooldays, for example, say so, with clear reasons. Then show how you slowly changed your opinion to such a degree that you made subsequent education work for you. That would make you appear much more resilient, mature and attractive than pretending you enjoyed it from day one. Show the relevance of your degree or college qualifications to the job you are seeking and how you would use it to good advantage. Your answer might even give an innovative idea the interviewers might not have thought of. Make sure you go on occasional training so that you can at least show you are keeping up with the new developments, and ahead of the trends.
2. Are you reading any books at the moment?
This is simply to get behind your facade, to see what kind of interests you have and the real person behind the mask. Our chosen books tell a lot about us and often these kind of questions are not as simple as they sound. They are likely to reveal far more about your potential match to the job than the direct questions, especially your passions in life. For example, if you are not reading anything it says volumes about your own desire to self educate, to learn and to raise your development standards. Reading books is a sign of being alive, of being intelligent and being curious. An absence of books would say more about you than whatever you actually say.
3. What did you enjoy most and least in your last job?
This is another very good question because it helps to pin down what makes you tick, what you really like and what would put you off. This is about self-knowledge. You need to appreciate what turns you on and off and what has helped to get you to where you are today. For example, if the things you didn't enjoy were allied to what you are applying for now, that would rule you out because you would be getting more of the same in another form. It also helps to draw out your sincerity in what you truly desire in your life. Make sure you really know how you felt about your last job so that you can identity what you liked and disliked about it.
4. Do you prefer working alone or in groups?
Again, this is designed to show whether you are a team player or a loner. If you are the leader type who prefers to use your initiative and work on your own then you would be unsuitable for a social work job, for example, that definitely needs team players. Whichever you select gives an idea of how you would slot into their team or department, or whether you might be suitable for something else. There is no right or wrong answer here, just what feels right for you.
5. What experiences have you had in dealing with the general public?
This is one of the most important questions and your experiences will either make you sound ideal or disastrous to them. If you broadly get on with people, that might be a great foundation, but whatever you say will be used either for or against you because they are seeking candidates with good people skills. Make sure you have a couple of concrete examples ready to demonstrate your skills and empathy.
6. What experiences have you had in dealing with difficult customers?
This is the real cracker, the one that will make or break you. If you cannot handle difficult customers, that would be a major stumbling block for you in a job where dealing with irritated members of the public will be routine. Be very clear about the circumstances, what happened and how you dealt with it, especially how you resolved any tricky issues that arose. The main aim is to see you in action and how you would look after yourself and others in a crisis.
7. Do you prefer to have a job with set tasks and responsibilities, or where your tasks change on a frequent basis?
This question aims to separate the leaders from the followers. If you are good at using your initiative and being self-directed then you would be different in approach and appeal from someone who prefers closer direction, more routine and more regularity. By stating which type of job you prefer the interviewers would be able to see your potential development while gauging your personality and ambitions more accurately. Be clear about which would suit you so that you would then be placed in the right environment for your growth. For example, if you are easily bored, then a changing routine would be much more appropriate to motivate you.
8. In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our department?
Hopefully, you would have thought about the personal impact you hope to make on the new job. Most people will not hire just for looks and personality. It is all about getting the job done in the public service, keeping the public and your colleagues happy. If you can contribute to making that happen in some way, you would be most valued. Is there anything you could better? Anything you could introduce to make the service more effective? Anything that could be changed, especially as you are a service user too? Any suggestion would show your careful thought about the job and the fact that you would be coming in to help to make that difference and the job a little bit more fulfilling for all concerned.
©Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH) 2011
Emotional Health and People Management Consultant
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"