Questions at Federal Government interviews

We analyzed 199 interview reviews for Federal Government from various job sites, social network groups and forums.

Here are the most frequent job interview questions asked by HR managers during initial phone or onsite interviews. This list does not include technical or factual questions.

10 frequent non-technical questions at Federal Government:

What is your greatest weakness?
Tell me about yourself
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
What are your long-term goals?
What are the most difficult decisions you have had to make?
Tell me about a stressful situation and how you dealt with it
Tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it
Why did you leave your last job?
What were your responsibilities in your last job?
What one skill do you possess that you think will be the most important to a hiring manager?

According to our research, hiring managers at Federal Government ask soft skills interview questions 31% more than at other companies.

Federal Government interview question statistics

1. What is your greatest weakness?top question

How to answer

This question ranks as the most challenging for many people. Fortunately, Mr. Simon is here to help!

Interviewers ask this question to gauge your level of self-awareness, your honesty and openness, and your capability for self-improvement.

  1. About Yourself

    No one is perfect and your interviewer doesn't expect you to be perfect either.

    While it is good to be honest and open, it will not help you to put yourself down.

    What's important is to find a weakness that you have overcome or something that is not related to the position for which you are applying.

    For example, one of our clients admitted that he is not very good at public speaking and that he has recently become a member of Toastmasters International to improve. What a respectful answer and approach, in my view!

  2. About The Company

    Research the company (website, social media, etc) to learn about the company culture.

    What personal and professional qualities do they value?

  3. About The Fit

    It is important that the weakness you decide to talk about is not one that will prevent you from performing the job for which you're applying.

    For example, if you're applying for a front-end developer position, do not talk about how you are struggling to understand HTML code.

Pro Tip

Use this question to sell yourself!

It's important to show how well you've overcome a weakness by motivating yourself and learning a new skill to grow professionally.

Statistics

This question is asked 85% more frequently at Federal Government than at other companies.

Take a quiz

Take a quick quiz and check if you’re ready to answer this question at your next job interview:

Which of the following would be the best answer:

ASometimes I just work too hard

BI have trouble saying “no” when a colleague asks for help and I have my own work to finish

CI am a perfectionist

DI cannot think of a single thing

2. Tell me about yourself

How to answer

This question may sound vague, but it actually requires a matter of fact, concise and relevant answer. Here’s how you can approach it.

  1. About Yourself

    What is your current occupation? Define yourself professionally in one statement.

    Pick 3 key skills that make you great at your work (your Key Selling Points). How have you applied these skills?

    Try to give some numbers to support your statement.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company.

    Based on what you know about the company and the job description, why are you interested in the position you are applying for?

  3. About The Fit

    • Based on your Key Selling Points and your knowledge about the company, why do you think you are a good fit for this position?
    • Can you support your statement with relevant examples from your past experiences?

    Try to be concise and stay within 1-2 minutes.

Pro Tip

You can also end with a question like:

Do you know what the current needs in the company/department are, where my skills and experience can help?"

That can help you learn more about the company and the job, turn the "interrogation" into a conversation and will allow you to relax some tension.

Read our blog post to learn more about how to answer this question.

Statistics

This question is asked 31% less frequently at Federal Government than at other companies.

Take a quiz

Take a quick quiz and check if you’re ready to answer this question at your next job interview:

Pick the best answer:

AMy name is Andrew Franklin, I am 28 years old, and I am looking for a job that pays well.

BHello, my name is Natalie Price. I have two children and I love playing billiards and travelling. I am 33 years old.

CHi Mr. Simon, my name is Stanley Clark and I am a certified Project Management professional known for completing projects on time and on budget. I am passionate about building agile work culture and delivering results.

DHi Mr. Simon, my name is Dorothy Hanson. I have previously worked as an accountant in retail, but currently I am trying to transition into the field of healthcare.

3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

How to answer

This question belongs to a family of behavioral, or even more precisely, reflective questions.

The interviewer wants to see whether you are reflective about yourself, whether you are ambitious and strive to grow as a professional, whether you like to learn and develop your skills.

They are also looking for your ambitions to fit the career path opportunities related to the position you are applying for.

  1. About Yourself

    Presumably, you are interested to grow professionally.

    Think about the possibilities that may lie ahead for you: take a personality test (I recommend 16Personalities which is based on Myers-Briggs test), research the internet on what career paths are possible with your skills and current job.

    What challenges do you like overcoming?

    For example, if you are applying for a software tester position, you may find it fascinating to master automated testing in full and eventually become a software engineer, or you may be a natural trainer and love coaching other people which may lead you to become a QA team or department lead, or you may be more interested in understanding business aspects of requirements which may logically lead you into a Business Analyst position.

    However, if you are happy just where you are and want to further your current skills, that is also fine as long as there is a growth path for you that can be imagined and described.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company to learn what career opportunities may be available in the department you are applying to, and what the trends are in the company in general.

    • Is the business expanding, are they opening new locations, or starting new projects?
    • Or are they heavily automating and cutting staff?

    Let’s say you are applying for a UX designer position for a brand-new product.

    In the future, if the product becomes a success - which is what the company hopes for - the company will hire more designers and you may become a lead designer, or you may become a product manager.

    On a side note: If you train your mind to be open to opportunities you will be amazed at how much this world has to offer to you!

  3. About The Fit

    And, of course, try to see where the perfect fit lies between your own potential and aspirations, and the company’s trends and hopes.

    However, beware of the risk of showing too much excitement for future opportunities compared to your attitude towards the current position.

    If you aren’t really excited about the position you are applying for and you demonstrate this lack of enthusiasm, the interviewer may conclude that you are not a good fit for the current position.

    Try to find a source of excitement in the current position as well, otherwise, you may be doing yourself a disservice by applying to a position you will find boring in 2-3 months.

Pro Tip

This question gives you a good opportunity to showcase your Key Selling Points (e.g. “As I am very good at delegating tasks, I can easily see myself leading a team of software testers in the future…”), and end your statement by asking about current initiatives and goals at the company.

It is generally NOT a good idea to say something like:

“Oh, I cannot imagine what happens to me tomorrow, let alone in 5 years”.

This will show you as a person who is unimaginative and not forward-thinking enough to grow with and be a good fit for the company.

Statistics

This question is asked 24% less frequently at Federal Government than at other companies.

Now that you have read some of our recommendations, you may wonder: “Ok, so what’s next? I seem to understand these concepts quite well and they kind of make sense to me, but how do I make sure my answers are actually in accordance with these recommendations, and I will stand out as a strong candidate in my upcoming interview?”

Good question. Assuming you are indeed qualified and fit for the position you are interviewing for, the best thing you can do is make sure the interviewer sees this fit.

There are two ways how you can leverage Mr. Simon’s expertise to help you shine your best:

  1. Go ahead and practice with the Mr. Simon app - it is a completely free, fun and helpful experience!
  2. Request a mock interview with a real human career mentor. During the session we will help you identify your Key Selling Points to emphasize in the interview, and to present them in a way that strongly communicates your value to the company. The 1-hour session costs USD 79.99 and is supplemented by 2 weeks of support via email, free of additional charge.

To request the session, shoot us an email to coaching@mrsimon.ai and attach your resume and job description to expedite the process.

Here’s what our customers are saying.

Amanda, QA Manager:

I searched interview prep via Google and found Mr. Simon. I sent an e-mail requesting help. Natalie was prompt in response. The session was one of the best things to have happened during my job search and interview preparation.
Natalie helped me feel calm and confident. She helped me break down the job description and relate it to my experience. After working with Natalie, I received 2 job offers in the same day.

Anna, Director of Brand and Marketing Strategy:

I had you on the list to reach out since it was your advice that helped me prep differently for my interviews. Thank you for your support and friendship while I was transitioning. It had an impact! I appreciate it and mean it.

Claudia, Project Manager:

I used Mr. Simon to prepare for a job interview, and it helped me re-think my responses and gain confidence. Also, the questions were not very far from real life interview questions. In addition, having the opportunity to hear my own answers and read the recommendations on how to respond concisely was really helpful. I enjoyed using Mr. Simon and would use it again!

4. What are your long-term goals?

How to answer

Even in this age of the so-called Gig Economy, employers are always looking for people who can become their strong and loyal “soldiers,” a part of their “army” to help them conquer their market share against their competitors.

So, even if at this moment this job may be a temporary contract, you never know what opportunities may present themselves to you in this company.

Trust me, your hiring manager doesn’t know either!

So, be open to opportunities and use this question to emphasize how your personal goals correspond with those of the company.

  1. About Yourself

    Start with honestly assessing yourself. (At this moment, you are not sharing these thoughts with anyone, so be as open as you can).

    Imagine that you have all the resources in the world and that all roads are open for you.

    • How would you use them?
    • Which road(s) would you choose?
    • What do you see on the horizon in that direction?

    Be audacious and don’t limit yourself. There is no longer a perspective than “long-term,” so be as futuristic as you possibly can.

    List a few “road” options that you would be enthusiastic about going down.

    For example, this list may be as broad as the following:

    • writer
    • choir director
    • software engineer and architect
    • CEO of a unicorn startup company,
    • entrepreneur.

    As William Shakespeare once said, “We know what we are, but we know not what we may be.”

  2. About The Company

    Now, look at the company.

    • What is the industry they operate in?
    • What is the position you are applying for, and what are potential career growth possibilities within the department, company, and industry?
  3. About The Fit

    Which of your “road” options correspond best with the opportunities presented by this company?

    Highlight this option and focus on it. Imagine, in as much detail as you can, going down this road.

    What would be the major milestones for you, in order to move towards your goal?

    Describe the chosen option by focusing on the first 1-2 milestones, and by presenting it in light of company goals and current initiatives.

    For example, if you are applying for a project manager position in a corporation engaged in the education industry, and your “road” option is “CEO,” your next career step may be a program manager, or an innovations and research manager.

    Explain why you are enthusiastic about reaching these goals, and what makes you think you have the necessary traits and skills to reach them.

    How can the company benefit from these traits and skills of yours already today, in the current role you are applying for?

Pro Tip

Framing your answer in the same terms used by the company will help ensure the interviewer can easily understand your language and help both of you to be “on the same page.”

The easier you make it for the interviewer, the better are your chances they will “vote” for you over other candidates.

Statistics

This question is asked 3.3x more frequently at Federal Government than at other companies.

5. What are the most difficult decisions you have had to make?

How to answer

Employers ask this question because they want to see that when you face a difficult decision or situation you’re able to handle it.

They also want to see what kind of decisions you consider difficult.

For sure, they are looking for a reply that relates to your career or education.

This question is designed to discover how you have managed certain situations and how you behaved in the past, to help predict what you’ll do in the future.

  1. About Yourself

    Refresh your memory and reflect on some specific situations you have dealt with or projects you have worked on.

    • Are you confident and capable when making big decisions?
    • What is your approach to decision-making?
    • Can you stay calm and rational?
    • How strong are your critical thinking skills?
  2. About The Company

    Research the company and its culture, and try to find out what kind of challenges they are facing.

    Search for online reviews and any other useful resources.

    • What will your responsibilities be?
    • What problems and obstacles can you expect to face with this position?
  3. About The Fit

    This is a great opportunity to show exactly how you would perform as an employee under a new boss and to highlight your Key Selling Points!

    Make sure that your approaches meet the standards of the company you are applying to.

    If you know that the quality is important for the company – show how your decisions worked for quality; if it is the speed – give examples of how quickly you could solve these problems; if it is about independent decision-making - emphasize how you made the correct decision by yourself.

    Answering this question, give one or two concrete examples of difficult situations you have actually faced at work.

    Then discuss what decisions you made to remedy the situations.

    Use examples such as changing majors in university, quitting a job, leaving the family business, terminating an employee, relocating to a new city for better opportunities, or even starting a venture.

    Be sure to highlight how things have worked out for you since making this challenging decision.

    Using the STAR method will help you to make your story concise and logical.

Pro Tip

Avoid examples that make you seem indecisive or uncertain.

Be specific. Itemize what you did, how you did it, and how your difficult decision ultimately benefited you, your team and your employer.

You can end your answer with this question:

And do you know what principles the company uses in decision-making?"

It can help you learn more about the company’s priorities, turn the "interrogation" into a conversation and let the interviewer see you have strong intentions to work for them.

Statistics

This question is asked 27.4x more frequently at Federal Government than at other companies.

6. Tell me about a stressful situation and how you dealt with it

How to answer

Nowadays, professional life is stressful everywhere and always. However, there are levels of stress that are so common that we consider them normal, and there are times when they really skyrocket.

Your future employer wants to know how you will behave in such times, whether you will be a helping hand or a burden.

  1. About Yourself

    Remember a time when you had to hit a tight timeline and to work long hours, hard and overtime; or when you found yourself in the middle of a conflict with someone, or with a group of people.

    If you had more than one such occasion, choose one that ended positively and successfully, and ideally, that can demonstrate some of your key skills - your Key Selling Points.

    Most likely, the situation was highly emotional.

    • What helped you persevere?
    • Was there an element that you enjoyed?

    For example, in one of our projects, my team and I had to hit a really tough timeline for a customer, which seemed almost impossible in the beginning.

    However, we knew that we owned the results and that a major decision by the customer depended on the outcome. This sense of ownership, meaning, and impact gave us energy and excitement.

    Those were the challenges that we loved and could deal with for a sustained period of time. Also, the pleasure of working with a highly qualified top manager on the customer’s side added to the enjoyment.

    Now, after a few years, we remember those times as some of the most exciting for our team.

  2. About The Company

    • What do you know about the company, where you may encounter a stressful situation?
    • Are they working on a major project which is approaching a due date?
    • Are they going through a difficult time when cost-saving is a top priority, company culture is full of negativity and mistrust, they have gone through massive layoffs, customers are neglected, and everyone wears a long face?

    These are always stressful times, and you should try to know more about expectations in the company, and how realistic they are.

    Or, are they just a dynamic, highly agile company run by smart and creative folks, which may work excellently for some people and be confusing and mind-blowing for others?

    Do your research.

  3. About The Fit

    Think of your ideal workplace environment.

    • Does this company feel like it?
    • Do you feel excited and enthusiastic about the kinds of stress you may encounter here?

    If you feel compatible with this company culture and enthusiastic about the challenges you expect here, this is a good chance to mention it and to show your excitement.

    Explain your approach or rationale and give your example from the past.

Pro Tip

If you cannot remember any stressful situation with a positive outcome, you can use one with a negative outcome accompanied by your lessons learned.

However, this option should not be your first choice, as the failure to give an example of a successful outcome may portray you as an emotionally immature person.

Statistics

This question is asked 2.5x more frequently at Federal Government than at other companies.

7. Tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it

How to answer

Everyone faces some awkward, difficult, and possibly even dangerous situations on the job once in a while.

The interviewers aren’t asking you this question to remind you about any stress you have experienced in the past or so that you can complain about your old job. They are asking you this question to see how you handled the situation.

It says a lot about you as an employee and as a person. They want to know how you will deal with an unprepared situation that might arise during your work tenure.

  1. About Yourself

    Try to think of a time when outside forces created a stressful situation.

    • What was the context?
    • What was the challenge?
    • Did you step in?
    • Were you able to create a solution that could make everyone happy?
    • What did you learn from that situation?
    • How would you handle this situation should it happen again in the future?

    Avoid examples that make you seem indecisive or uncertain, and keep your answer positive.

    This is your chance to show that you have problem-solving skills. Showcase these skills using the STAR method, which will help you effectively organize your response when answering this type of question.

  2. About The Company

    Do your research about the company. What challenges and kinds of situations may you face in your new role?

    Read carefully the job description and the list of responsibilities required.

  3. About The Fit

    Do your best to ensure your interviewer that you are a person who can identify, isolate, and solve problems.

    Ultimately, it doesn't matter how big of a difficulty you had with any particular project. What really matters is the process of how you overcame that difficulty and whether you are capable of handling difficult situations in the future.

    Choose your example wisely: if you're looking at a team leader or manager role, it might be better to talk about a people issue rather than technical.

    If you're looking at a developer or architect role, then highlight something more technical.

    Name your soft skills as well, such as project management, dealing with difficult people, pushing back requirements that were inadequate, etc. Talk only about your fits which are relevant to the job you want to get.

Pro Tip

Any company would prefer to hire a mature person, capable of rising above complex situations.

Therefore, make it a point to describe a situation in which you utilized your strong personal and professional skills. Emphasize how the situation helped you grow in different aspects of life.

Statistics

This question is asked 6.9x more frequently at Federal Government than at other companies.

8. Why did you leave your last job?

How to answer

This question may be a little touchy for some people, but it's a question asked by interviewers, to find out why you left, in order to better understand how you may or may not make a good fit with their company.

Remember, never speak ill of your old company (this will not go over well).

  1. About Yourself

    Most likely, there are three possible reasons you left or are leaving your last job:

    • You are looking for a career change
    • You are unhappy with your current employment
    • You were let go.

    Whatever the reason, it's best to always speak in a positive light.

  2. About The Company

    Based on your research about the company and the position, what do you like most about the company?

  3. About The Fit

    If you are looking for career advancement or a career change, you can be very upfront and honest. Be as enthusiastic as you can about the position.

    If you were unhappy with your previous job, focus on the positives. Talk about the ways that you will best fit in with the company, in the role for which you're applying.

    If you were let go, focus on the positive. Share your accomplishments at your previous employment.

Pro Tip

Whatever the reason you are looking for a new opportunity, always turn things around to show how you are the perfect fit for the job for which you are interviewing!

Statistics

This question is asked 2% less frequently at Federal Government than at other companies.

9. What were your responsibilities in your last job?

How to answer

This is a good opportunity to demonstrate that you have experience or knowledge suitable for the job you are applying for.

Even if you have never done exactly this specific kind of job, usually you should be able to name a few “transferable” skills that you used in your previous work assignments that are quite easily applicable to the position you are applying for.

  1. About Yourself

    Remember your last (or current) job and compile a list of things you had to do while working there.

    If you don’t know where to start, picture your typical working day at one of your previous jobs, or college day if you are applying for your first job ever.

    Describe the categories of tasks in bullet points. Then, try to remember the less ordinary tasks you had to do as well, and add them to the list.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company and the job description.

    • What do you expect to be doing in this job?
    • How would your performance be measured?

    List a few items in bullet points.

  3. About The Fit

    Choose a few task categories that seem like a match between your experience and the requirements of the current position. Think of a couple of relevant examples to illustrate your experience.

    Craft your stories using the STAR method.

Pro Tip

Optionally, you can end with a question like “Does this correspond with the expectations for this role? Could you give me an example of what is expected from a successful candidate within the first, say, 3 months?"

That can help you learn more about the company and the job, turn the "interrogation" into a conversation and will allow you to relax some tension.

Statistics

This question is asked 4.0x more frequently at Federal Government than at other companies.

10. What one skill do you possess that you think will be the most important to a hiring manager?

How to answer

Employers place a lot of emphasis on finding candidates with the right skills and competencies for their organizations.

Depending on the career sector and profession you choose to work in, there are very specific skills, abilities and knowledge needed to do the job well.

The interviewer asks this question to make sure you will be a good fit with your skills and experience and will be a great addition to their team.

  1. About Yourself

    If you’re not sure which skill would be best to share, consider your previous work experiences.

    • Where did you excel?
    • What would your peers say you’re especially proficient at?
    • Have you ever received recognition for meeting a particular objective or excelling in a specific area?If so, your skills likely assisted you in reaching this achievement.
    • What personal talents or attributes helped you meet that milestone?

    Ask former coworkers or managers to help you to determine your strengths that made you unique. Imagine yourself as a manager who needs an employee to fill the position you are currently applying for.

    What would you as the manager expect from a candidate for this job?

  2. About The Company

    Start by reviewing the job description and making note of any required skills or abilities that match your own.

    The job posting is a great guide for what employers want to see in candidates. In addition to job requirements, consider the depiction of the company and its culture in the job description.

    Be sure to research the company by reviewing its website for additional information to get to know what skill you should mention.

  3. About The Fit

    It’s important to highlight your best hard and soft skills (your Key Selling Points) to position yourself as a well-rounded candidate.

    Though you may have several different areas of strength, include only those that are relevant to the job. Adaptability, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and effective communication – it is the list of most common soft skills that can be helpful in any job, so you can choose the one to share with the hiring manager that best describes you.

    But to make your answer stronger, the skill should be specific to the job you are applying for. Be certain to give examples of how this skill helped you in your last job.

Pro Tip

It is important to be able to distinguish your skills from personal qualities. The first are acquired in the process of work and training, and the second characterize you as a person.

Statistics

This question is asked 5.6x more frequently at Federal Government than at other companies.

You don't have to be alone in your job search!

Mr. Simon invites you to join the Work Search Buddy Network that supports both individuals seeking their next job role and working professionals. Members of our network come together to learn and practice new skills and network with others through our regular interactive events where they establish meaningful connections and have a chance to promote their personal brand and stand out in the marketplace.

Join our Work Search Buddy Network Meetup Group to become part of our growing and supportive community!


This page has been updated on March 17, 2022.

You can practice answering this question, as well as over 160 other common job interview questions from Federal Government by engaging in a mock interview with Mr. Simon. As an artificial being, his undeniable benefits include:

24/7 availability24/7 availability
He will never make you feel intimidatedHe will never make you feel intimidated
The current version is freeThe current version is free

Worth a try?