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Fact sheet 9: The interview

Get the facts

If your application is short-listed, you may be invited to an interview by a selection team.

Using the selection criteria as a guide, you may be asked a range of questions to demonstrate your skills and abilities. These could include behavioural based questions, and hypothetical scenario questions. You may also be asked to do exercises such as a work sample test, presentations, or psychometric testing.

If an agency is recruiting for a number of positions, you may go through an assessment centre which could include group work exercises.

You can prepare for the interview by:

  • looking at the agency website to understand what they do (their most recent annual report may be helpful, along with their corporate plan)
  • reviewing your responses to the selection criteria, picking a few additional examples to use in the interview
  • doing a mock interview using the selection criteria to think up possible questions.

In a typical recruitment process the selection team will rate your suitability for the role based on your performance at interview, statement against the selection criteria, other activities (e.g. work sample test), and referees comments (if sought). The most suitable person will be offered the position. In some processes, an order of merit may also be established.

In the know…tips and hints
Think of your top three skills/qualities and why you have applied for the role. You may be asked to talk about this at the interview. Use examples that best relate to the duties of the job, and be honest.

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What happens now?

Following the interview, the selection team will decide who is most suitable for the job. They may contact your referees for confirmation of your skills, abilities and experience. Once their recommendation is approved, the successful applicant will be offered the job.

Some agencies may let you know quickly if you’ve been successful, others may take longer.

You can ask about the expected timeframe for filling the job. If you haven’t heard anything in the weeks after the interview, call the contact officer, and enquire about the timeframe for announcing the decision.

If you’re unsuccessful, you can seek feedback from the contact officer, including a copy of your individual assessment. You may wish to seek feedback about:

  • your performance at the interview or on other assessment activities
  • your strengths and those areas where you may need to improve your skills, abilities or gain more experience.

In the know…tips and hints
Choose referees who can provide evidence to support your claims by commenting on your skills and abilities, and past work performance. It is generally expected that one of your referees be a current or recent supervisor.


Assessment centres: involve a number of applicants doing activities such as job simulations, role-playing and group discussions. Skills and behaviours are assessed according to the job requirements, e.g. teamwork and interpersonal communication.

Behavioural questions: usually begin with a statement like ‘Tell us about a time when…’ or ‘Describe a situation where…’. They are based on the principle that past behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour, and demonstrate what you did, thought, said, and how you acted in a work-related situation.

Hypothetical scenario questions: set up fictitious work-related problems which require a solution. Applicants are asked to describe how they would respond to, or deal with the situation.

Order of merit: from the recruitment process, a range of people may be found suitable for the job, based on the evidence collected. The order of merit can either consist of a pool of applicants all rated as suitable, or as a list ranking applicants in order as suitable for the job. The order of merit is valid for 12 months from the date the job was advertised in the Gazette, and the agency can draw from the list to fill other similar positions.

Psychometric testing: these are sometimes used to assess your abilities, personality, behaviours and interests and may include aptitude and/or personality tests.

Selection team or panel: may consist of two to three people, usually APS employees, who assess applicants based on their skills and abilities and how well they fit the requirements of the job. The team often includes the job supervisor.

Scribe: this person takes notes for the selection team during the interview, helps write the selection report, and may contact and document referee comments. Usually they are not involved in the decision making process.

Work sample test: involves doing exercises or activities similar to those required in the job, e.g. a writing exercise.

In the know…tips and hints

If your application is not successful, you may not be notified by the agency. The application kit should inform you of the process for unsuccessful applicants.

In the know…tips and hints

During the interview it is okay to:

  • take time to think about your answer
  • ask the selection team to rephrase the question if you don’t understand
  • take a copy of your application, or other notes with you for quick reference.