7. The interview and other assessment: cracking the code
Get the facts
Once applications have closed, your application will be assessed against the requirements of the job and compared with other applicants to make a short-list of those applicants who are suitable, or most suitable, to be considered further. This comparison is generally done by examining your CV, application, statement or pitch. Short-listing may sometimes involve a phone or Skype interview, or use online assessment methods such as video interviews, multiple choice questions or psychometric testing.
If you are short-listed for further consideration, you may be invited to attend a face-to-face interview. Using the job description as a guide, you may be asked a range of questions to demonstrate your skills and abilities. These could include behavioural-based questions and/or hypothetical scenario questions.
As part of, or in place of an interview, you may be asked to do exercises such as a work sample test, a presentation, or psychometric testing.
If an agency is recruiting for a number of jobs, you may go through an assessment centre which could include group work exercises.
In a typical recruitment process the selection panel will rate your suitability for the job based on your application, your performance at interview, other activities such as a work sample test, and referee comments if sought. The most suitable person, based on merit, will be offered the job. In some processes, a merit list may also be established that the agency may use to fill a similar vacancy for a period of 18 months following the advertisement in the Public Service Gazette.
APS agencies can source suitable candidates from merit lists established by other agencies and a Department of the Parliament established under the Parliamentary Services Act 1999 in some circumstances. Unless you decide to opt out of this arrangement, your details may be released or shared with other agencies. If this happens, you may be contacted by another agency with a similar vacancy if they think you would be a suitable candidate.
Before the interview
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 the agency corporate plan
- reviewing your application and picking a few additional examples to use in the interview
- doing a mock interview using the job description to think up possible questions.
At the interview
During the interview it is okay to:
- take time to think about your answer
- ask the selection panel to rephrase the question if you don’t understand
- take a copy of your application or other notes with you for quick reference.
What happens now?
Following the interview or other forms of assessment, the selection panel will make a recommendation to the decision-maker about who is most suitable for the job.
They may first contact your referees for confirmation of your skills, abilities and experience. Once the panel’s recommendation is approved, the successful applicant may be offered the job.
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. You may wish to ask for feedback about:
- your application
- your performance at the interview or on other assessment activities
- your strengths and those areas where you may need to improve your skills and abilities or gain more experience.
This feedback can help you to improve your application and performance next time.
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.
Merit list: also called an ‘order of merit’ or ‘merit pool’. From the recruitment process, a range of people may be found suitable for the job, based on the evidence collected. The merit list can either consist of a pool of applicants all rated as suitable or higher, or as a list ranking applicants in order of suitability. The merit list is valid for 18 months from the date the job was advertised in the Public Service Gazette, which means the agency can use the list to fill other similar jobs during that time. Merit lists can also be shared with other APS agencies and Parliamentary Service Departments to fill similar jobs in some circumstances.
Psychometric tests: these are sometimes used to assess your abilities, behaviours and interests and may include aptitude and/or personality tests. They may assess things like numerical reasoning, abstract thinking, problem solving, interpersonal style or time management.
Scribe: this person takes notes for the selection panel during the interview, helps write the selection report, and may contact referees and document their comments. They are not involved in the decision-making process.
Selection panel or team: may consist of two or more people, usually APS employees, who assess applicants based on their skills and abilities and how well they fit the requirements of the job. The selection panel often includes the job supervisor.
Work sample test: involves doing exercises or activities similar to those required in the job, e.g. a writing exercise.
In the know
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.
Choose referees who can provide evidence to support your claims by commenting on your skills, abilities and past work performance. It is generally expected that one of your referees will be a current or recent supervisor.
If your application is not successful, you may not be notified by the agency.
The information kit should advise you of the process for unsuccessful applicants.