Earlier articles talked about preparing for an interview in the context of the basics of interview preparation—how to calm your nerves, preparing what to wear, presenting yourself as professional, and planning transportation; as well as preparing CCAR stories; this article discusses what happens once the interview panel has stopped talking.

A good interview is not a one-way street. While interviewers are determining whether you are a good match for the job, you should use the interview as an opportunity to learn whether or not the job is a good fit for YOU. One way to do that is to be prepared with questions for the panel.

You will be given an opportunity to ask questions of the panel during most interviews. Never say that you don’t have any questions! You should always have 3 to 5 good questions prepared to ask. The questions you ask should not be about you (how much training will I get? Will I have the opportunity for promotion? Etc); instead, the questions you ask should show your interest in meeting the employer’s needs, not yours.

Some sample questions include:

* What are the next steps in this process?

* What would you like to see the person who is selected accomplishment in their first 90 days? First year?

* What challenges for the ABC program do you see over the next year or so?

* What made the prior incumbent successful in the job?

Once your questions are answered, do not simply walk out; be sure to close the interview. This should include:

* Shaking hands with everyone

* Thanking everyone for their time

* Making a short closing statement that includes asking for the job:

“Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss the position today. This is interview has made me even more interested in the position and I’m looking forward to joining your team!”

* Ask when you might hear, or if told they have more interviews, ask if you might follow up by such and such a date, if you haven’t heard

Two final steps for your interview: write and send thank you notes to those who interviewed you; and, assess your interview for lessons-learned. Your thank you notes should be sent within 48 hours of your interview. Given the difficulties getting snail mail to federal agencies, email is appropriate. When you assess your interview performance and look for lessons-learned, consider the following:

* What questions were you asked? Write down as many as you can remember.

* What answers seemed to resonate with the interviewers? What answers did not work as well?

* Were there things you wished you had said? What were they?

Did the interviewers (or you) commit to specific follow-up dates or activities? If so, what were they? Be sure to write them down.

Identify areas for improvement.


Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.