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APS Interview coaching

By Ringer 16 November 2011 33

I have been applying for government positions in different agencies over the last year. I’ve made it through to interview stage a few times now, but seem to stumble at this last hurdle.

The interview situation brings me quite unstuck and the whole thing seems to fall to bits. As you can imagine the more often you fail, the more likely you feel you’ll fail the next time round. I feel that I need some professional advice. So, does anyone know any good APS interview coaches in Canberra OR anyone who does phone coaching in other states?

Any suggestions?

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APS Interview coaching
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LSWCHP 10:33 pm 21 Nov 11

I’ve been in private enerprise for over 25 years, and if I could offer one piece of advice it would be ‘Be Prepared”.

I can’t count the number of candidates who’ve sat in front of me, apparently stunned that we actaully have the nerve to ask them questions about topics they claim to be experts in. It’s as if they just expect to have a friendly chat about the footy on the weekend, and then be offered an $80K position with no further effort.

I interviewed a recent graduate from A Very Large local tertiary institution a few years ago. In response to one question he said “Jeez, I just had an exam on this very subject a few weeks ago….sorry…can’t tell you anything about it”.

Needless to say he didn’t get an offer. So, know what the job is about, know what the agency or company are about, and if you claim to know stuff then you’d better have done some revision on those topics or you’re gonna look stupid and waste everybody’s time.

OzBroz 9:53 pm 21 Nov 11

Agree with the STAR (or I use SAO – situation, action, outcome) method of “story telling”

Also agree you need to be prepared with a few good examples (even if you dont really know the questions, a few good examples means you can cover off on most), take some notes in with you.

But also as someone on many selection panels, the thing I am looking for is YOUR role, what YOU did. Even in the team work answer, I need to know that you understood your role in the team, and the roles of your team mates, and how it fit together.

My only other advice is be yourself, at interview, we already like you, but want to see if you fit with the team/organisation.

Good Luck

merlin bodega 9:03 pm 21 Nov 11

APS interview questions are often hard to answer because they ask so much and the questioner is sometimes not good at asking a question. Success applicants answer the question by staying focused and avoiding the temptation to ramble. In the most difficult cases it can help to write down the points you have to answer as the question is being asked. Tick off the points as you answer the points asked. When they are all ticked off you know you have answered the question. Its obvious but I am amazed how many people I have interviewed over the years simply don’t answer the question.

It’s just a game. learn how to play it.

nazasaurus 6:55 pm 21 Nov 11

Using sophisticated (for lack of a better word) and relevant examples is also important, too many people just go into a literal description of their current or previous roles, telling you what they do and how they do it… this doesnt score you well against the criteria being measured.

missanonymous 4:42 pm 21 Nov 11

A lot does come down to who you know. After all the APS can’t just promote at will, so there are often internal candidates who the boss has identified for promotion applying, especially for bulk rounds. The internal candidates know the jargon and their examples (especially if they are already acting in the role) could be the most relevant to the position. The ILS is so big that the panel can’t ask questions relating to every single sub-criterion, so they have to choose, and they can choose with someone in mind if they want to… My advice is to keep trying – and don’t be too fussy – just get in somewhere – if the APS is right for you you will soon know it and get promoted anyway…

AlanHB 11:14 am 17 Nov 11

I guess it also goes without saying that you should make sure you arrive awake and pepped up for the interview – having to recall/recite all these answers in STAR form can take it out of you sometimes.

For one APS interview I made sure that I had a big breakfast and was all good for the interview. They must have asked me close to 20 questions, taking up an hour. I ran out of pre-written examples (ie the ones on my application) and was just pulling more from wherever I could think of. Finally they asked me a question which to me was nearly exactly the same question as a previous one. I just said “let me think about an example”…..silence. They prompted “well you said a pretty good one before”. I answered “yeah, but I really don’t want to repeat myself”. Everyone laughed and moved onto the next question. I got that job.

For a different APS interview it was near the end of the working day. I’d had a particularly bad event with a client immediately before strolling over to the interview and it was just taking up my headspace. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was really tired. I really didn’t feel like talking about work, I would have rathered going home and sitting on a couch. The interview started well, but then when I made an off the hand joke that had the entire panel laughing I just clicked and went into entertainer mode – pulling off humourous answers to each question. It was one of my finest comedic performances. I even had everyone discussing how exactly this massive desk got into the office in the first place. Did it come up the lift? Through the window?

However funny guys don’t get the job. No worries.

Secret Squirrel 9:16 am 17 Nov 11

I’ve sat on over 50 Selection Advisory Committees for APS positions and jonquil’s advice at #2 is by far the best. Be confident, be prepared and use examples. Elaborate but try not to waffle or get off topic, and try to use examples that realate to the position you’re being interviewed for. And try to follow your example through to a positive conclusion – “I know I did this well because……”

Intiiguing. Is OP Vicki Smith?

AlanHB 11:01 pm 16 Nov 11

I’ll support everyone who said “use STAR in the interview”, that seems to do the trick. I had an interview with Defence in July. I was offered the job in August (or something like that). Waiting for security stuff to get done so I assume I’ll be starting next July 🙂

I consulted a coach, her details are/were:

Vicki Smith
Ph: (02) 6295 3249 W or 0419 425969 M
(Business Hours ~ Mon-Thurs)
Email: Vicki Smith

Basically I had a quick chat to her, sent her my application and job description, and she went through them in her own time and gave me the rundown on what was strong about the application and what wasn’t, we went through a lot of the application and how it was going to be relevant to the interview. It was a good process (all on the phone). I was offered the job so I must have done ok in the interview.

NoAddedMSG 10:33 pm 16 Nov 11

I seem to spend half my life on interview panels at the moment. I do think it is worth finding a coach – or several different ones, and getting some practice in. The advice I give most often when people seek feedback (and I actively encourage them to) is to spend more time preparing. I tell them spend twice the amount of time preparing for the interview as they did writing their application (which may be overkill but the bulk of people we interview are under 25 so they really need the practice). Many of the questions we ask are predictable, and yet so many times when we get to the “what is it which interests you about this role” question people stumble over it. I also find scenario questions are usually badly answered – but there are some really generic ways of approaching scenarios which can be practiced in advance.

The other thing I tell people is that the first thing you should do after any interview is to write down all the questions you were asked (practice for next time) and ring up and seek feedback. Most people are not good at giving feedback, so have a set of questions you want to ask them (such as “were my explanations clear” and “were there any questions where I missed the point of what was being asked”) and work on being friendly and personable when you call so they are less likely to get defensive.

Frustrated 9:45 pm 16 Nov 11

I hear your pain, I have been in the APS for 25 years now, and my Interview skills stink. I cannot sell myself if my life depended on it. I just clam up at the interview, and it ruins my interview etc

echoztrip 8:04 pm 16 Nov 11

I don’t know whether EIG will help? (I don’t work for them, just know of them)

Snarky 7:52 pm 16 Nov 11

mareva said :

Where is OP to explain Snarky’s call out? I’m intrigued.

It’s linked in my post @#3, but here it is again.


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