Being a new year, with new hopes, I wanted to canvass the correct answer to a very standard APS interview question. I’ve been in the APS long enough to know I should see this coming and slam dunk it several times over – but seemingly I’ve been unable to.
The question is: “The minister’s office (or someone suitably important) rings and urgently requests some information. Your manager is away and there is nobody else you can go to for authorisation. What do you do?”
I’ve taken a few different approaches but they seem to want a rock-solid no exceptions answer rather than a flexible case-by-case response.
In summary my answer has generally been that this has never happened to me, because it honestly hasn’t. I follow this by saying that while you might think you can make a judgement, if it’s sensitive enough to need authorisation (and there are no other options for authorisation) then the bottom line is you cannot give out the information. I then might add there are usually standard procedures for giving out information and you could try to assist the person requesting the information by using those correct channels.
I assume the question is about whether you are capable of making decisions and also whether you are aware what you can and can’t do at various levels within the APS?
The above response appears to amuse interview panels –and also sounds like you like to pass the buck. They will say “So the minister urgently needs something… and you’re NOT going to give it to them….??? Ok…. Ok…. Hmmmm…”
Any ideas? What’s the right thing to say?