Preparing for the interview:
Know about current government priorities.
You may be expected to know about current government priorities in your next interview.
For example, read the most recent
Ontario Budget and
Speech from the Throne. All of these documents are readily available
on the Ontario.ca website. They tell you a
lot about the environment in which the public service is operating.
Explore the issues facing the ministry or branch that you are being interviewed
Go to the ministry's website and do some research. You may be expected to be familiar
with what the ministry's mission, goals and current initiatives are in relation
to government priorities. Find out about the issues that are front-and-centre by
reading news releases on the website. Be prepared to talk about your interests in
Expect a panel of interviewers.
There are usually two or three people who conduct the job interview. Don't be thrown
off by the fact they are writing. Don't wait for them to finish writing - keep talking.
These notes are primarily used as a reminder for panel members about your responses
that they can use to reflect on when making their decisions.
Think about why you are the best person for the job.
What is it about you and the competencies and experiences you have that makes you
an appealing candidate? Think about how your strengths and competencies/skills "fit"
this job. Look carefully at the job ad, the list of qualifications and the job specification.
The interview questions will be based on these qualifications.
Bring references with you.
References are a way for the interview panel to confirm what you have told them
and to ask additional information about you. Use the names of current and former
supervisors and other individuals who are able to provide qualitative information
about your employment history. Ensure that you ask each reference for permission
to use their name.
During the Interview:
Recognize your individual efforts.
The interview panel is interested in your individual performance so try to use the
word "I", as opposed to "we". If what you did was part of a team effort, explain
what your role was on the team. While credit should be given to the team, you should
focus your answer on your value-added contributions.
Describe past experiences in terms of what you accomplished, not just what you did.
When referring to past job experiences talk about and be specific concerning the
outcomes you achieved and how your own learning and development were enhanced. Try
to quantify your experiences when possible by using numerical examples.
Structure your answers for maximum impact.
Keep your responses concise, structured and based on the questions. Be prepared
to answer behavioural-based questions where you are asked how you would handle certain
situations or how you met certain challenges. A common technique for answering these
types of questions is called PAR where you can describe your experience in terms
- Problem that you faced
- Action you took
- Result(s) you achieved
Below are some example questions and tips on how to prepare for
Questions aimed at asking information about your work history, skills or knowledge,
as they relate to the job.This tends to be an opening question in OPS interviews.
Your answer to this question will be assessed and scored based on how well you organize
your facts to show that you understand the position and how qualified you are. Be
brief, and focus on how you ‘fit’ into the position.
“Briefly describe why you are interested in this position and what skills and experience
you possess that make you an ideal candidate.” To prepare for this type of question,
read the job ad and job description and develop four or five points that link your
work-related strengths, background and experience to qualifications of the position.
Remember that the panel has read your résumé already, so try not to just repeat
what is in it.
Technical or Job-Specific Knowledge
Questions aimed to assess your knowledge of specific programs, policies, or procedures
that are related to the work of the position.
In most cases, you should have prior knowledge or experience that will contribute
to a good response.
“Please describe the Premier’s top priorities for the ministry and how you would
develop a press release outlining these priorities.” If you know that the position
will primarily work with a specific process and you don’t have prior knowledge,
be sure to research the ministry and provincial government internet sites for relevant
policies and directives to increase your knowledge in that topic prior to the interview.
Situational or Scenario - based
Questions aimed at presenting you with a hypothetical situation that you may be
faced with on the job and ask you to suggest a solution. These questions tend to
assess analytical and problem solving skills and the ability to handle daily tasks
effectively. It is important to think effectively on your feet and to formulate
your responses in an organized manner.
You are working on a project that has to be completed by tomorrow a.m. Your manager
comes to your desk and gives you an assignment to be completed by noon tomorrow.
You know you can’t meet both deadlines. What would you do? Take a minute in the
interview before responding, so that you can think about the process you would go
through to address such an issue, who you would consult with, and what results you
would anticipate obtaining.
Questions aimed at drawing on your previous experience and behaviours to provide
examples of how you demonstrated specific skills in previous situations. These kinds
of questions are also sometimes referred to as “competency-based”. They are specific,
and challenge the candidate to provide concrete examples of their previous achievements
in different types of situations. These are the most commonly used questions in
OPS interviews and they look for how you do your work, not just what you do.
“Conflict is inevitable when working with others. Please describe a recent conflict
you had with a co-worker and how you dealt with the situation. Also describe what
you learned to help you work with that individual in the future.” OR“Tell me about
a time when you had to design a solution to a key problem facing your work unit.
What did you do, and what was the result?” To prepare for this type of question,
think of job ad qualifications and develop responses including: what you have actually
accomplished in the past, what your involvement was, what the scope of your assignment
was, what you did, and what the outcome was.
This will show your interest and reveal that you have researched and prepared for
the interview. Don't be shy to ask for clarification or jot down your own thoughts.
Make sure that you understand the question in order to demonstrate how you are the
best person for the job. If you are struggling to formulate a response to a question,
you may ask to come back to it at the end.
Think outside the box.
Don't forget about your experiences that aren't directly job-related. You may have
volunteer experience, been elected to a council or board, participated in a professional
association, coached a team or contributed to your community in some other way.
What did those experiences teach you and how did they shape you as a person?
Ask for feedback.
Whether you were successful or not, your interview should be a learning experience.
Ask for specific details on your strengths and weaknesses; so you will know where
you can improve.
Write down the questions you were asked.
Before your next interview, develop detailed responses to these questions so you
will be prepared for these or similar questions.
Reflect on and learn for your next interview.
If you were unsuccessful try not to be discouraged or take it personally. Reflect
on and learn from your experience.