Interview Tips

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 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 for.

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 these areas.

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 of the:

  • Problem that you faced
  • Action you took
  • Result(s) you achieved

Below are some example questions and tips on how to prepare for them.

Type of Question

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.

Ask Questions.

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?

Post Interview:

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.

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