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Government Interviews

Be Confident, Not Arrogant

You have researched your desired position, polished your resume, put together an interview game plan, and are ready to go. You have a dark suit on (but not a very expensive one—remember, your interviewers live on a government salary!), and you are ready to shine. Just do not think you can outshine your interviewers. Government interviewers stress the importance of exhibiting confidence and humility without sounding arrogant. According to one high-level government attorney who interviews candidates daily, “Arrogance indicates the candidate's inability to work in a team, which is essential for government attorneys. We are only as strong as our weakest lawyer. So we look for candidates who can assist their colleagues when necessary.”

Getting an offer for a government position requires you to convince your interviewers that you are team oriented, that you value working even on small cases, and that you do not treat the first few years of the government experience as “paying dues” for getting to work on more prestigious, high-profile matters. No matter how impressive your credentials are, tuck away your sense of entitlement and express enthusiasm and sincere gratefulness for being considered for the job. Finally, do not forget to emphasize that your interest is not primarily in having shorter hours; show that you are prepared to work hard and under pressure, and that you see yourself working in this position for many years to come.

QuickReview

  • • Research information about specific government jobs well in advance of applying.
  • • Know enough about the agency to be able to discuss it at the interview.
  • • Make it a point to meet at least a few people who have either held a similar position in the past or are currently working in that office.
  • • Develop a realistic expectation of your future job responsibilities.
  • • Make sure to convey to your interviewer that you know what the job entails; ask for further information when necessary.
  • • Be patient with the application process no matter how lengthy it is.
  • • Prepare a researched and thoughtful answer to the “why” question.
  • • Be confident without sounding arrogant, tackle challenging questions, and emphasize teamwork.

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Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw Job InterviewsGovernment Interviews - Preparation And Experience Are Key, Answering The “why” Question, Exhibit Realistic Expectations, Interview Logistics