Any interview guru worth their salt will tell you to research the agency as much as possible before you arrive. You will hear advice like:

  • Ask around to see if you know people who work there now or in the past.
  • If you get any names in advance, research people who will be on your hiring panel on LinkedIn.
  • Find out what the mission is for the agency
  • Read the announcement again before you walk in
  • Get a list of behavioral-based questions from Google and practice

And last, yet most importantly, be ready to answer the common interview question: “What do you know about our agency?”

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On the surface, it seems like an ice-breaker or a throw-away question. No one expects you to recite everything there is to know about the agency. They just want to know you cared enough to look it up and have a sense of what you’d be getting yourself into if you took the job. But, you have to assume every question asked of you, no matter how innocent it seems, can be the make-or-break question.

In a recent interview I participated in, two candidates knocked themselves out of the running at question 1. They hadn’t even been the room for 5 minutes yet. Their answers to the most common interview question of what they knew about the agency were:

  • Just the usual stuff on the website.
  • I’ve done a lot of research on the agency and see it’s been located in (place it hasn’t been located for 7 years now).

Here’s what the interviewers heard:

  • I can’t be bothered to look it up.
  • I don’t actually care anything about the agency. I just want any job and/or promotion.
  • I didn’t read the job announcement to see where the job is located.
  • I’m terrible at research and managed to find really out of date information and didn’t realize it.

Remember, hiring managers are generally pretty dedicated to the agency they’re hiring for so they want to hear you care. And, if it doesn’t seem like you’re willing to do the basic of research on the agency, can the hiring manager trust that you’re going to be bothered to do a good job if you receive an offer?