Skip to main content
Picture of Haebin

Haebin Pan

SFU Alumnus
Arts + Social Sciences › English

Government Canada
Chelsey Faucher on Unsplash
When it comes to answering interview questions, Angela recommended using the STARR approach. This acronym stands for situation, task, action, result, and relevance.

If you are interested in working for the federal government, you may have wondered how you would prepare for an interview at the Government of Canada.

Angela Foraaunet, a Human Resources Advisor in the Public Service Commission of Canada, hosted a webinar for SFU students on October 20th and 21st. In the webinar titled, “Preparing for a Government of Canada Interview," she answered the SFU students’ questions and presented valuable information for the interview success. Let’s take a look at the important points from her webinar.

Types of Assessments

There are different types of assessments for positions at the federal government. Besides interviews, there are screening (occurs during the application review), computer-based or written tests, in-person or online tests, simulations, role-plays, work samples, and reference checks. There could be individual or group interviews, and the interviews could be either structured or unstructured. Hiring processes include different assessments, so you may work with a few, some, or all of these assessments for your job application. Your interview invitation will list the types of assessments that you will have.

Four Competencies

The assessed qualifications may be different for certain hiring processes. Also, oral communication skills may be assessed during any type of interview. What you should know is that there are four core competencies, which are often assessed in the federal public service. These competencies include:

  • Demonstrating integrity and respect
  • Thinking things through
  • Working effectively with others
  • Showing initiative and being action-oriented

Types of Interview Questions

Angela explained in the webinar how there are usually four types of interview questions.

  1. Behavioural: These questions require candidates to provide specific examples of how they responded to previous situations and/or used skills relevant to the job position.
  2. Situational: These questions ask candidates how they would respond to a hypothetical situation that is presented.
  3. Knowledge: These questions test a candidate’s knowledge about a certain topic. They may be related to disciplines (e.g., sciences) that are relevant to the position. They may also test knowledge of specific policies, regulations, or laws.
  4. Role-play/Simulations: These tasks can be done in many different ways. The purpose of role-plays/simulations is to mimic possible scenarios that could be faced by someone in the position. They may be looking at your ability to deal with clients and solve problems.
STARR Approach

When it comes to answering interview questions, Angela recommended using the STARR approach. This acronym stands for situation, task, action, result, and relevance.

You should first explain the "situation." Briefly describe your role in the organization (that you were or have been involved in), and for "task," briefly describe your tasks in the same organization.

Next, explain the most important parts of your STARR answer, which are "action" and "result." Spend enough time to describe the steps you took to complete your tasks (action) and explain your work’s results.

Lastly, demonstrate the "relevance" of your STAR answer to the position you are applying for.

Key Details About a Government of Canada Interview

Our country's legislation requires that the federal and provincial governments’ hiring processes are merit-based. Hiring departments may give interview questions to the candidates (immediately before the interview) for the candidates to prepare their responses in their notes, which they may be permitted to use during an interview.  During the interview, the interview panel members would usually take notes to ensure a thorough and fair assessment; they may make minimal eye contact with you. You may ask the interview panel to repeat the question, but they will not rephrase the question or give examples, as they need to ensure consistency and fairness. If you are unsure how to respond, you may ask to move on and return to the question later.

Accommodation and Official Languages

You can request accommodation due to disabilities, functional limitations, personal needs (e.g., family situations), and/or religious reasons (e.g., religious holidays). The examples of accommodation measures include changes in settings, response format, scheduling, and presentation format. Check your job advertisement to find who to contact about the accommodation.

You can also choose French or English at any stage of the hiring process—anywhere in Canada.

Interview Tips

To wrap up the webinar, Angela provided the following interview tips that can take your interviewing experience to the next level.

  • Notice your body language.
  • Be honest. The interview panel could ask your referees to verify your experiences.
  • As your oral communication may be assessed during an interview, speak normally, concisely, and clearly.
  • Provide plenty of context to your own behaviour while focusing on what you did.
  • Use “I” statements instead of “we” statements. The interview panel wants to focus on what you did.
  • Include background details (e.g., where you were working and what your role was) while explaining your examples.
  • Use a variety of examples for each question and be mindful of which competency they are assessing.
  • Practice with a trusted and caring friend who will give you accurate feedback.
  • Record (audio or video) yourself to check your body language and verbal responses. Practice in front of a mirror.
  • Work on your strengths. Be yourself.

Beyond the Blog

Government of Canada Jobs

  • Go to the Government of Canada Jobs website and click on “How to Apply” for additional tips. This online platform shows job opportunities in the Government of Canada. You can also register for job alerts.

  • Learn more about working for the Government of Canada (GC) from the GC employees from their Proudly Serving Canadians page.

Job Opportunity! Census 2021

  • Across the country, Statistics Canada is hiring approximately 1,000 people for entry-level, supervisory, and managerial positions. Take a look at this page often, as the page will regularly have new postings posted from now to the end of 2020.

 Job Opportunity! Statistics Canada

  • Statistics Canada will be hiring approximately 32,000 employees for crew leader and census enumerator positions across Canada. As of January 2021, they will be receiving applications. 

  • Contact if you would like to be notified when a new job is posted!

More Resources

Student Programs You Should Know About

About the Author

Picture of Haebin

Haebin Pan

SFU Alumnus
Arts + Social Sciences › English
Haebin Pan is an SFU alumna with a major in English and a minor in learning and developmental disabilities. Her wonderful experiences at SFU have led her to volunteer for the school as a Career Peer, Public Square Peer Ambassador, and SFU Surrey - TD Community Engagement Centre Online Media Task Force Blogger. When Haebin is not working or volunteering, she loves to try new recipes, write in her journal, listen to recent podcast episodes, and go for a walk while listening to her favourite indie music playlists.
Photo of the author giving a presentation
Creating Value: The Adventures of an IT Co-op Student

As someone who didn’t have a lot of direct experience in a technological setting, providing value to the organization had to come from something much bigger than my direct skill set.

A photo of the author
The 201st Application

It’s been two months and 20 days since my first day of my Co-op term at Westcoast Family Centres, but I still find myself waking up every other day in utter disbelief that things worked out!

You Might Like These... Prospective, Professional Development, Career Exploration

Co-op students jumping in the air
The Co-op Connection Helps Retention

In this blog post, Heather shares with us why co-op is an important experience for all students, whether it be to further career aspirations or to gain future employment opportunities. 

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

Hands holding a volunteer badge
Sana Siddiqui: Volunteerism Opens up Endless Possibilities | Part Two

She has been involved with SFU LEAD, Peer Programs and the SFU Muslim Students’ Association, just to name a few. Now, Sana Siddiqui, a Criminology student, reflects back and shares with us the invaluable academic, personal and professional skills and opportunities volunteering opened for her, read on to find out what she has to say about getting involved on campus and in the community.

You Might Like These... Social Media

Headshot of Ashley
Be Social! 5 Tips on using Social Media for Business

Will your workplace require you to tweet? Ashley explains how to run social media accounts for a business.

people holding a bc lions flag running across the field
Life After Co-op: From Footballs to Law

As an SFU Co-op alumni Susan Seto is one of the many success stories of the the program. Since graduating in 2008 her co-op experience has shaped her career and changed her life.

Photo of 8 men stacked in triangular pyramid formation, standing on each others shoulders
Team Work Works: The Story Behind the Photo

Karan Durairajan may be new to SFU, but that didn’t stop him from entering the 2008 WIL Photo Contest under the brand new entry category, Community Engagement. Read the story behind the photo.