7 Insightful Questions to Ask a Candidate During a Civic Job Interview

Written by Jonathan Wiersma

Local government hiring managers are tasked with a unique challenge: To hire the most qualified candidate that has the greatest potential to positively impact the community. You’re not simply hiring a candidate to become part of a team or business. You’re hiring someone who will be part of an administration with the ability to impact the lives of thousands, or even millions of citizens. To help ensure you are hiring the right candidate, with the greatest motivation and interest in service your community, start incorporating these 7 insightful job interview questions into your hiring process.


1. What aspect of working in local government is most important to you?

The ideal candidate will be motivated to improve their community, and make a difference in the lives of their friends and neighbors. If the candidate can’t immediately articulate why they specifically want to work in local government, or if they admit they’re only interested in a generous benefit package, they may not be results-driven and performance-motivated, which is the type of candidate you’ll want to hire.

2. Tell me something interesting about yourself.

This is not meant to be a trick question, nor is it meant to make the candidate nervous. Rather, it is an opportunity for you to learn about an experience, hobby, interest, or achievement that the candidate is comfortable sharing and, hopefully, feels is relevant. Perhaps he is among the fourth generation in his family that has lived in your community, or perhaps she volunteers at a homeless shelter on weekends. The answer to this question should give you an understanding of what interests or motivates the candidate outside of work.

3. What advantages do you see in working for local government?

You need candidates that will demonstrate the highest ethics and behaviors. A favorably telling response to this question would be, “Having input into decisions that will impact this community.” An unfavorable response would be, “Not having to work on any government holidays.” Make sure the candidate is motivated by community improvement, and not personal gain.

4. Follow that question by asking, “What disadvantages do you see in working for local government?”

Asking a candidate questions about negative work-related perceptions can also be very telling. Keep in mind that if the candidate feels there would be a lot of pressure associated with the job, or that they may have to work long hours, such a perception doesn’t have to be a negative for you if they demonstrate the ability to rise to the occasion.

5. What would be a circumstance in which there may be a conflict between your own personal beliefs and opinions and the policies or practices of our administration?

The ideal candidate will want to reassure you that he or she understands that regardless of personal beliefs, local government employees are expected to always act in the best interests of the community. If a candidate can immediately describe policies in which he/she disagrees, he/she may be demonstrating an inability to exercise such an objective perspective.

6. How do you feel about your current supervisor?

No matter what department or position the candidate has expressed an interest, individuals who work in local government need the ability to exercise tact, discretion, and respond appropriately to potentially controversial questions. A candidate that answers this question with negative remarks about their current supervisor may lack such skills (and may also be revealing their true motivation for seeking alternative employment).

7. What is your greatest weakness?

Everyone has a weakness, and that’s okay, so be wary of a candidate who responds that they are flawless. It may simply be an attempt to demonstrate confidence, but what you need is a candidate with realistic expectations and the ability to demonstrate a modest, humble attitude. Such employees are generally the best suited to work constructively as team players. 

Once you've hired your employee, make sure you onboard him effectively to help him become a productive, satisfied team member quickly. Download our local government employee onboarding eBook for everything you need to know about proper onboarding.

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