TAO Self-help

Title:Make your answers excel with our VA interview primer

Author:VA Careers

Date:March 2024


A job interview can be a tremendous source of anxiety, even for experienced professionals. No matter how qualified you are, the interview is your make-or-break moment when it comes to getting a job, and with it comes the worry that you might say the wrong thing.

We understand. We've been there, and we want to help you feel confident when you meet our team, so we're going to break down what you can expect from the VA interview process. We can't guarantee it will land you the job, but it should help you be better equipped to engage during your interview.

Performance-based interview (PBI)

Let's get this out of the way right up front: a VA interview isn't going to be like a typical interview. While our team may ask you to tell them about yourself, or even pull out one of your least favorite interview questions, the majority of your interview is going to focus on practical experiences.

At VA, we use a performance-based interview (PBI) process. With these kinds of questions, we're going to ask you to describe what you have done in a specific but broadly applicable situation. We'll present a scenario and ask you to tell us what you did in that instance.

For example, we may ask you about explaining something to a patient, or how you dealt with conflicting priorities. We may ask you how you addressed a disagreement with a coworker, or how you stepped up and took charge of a situation.

All of these questions are PBI questions. Rather than asking you to discuss a hypothetical situation, we want you to pull your answer from a particular moment in your career that best illustrates how you succeeded in that situation.

We don't want to know what you would do, but what you have done.

Practice for PAR

To make the best impression in a PBI, you want to offer in-depth, complete responses that offer insight into not only your accomplishments or your shortcomings but how you achieved your successes and responded to your failures.

If there's anything to emphasize above, it's "complete." Think of answering the question like telling your interviewer a short story: you want to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Otherwise, your answer won't make sense.

To get that complete answer, let's introduce another acronym to the mix: PAR. PAR is a device to help you focus your response to a performance-based interview question. It stands for:

  • Problem
  • Action
  • Results

Using the PAR acronym as a reminder, present your answers by explaining the "problem" you encountered, the "action" you took, and the "results" you experienced.

Using the PAR method to craft your answers not only presents the most pertinent information to your interviewer, but it can also stop you from going off on a tangent or losing your place in the story because you're nervous (and let's face it, most of us are nervous during an interview).

If you can get your answers "up to PAR," you're on your way to a successful interview.

Honesty is the best policy

When approaching your interview, PAR responses will help you structure your answers and present your best self to your interviewer. You'll be able to tell your story in a clear, concise way that speaks volumes about who you are as a candidate and why you're the best person for the job.

As you answer your questions, don't be modest. This is your interview, and you have earned the chance to brag about your skills and accomplishments. However, remember to be honest in your responses, too.

Don't embellish answers, even if you think your honest answer might make you look bad. In addition to showcasing your successes, PBI questions can also be a great way to share what you've learned from a mistake, and no interviewer will fault you for your honesty if you can show growth from the experience.

Work at VA

Practice some PBI questions in preparation for your next VA interview and you'll be that much closer to a spot on our team.

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