Each year, about 350 PSC Scholarship applicants are shortlisted for an interview with the Public Service Commission. While the interview is the final step in the application process, it is just one of the many assessment modes that the PSC uses to determine a candidate’s fit for a Public Service Career via a PSC Scholarship. From academic and co-curricular performance, to psychometric tests, psychological interviews, and National Service reports, the PSC seeks to gain a holistic view of each candidate.
If you have been shortlisted, the prospect of a half-hour interview with the PSC Chairman and the PSC members might feel daunting. By explaining what to expect, and suggesting how you might prepare, we hope to answer your queries, and most importantly help you be yourself at the interview. As Mr Eddie Teo, former Chairman of the PSC, puts in his first Open Letter, “We need to know the real you to decide if you have what it takes to be a good public servant and potential Public Sector leader.”
What to expect during the PSC Interview
The interview takes place in a conference room with a long table: the Chairman of the PSC and the PSC members sit on one side, and the candidate sits on the other, facing them. You will be faced with a panel of up to about 7 or 8 interviewers, with mainly Chairman and one other PSC member taking turns to interview you. Your interview will last approximately 30 minutes.
During that time, be prepared to:
- Be questioned about yourself and your decisions
The PSC Scholarship is awarded on merit, and that merit is assessed based on a candidate’s potential in the Public Service. Just like any other job interview, expect to be asked why you believe you are a suitable candidate for a PSC Scholarship. This entails some knowledge or experience about what being a public servant requires and involves, and why you would fit that role. Skills aside, among the most important attributes for any public servant are integrity and commitment to serve Singapore. If serving the public is not your motive for applying, then the PSC Scholarship may not be right for you.
- Be questioned on current affairs
The business of the Public Service includes everything that could impact Singapore. The panel is likely to ask you questions about recent news or policy, international or domestic, especially if you have shown an interest in a particular area. These questions give you an opportunity to demonstrate that you have read widely, thought deeply and carefully about what you have read, and have developed your own opinions. Questions that are factual are usually meant as conversation-starters and not intended to quiz you. If you do not have the knowledge asked for, it would be best to say so rather than make something up.
Questions can get tough. But there is no need to be alarmed: the panel must ask tough questions to find out how you think and what kind of person you are. Take a while to consider your opinion before responding if you need to. Outside of purely factual questions, there are no right answers. Being sincere, thinking carefully, and expressing your own perspective, even in the pressure of an interview, is key.
How to prepare for the PSC Interview
First, think through carefully why you would like to take up a PSC Scholarship. If you are applying for a specific sector, think about how you can contribute to the sector. Think also about why you are a good fit for the Public Service. Knowing yourself – your motives, your skills and passions, your distinctive traits – is fundamental to ensuring that the PSC Scholarship and the Public Service are right for you.
It is neither necessary nor desirable to ‘study’ for the PSC interview. The interview is not meant as a platform to showcase your knowledge of facts – nor is there enough time. Having said this, this does not mean that you do not prepare for the interview. Keep yourself updated on current affairs, especially in your areas of interest, and think about what you have read. Form opinions and draw links. Doing this might come naturally to some, or take conscious practice for others.
Finally, be yourself. Misrepresenting your motives, making up facts, or saying what you think the panel wants to hear may leave the impression that you lack integrity. There is nothing wrong with agreeing or disagreeing with current policy, as long as you have reasons to support these views. The PSC wants to see the real you.
For more information about the PSC interview and what the PSC is looking for, take a look at the PSC Chairman's Open Letters.