Certain government jobs will require a thorough background check of prospective candidates. This is not confined to those entering law enforcement or homeland security positions. Do not be surprised if you are asked for a list of references, and fully expect that your references will be contacted for a lengthy interview.
The Field Interview
For the field interview, the interviewer will appear at your reference's home, so choose references who can be relied upon to say the right things about you. When the government interviewer shows up at the door of your reference, he will ask detailed questions about your integrity and trustworthiness. The government official should offer to show proper identification, and your reference would be within her rights to request to see it. Pick people who know you well, especially those who know your skills and abilities. The bottom line is that you need to let your references know they are likely to be contacted. Give them notice, and even let them know what you might like them to say, if you feel comfortable doing so. Most of all, it is important to make sure that your reference is not caught by surprise.
You will also be subjected to a comprehensive onsite interview when seeking certain kinds of government jobs. Your interviewer will most likely not be the same person who interviews your references. The questions will be similar. For instance, you're likely to be asked about your family, health, alcohol and drug use, financial affairs, time spent in foreign countries, and other matters that may be applicable. Naturally, you should be honest in all your answers. Rest assured they will be verified, and a lie, large or small, will disqualify you from that and probably any other government job.
The interviewer will be doing more than listening to your answers. He or she will be reading your nonverbal cues, including body language and facial expressions. If you are seeking a job that will involve sensitive and secret matters, you must convey that you are reliable and not a potential security risk. Be honest and forthright at all times, but do not try to be overly familiar. Be friendly but not flippant, relaxed but not sloppy. Show that you view the interview process and the job for which you are applying with the utmost seriousness.