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Customs and Border Services Officer Job Interview Coach Part 1

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Part 1 of a 2 Part Post

Coaching A Border Services Hopeful

A client from Vancouver, BC contacted us recently looking for a job interview coach. She was in the application process for Border Services Officer for Canada. She had applied online at, met the citizenship, education and experience requirements, and successfully completed the Border Services Officer Test. The next step in the process was to be successful at the interview. That is when she came to us looking for a job interview coach.

In this post, I will share with you some of my thoughts and observations from an HR perspective for this Border Services Job Interview By doing so, I hope you will take away some of the lessons learned from this coaching session.

Strong Technically but Weak On Soft Skills

Overall this candidate from Vancouver was fairly strong and at this stage of the application process, it would be expected that she had met some basic qualifications. Unfortunately this also means her competition are also if not equally qualified. Like most candidates, she handled some of the technical questions alright related to her profession like, “List 5 acts that you have to enforce as a Border Services Officer. Which one is the most important? Why”

Where she struggled was where we typically see candidates struggle – the behavioral questions used to assess soft skills. For example, we needed to assess her integrity and ethics since these traits are essential to the position. To assess these competencies, we asked her the following question:

Describe a situation in which you demonstrated a strong ethical stance at work, despite pressure to do otherwise?

We were looking to determine using our follow up probing questions are as follows:
· What were the risks involved in taking the strong stance that she did?
· How did she overcome the pressure to change or weaken her stance?
· How did the position she took affect the relationships that she had with the others involved?

Pleading The “Fifth Amendment”

When asked this question she replied that she has not had such experience before. While the no such example response is not uncommon, you should would want to avoid a no response. The reasons is simply because the interviewer will rate your responses and when you give no answer you will get a zero for that component.

The impact of pleading the “5th amendment” depends on how heavily weighted this question is. In some cases, HR along with the hiring manager’s input weights the questions since not all requirements are equally valued for a specific job. In this case, integrity and ethics is an important requirement of being a border services officer. For more on the importance of soft skills in an interview see our post called the “Soft Interview Landing”. So for these reasons and others, we worked on brain storming an example from her past work life, volunteer life, school life etc. where faced an ethical dilemma.

Ideally, you would have a recent example drawn from your work experience. However as a job interview coach I have seen candidates occasionally drawing a blank.  If you find yourself struggling, expand your options by drawing from your previous experience in school, volunteering, sports and so on. For example, in this case by working together and talking it out, we were able to recall a situation where she once faced an ethical situation at a Vancouver school when one her classmates wanted to copy one of her assignments.

Lesson Learned

It would be strongly advised that you pay attention to the requirements for the job you are applying to and prepare to answer interview questions to assess them. Pay particular attention to the soft skills and be prepared with examples where you demonstrated these skills. This means you must understand the job, give some thought to the main requirements and then be prepared with examples. And when you speak to these examples, use a structured method to organize your thoughts and ensure you do not forget vital components under the stress of an interview. A method we like to teach is called the STAR method which you can read more about by selecting the link.

Well it’s time to wind this post up. In part 2, we will share more of our observations from our Border Services Officer job interview coaching session.   We hope you have taken away something valuable you can use in your next interview.  If you would more information on how we can help you in your job interview, for more information or give us a shout and we would be pleased to answer any of your questions.  So until next time, we wish you much luck and success in your career.