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Best Contracting Interview Question

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Situation: You're on a panel interviewing candidates for a GS 1102-12/13 Government Contract Specialist position. You have the opportunity to ask three questions. What questions do you ask and why?

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Question 1: Please explain the contracting process in detail, from cradle-to-grave.

Reason: In my opinion, this will indicate whether the candidate actually understands the acquisition lifecycle. Also, depending the level of detail that he or she provides in the response, it should give you some insight as to how involved they've been during the different phases.

Question 2: Please provide an example of how and when you used the source selection process. If you have not used the source selection process, please explain it in detail.

Reason: An 1102 at the 11/12 grade levels should have at least participated in a few source selections (as the Contract Specialist or the Contracting Officer), and should have a solid understanding of LPTA vs. trade-off methodology. This question will indicate the depth of knowledge that the candidate has in this arena.

Question 3: What part(s) of th FAR govern contract administration? Provide three important functions of contract administration.

Reason: Contract administration is an important, and often overlooked phase of the acquisition lifecycle. A candidate should have a thorough understanding of what FAR Parts impact contract administration, as well as why it's important.

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Below are questions that I used for GS-13 Contracting Officer panel - - it is more than three but still may be of help to you. Edit as you need to fit your office/position

1. Why are you applying for this position and what are your expectations? Also, what do you look for in an Contracting Office?
2. Looking back over your career, which procurement stands out in your mind and why?
3. For the past few years, contracting professionals have been encouraged to think more like “business managers.” Please discuss how you have incorporated this into your contracting responsibilities/practices.
4. What organizational and personal skills do you possess that you believe would set you apart from the other candidates being considered for this position?
5. What do you perceive as your greatest weaknesses?
6. Many times customer demands/expectations/desires conflict with regulatory requirements by which contracting professionals must abide. What steps would you take to resolve the conflict and ensure customer satisfaction?
7. What motivates you?
8. You are assigned a FAR Part 15 competitive negotiated acquisition. What do you see as the essential elements to successful contract award?
9. Customer service is a major value proposition of this Contracting Office. What does customer service mean to you? Provide examples of how you have displayed a customer service driven attitude.
10. Would you like to add anything for us to consider?
11. Do you have any questions for us?

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policyguy...a quick follow up to your question #3. I don't deny that this is what the CO rhetoric claims, but I am wondering if "business managers" are different than "business advisors." Business managers assume control over the business line, whereas business advisors provide feedback and information without necassarily intruding on the decision making capacity of the project manager. Do you think this perception leads to a certain level of contention that often exists between COs and PMs? In other words, who is really in charge? Who should be?

This is a never ending debate. Just wondering what your thoughts are on it.

JJ

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policyguy...a quick follow up to your question #3. I don't deny that this is what the CO rhetoric claims, but I am wondering if "business managers" are different than "business advisors." Business managers assume control over the business line, whereas business advisors provide feedback and information without necassarily intruding on the decision making capacity of the project manager. Do you think this perception leads to a certain level of contention that often exists between COs and PMs? In other words, who is really in charge? Who should be?

This is a never ending debate. Just wondering what your thoughts are on it.

JJ

Nothing that in depth. This was a manager/supervisory position that these questions were used and hence the term business manager.

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Which Part of the FAR do you prefer working out of, 8, 13, or 15? Why?

You may be surprised at how many 1102s don't understand the question or provide a response that doesn't make sense.

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Which Part of the FAR do you prefer working out of, 8, 13, or 15? Why?

You may be surprised at how many 1102s don't understand the question or provide a response that doesn't make sense.

I've had decent success asking questions similar to this. One of my favorites is to name as many exceptions to full and open competition as they can. Not that anyone has ever done a -7 Public Interest exception, but I think it helps you know if the person knows the FAR. If the person couldn't give you a well thought out and long answer to the question jwomack posted above, it is probably a person you don't want on your staff.

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Here is on of my favorites. Really gives good insight.

Tell me/us about a time you made a decision and it turned out that it was the wrong decision.

I like the insight and want to see the thought process that went into making that decision. I see too many people that are afraid to make decisions and its something we do constantly. You can see if they have sound decision making skills or if they make snap decisions without enough facts or wait for someone else to make the decision for them.

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Choose any three of the following:

1. What are the titles of the last three nonfiction books that you read within the past year (other than spiritual works).

2. What were the last three articles about contracts or contracting that you read within the past year? In what publications did they appear?

3. What were the subjects of the last three things that you wrote in the last year that were at least 750 words in length (about three pages)? Include published articles, statements of work, sole source justifications, price negotiation memos, source selection decision documents, proposal evaluation reports, contracting officer final decisions, etc. What were your biggest challenges when you wrote each of them? Will you provide copies of them?

4. Explain the concept of "evaluation factor", as that term is used in FAR Part 15. Don't explain by giving examples. Explain by telling what characteristics are common to all evaluation factors.

5. Explain the concept of "rating, as that term is used in FAR Part 15. What are ratings used for? What are the various rating systems commonly in use by Federal agencies, and what are the pros and cons of each such system.

6. Explain the concept of "relative importance" as used in FAR Part 15. What is an office communicating to offerors when it tells them the relative importance of evaluation factors?

7. Explain the concept of "equitable adjustment".

8. Explain the concept of "deductive reasoning".

9. Explain the concept of "critical thinking".

10. Tell us what a "service" is. (Not a "service contract", but a service.) What are the differences between a service and an item of supply, other than tangibility?

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