The ALJ Structured Interview

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has begun to notify candidates from the 2016 Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) applicant pool that their online testing scores were high enough to merit an invitation  to Washington, DC to participate in the final round of testing, including the Structured Interview. The testing begins on with a Logic-Based Measurement Test and a Written Demonstration (both proctored). On the second day, the Structured Interview is conducted, during which candidates are asked a set of predetermined questions by a panel of three federal ALJs.


How does one prepare for an interview and written testing whose questions are closely guarded, especially when all candidates are sworn to secrecy about the process? First, by exploring the 13 competencies essential to the ALJ evaluation process. Second, by exploring the fundamentals of quality ALJ decision writing. Third, by reading materials available from other agencies that administer Logic-Based Measurement Tests to candidates in their selection process. And perhaps most importantly, by understanding what the federal Structured Interview is all about.


Like all federal structured interviews, the ALJ interview questions are decided upon in advance and the answers are scored. Questions are designed to create a level playing field: internal and external candidates with equivalent skills should be able to provide answers of the same quality. The interview will include open-ended questions; it will also be “behavior-based,” in that candidates will be asked to elaborate on various past situations where they were called upon to solve problems similar to those an ALJ may face. There may be hypothetical questions. There may be one or more questions designed to test your knowledge of what makes a good federal ALJ. Most importantly, the Structured Interview will be “performance-based,” giving you the opportunity to highlight aspects of your accomplishments most likely predictive of your future performance as an ALJ, covering a candidate’s level of maturity when it comes to people skills, judicial decision making, and temperament—subjects difficult to assess except by in-person questioning .


The Resume Place has helped thousands of applicants navigate the federal selection process, including the Structured Interview. We’ve received positive feedback from customers prepped for judicial interviews, including Administrative Patent Judges, Administrative Judges, Hearing Officers, and Administrative Law Judges.


If you would like help with your interview skills, The Resume Place can help. In two 75-minute sessions, conducted by an AV-Preeminent® rated, experienced federal trial lawyer, you will learn the basics of structured interviews, and receive materials designed to help you address a range of questions that may be asked in the ALJ interview. The second session includes a recorded mock interview, which is critiqued and downloadable as an mp3 file once the session concludes.


Those who purchase services will receive our own written resources on performance-based, structured interviews, our proprietary ALJ competencies worksheet (to help you plan and practice answers for likely interview questions), and a list of links to other useful references for your in-person assessment and proctored exam. We’ll also give you science-based tips for improving interview body language, speaking tone, and more.


Learn About $580 Interview Service

Nicole Schultheis is an attorney and Certified Federal Job Search Trainer & Career Coach. Since 2010, Nicole has helped aspiring ALJs, senior law enforcement professionals, and executive candidates craft compelling federal applications and perform well in structured interviews. She has trained agency leadership candidates at and is a sought-after speaker by EPA, TSA, U.S. Secret Service, NIH, DOD (Army, Navy and Air Force), USDOT, DC Pretrial Services, NASA, and other agencies. She is the author (along with Kathryn Troutman) of The ALJ Guide, 2nd Edition (Resume Place, 2016). Her full bio is here:

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