Hints on Preparing for an Oral Exam

The below information is subject to change at any time, without prior notification.

Depending on the job class, the oral exam MAY consist of questions or exercises from various categories, such as but not limited to:

Competency

To What Effect or In What Context is it Used?

To What Degree of Accuracy or at What Level?

Communication skills and abilities (oral, written, listening, interpersonal/body language) Varies per job class, but as needed in addressing routine to complex/sensitive issues Varies per job class, but strive for the following:

Oral: Strong, clear, precise, and effective via phone/radio and in person (whether one-on-one, or to a small or large group);

Written: Error-free, grammatically correct, correct sentence and paragraph structure, effective style, organized format, user-friendly for the appropriate audience, appropriate clerical/legal format;

Listening:  Strong, effective, genuine

Interpersonal/Body Language: Non-offensive, Non-intimidating, Approachable, Pleasant.

Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Establishing and maintaining good working relations
  • Addressing and resolving questions and problems
  • Resolving conflict
  • Presenting information to supervisors, management, or elected officials
  • Cross-training and training employees
  • Establishing procedures, reports, correspondence, minutes, documentation, and various other forms of documentation
  • Following through with directives and instructions
Reasoning skills and abilities (Problem Solving, Decision Making, Critical Thinking, Comprehension) Varies per job class, but as needed in addressing routine to complex/sensitive issues Varies per job class, but strive for the following:

Objective, Sound, and Effective

Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Defining problems, Collecting data, Establishing facts, Drawing valid conclusions
  • Addressing and resolving questions and problems
  • Comprehending, evaluating, analyzing, and interpreting information
  • Thinking outside the box, brainstorming ideas and solutions, being able to look at issues from various perspectives
  • Exercising good judgment
  • Making decisions that serve the City’s best interests
  • Comprehending information in oral, written, mathematical, or diagram form
  • Learning and retaining new information
  • Performing necessary math, basic to advanced, as needed to perform essential job functions
Leadership skills and abilities Varies per job class, but as needed in addressing routine to complex/sensitive issues Varies per job class, but strive for the following:

Objective, Sound, and Effective

Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Working on a team to accomplish a goal, as a member or leader of the team
  • Supervisory / lead person skills and abilities
  • Ensuring excellent customer service to internal and external customers
  • Demonstrating strong initiative, self-starter, pro-activeness, and innovativeness attributes
  • Demonstrating strong enthusiasm, judgment, commitment
  • Demonstrating positive role model attributes
  • Demonstrating dedication and commitment to employee safety
  • Demonstrating flexibility in the face of change
  • Demonstrating integrity, trustworthiness, honesty, maintaining confidentiality
  • Demonstrating strong work ethic, proper work temperament, and being an overall dependable employee
Efficiency skills and abilities Varies per job class, but as needed in addressing routine to complex/sensitive issues Varies per job class, but strive for the following:

Objective, Sound, and Effective

Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Ability to effectively use required computer software and hardware to perform job functions
  • Ability to effectively and safely use various equipment/vehicles to perform job functions
  • Managing time, organizing, coordinating, being detail-oriented, planning, producing, overseeing/monitoring projects/reports/etc.
  • Ensuring compliance with regulations, policies, procedures, directives
  • Streamlining tasks, maximizing productivity, minimizing costs (or recommending ways to supervisors/management to do these things)
Job knowledge, skills, and abilities Varies per job class, but as needed in addressing routine to complex/sensitive issues Varies per job class, but strive for the following:

Objective, Sound, and Effective

Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Make sure you meet the education/experience and any other requirements of the job description
  • Knowledge, skills, and abilities specific to this job classification (e.g., if you apply for a crew leader, you need to possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for a crew leader position, and so on)
  • Each competency on the oral exam has its own weight applied based on the results of a statistical job analysis.  (In other words, not all questions may be weighted the same.)  The oral exam panelists have no knowledge of the questions’ weights.  The oral exam is a highly structured interview process in which each candidate will be asked the same questions.  Your responses will be rated, and a score will be assigned.  The maximum score is usually 100, and passing is usually 70.   Each question/exercise is usually rated on a scale of 4 – 10, with 7 being adequate, 10 being the highest, and 4 being the lowest.    Sometimes oral exams consist of more than just questions.  For example, we may have you perform an actual exercise, or we may score you on your overall ability to communicate throughout the exam.  (Police/fire oral exams may vary, such as 50 maximum points with 30 as passing.)
  • Almost every candidate is tense and nervous before an oral examination, and you are probably no exception.  Rest assured that the panel will not try to add to your nervousness.  They will not attempt to increase your stress level with trick questions or high-pressure tactics – so try to relax as best you can.  Two of the most common errors that candidates commit in oral examinations are to say too little OR to say too much.  You should try to avoid both of these errors.  Be sure that you say enough to fully respond to the question asked or the scenario presented – but try not to ramble, over-analyze, or go beyond the problem presented.  If your responses are too long, you may run out of time before you have answered the questions/exercises.
  • You will be asked a standardized set of questions.   You will be informed how long you have to respond for each question (usually anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes).  Your score will be based on whether you appropriately respond to each question/exercise, dealing with all the key elements.  Do not assume that the interview panelists already know that you know the information (e.g., from your job application, resume, etc.).  You have to actually respond orally to the question to get credit for it.  In responding, you should stay focused on the question/exercise presented, and respond in a detailed and organized manner.  You may not return to an earlier question, even if you did not use all the allotted time for that particular question/exercise.  This is necessary to stay consistent.
  • Questions/exercises will not be repeated, however you will be provided with the questions/exercises in writing.  This information will be in front of you, turned face down.  Do not turn the information over until we begin the exam.  Do not get ahead.  Turn to the next question/exercise only when we begin to read it.  Do not take this material or any other information pertaining to this examination from the room when you leave.  Also, unless otherwise stated, to help you in formulating your responses you will have up to 20 seconds of the allotted time to gather your thoughts.  We will provide you with paper/pencil for you to jot down your thoughts before responding.  At the end of 20 seconds, if you have not already responded, you will be asked to respond.  If you fail to respond at that time, we will move on to the next question.  You will not be allowed to return to the question at a later time.
  • The difference between an oral exam and an oral interview is that an oral exam is a highly structured interview that is scored by a panel of trained subject matter experts, and the oral exam is also timed.
  • Practice your interview skills in advance. Practice interviewing at home; Use a tape recorder or video recorder to see how you present yourself; have family/friends serve as a mock interview panel and have them interview you.
  • Prepare yourself in advance to ensure you have confidence in yourself during the oral exam.  Research the position and the City of Owensboro in general.  This should assist you in feeling more confident.  When you feel more confident, it will help you to maintain good eye contact, good posture, normal breathing, and effective communication.
  • Communicate clearly, thoroughly, and try not to ramble or repeat yourself.
  • Answer the question in full whether it takes just a few seconds or the full time allotment.  If a question has 3 parts, make sure you answer all 3 parts.
  • If we ask for an example, try to give an actual work-related example.  If you can’t come up with an actual example, then explain how you would handle the situation if you were faced with it – don’t just skip the question.
  • Do not relate personal information for your answer – stick with job-related information (e.g., if we ask you about your most stressful situation, please don’t tell us about a personal issue you had to face such as a divorce).
  • It is OK to bring your resume if you want to refer to it, but you must orally communicate your answer in order to receive credit.
  • If it sounds to us like you’re finished responding to a question, we’ll move on to the next question.  If you weren’t finished and time was remaining, tell us before we move on to the next question.  Otherwise, we can’t go back.