15 Public Policy Interview Questions and Answers

Prepare for the types of questions you are likely to be asked when interviewing for a position where Public Policy skills will be used.

When it comes to public policy, there are a lot of different factors that come into play. From environmental regulations to social welfare programs, the government has a hand in nearly every aspect of our lives. And with such a wide range of responsibilities, there are a lot of different career paths you can take within the field of public policy.

No matter what area of public policy you’re interested in, you’ll need to be able to answer some tough questions during your job interview. To help you prepare, we’ve put together a list of sample public policy interview questions and answers.


1. What is public policy?

This question is a great way to test your knowledge of public policy and how it works. It also allows you to show the interviewer that you understand what public policy is, but more importantly, why it’s important. When answering this question, try to explain what public policy is in simple terms so the interviewer can better understand it.

Example: “Public policy is the process by which government officials create laws and regulations for their constituents. These policies are created through research and data collection on current issues within society. They’re then presented to lawmakers who vote on them to determine if they should be implemented.”

2. Can you define the term “social contract”?

The social contract is a philosophical concept that describes the relationship between citizens and their government. It’s important for public policy professionals to understand this term because it helps them create policies that benefit society as a whole. When answering this question, define what the social contract is and explain how you use it in your work.

Example: “The social contract is an agreement between citizens and their government about what each party will provide for the other. In my role at the state level, I helped develop legislation that would help improve the lives of our most vulnerable populations by creating programs that provided services like healthcare and education. These programs were created based on the social contract, which states that we have a responsibility to care for those who can’t care for themselves.”

3. How do you think a social contract can be used to implement a public policy program?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the social contract and how it can be used in public policy. You can answer this question by defining what a social contract is, explaining its importance in society and describing how you would use one to implement a public policy program.

Example: “A social contract is a set of rules that people agree to follow within a community or country. I think a social contract is important because it helps establish order and stability within a society. If I were working on a public policy program, I would want to make sure that everyone who was involved understood the terms of the social contract. This way, we could all work together to create a beneficial program for our community.”

4. Why are political parties important in implementing public policies?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the political process and how it works. It also allows you to demonstrate your ability to work with others, as parties are often collaborative in their efforts to create public policies.

Example: “Political parties are important because they allow for collaboration between like-minded individuals who want to see similar policies enacted. They can help ensure that a variety of opinions are considered when creating new laws or modifying existing ones. In my last role, I was part of a team that worked on developing a policy regarding affordable housing. We were able to use our party affiliation to find other members of the same party who had experience working on similar issues. This allowed us to collaborate with them to develop a more comprehensive plan.”

5. What is the difference between ethics and morals?

This question is a good way to test your knowledge of public policy and how it relates to the rest of society. It also helps an interviewer determine whether you have strong moral values that align with their organization’s mission. In your answer, try to explain what each term means and how they differ from one another.

Example: “Ethics are standards for behavior in a given situation. They help us decide what is right or wrong when making decisions. Morals are personal beliefs about what is right or wrong. While ethics can be universal, morals vary depending on who you ask.”

6. What’s your understanding of human rights in the context of public policy?

This question is a great way to assess your knowledge of human rights and how they apply to public policy. Human rights are the basic freedoms that all people should have, including freedom of speech, religion, assembly and more. Your answer should show that you understand what human rights are and how they relate to public policy.

Example: “Human rights are the basic freedoms that every person on this planet should be entitled to. These include things like freedom of speech, freedom from discrimination and freedom of religion. I believe that these rights are essential for everyone to live their lives in peace and happiness. In my last role, I worked with a team to create a new city ordinance that protected LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination. We were able to write the law so that it was inclusive of all members of the community.”

7. What is democracy?

This question tests your knowledge of the political system in which you are applying to work. It also shows how much you know about the country’s history and culture. In your answer, define democracy by explaining its key principles. You can also give examples of countries that have democratic governments.

Example: “Democracy is a form of government where citizens elect representatives who make laws on their behalf. The people have the power to change these laws through elections or referendums. There are many different types of democracies, including direct and representative democracy. I believe that the United States has a representative democracy because we vote for our representatives every two years. We do not vote directly on legislation.”

8. What types of groups does the government have to deal with when making public policy decisions?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the different types of groups that influence public policy. You can list and describe each type, or you can name a few examples of each group.

Example: “The government has to consider many different groups when making public policy decisions. First, there are the stakeholders who have a direct interest in the issue at hand. For example, if we’re talking about education reform, teachers, parents and students would be stakeholders. Then there are those who have indirect interests, such as businesses that sell school supplies or companies that hire graduates. There are also experts who provide information on the topic, like economists or sociologists. Finally, there are the general public, who may not know much about the issue but still have opinions.”

9. Is it possible for an individual or group to influence the process of making public policy decisions? If yes, then how?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the legislative process and how you can use it to influence policy decisions. Your answer should include a brief overview of the legislative process, including who participates in each step and what their role is. You can also describe specific steps you would take to ensure that your voice was heard during public policy discussions.

Example: “Yes, it’s possible for individuals or groups to influence the process of making public policy decisions. In fact, I believe that every citizen has a responsibility to be involved in the legislative process. There are many ways to do this, but one way is by contacting my state senator or representative about issues that matter to me. Another way is by attending town hall meetings where they discuss important topics. Finally, I can write letters to them explaining why I support or oppose certain bills.”

10. What is the Pareto Principle and why is it important in public policy analysis?

The Pareto Principle is a concept that helps public policy analysts determine which factors are most important in achieving their goals. This question allows you to demonstrate your knowledge of the field and how it can be applied effectively.

Example: “The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In public policy analysis, this principle is useful because it allows us to focus on the most important aspects of our work. For example, if we want to reduce crime rates, we may use the Pareto Principle to identify the top 20% of locations where crimes occur most frequently. We can then target resources toward those areas to achieve the greatest reduction in crime.”

11. What does the acronym RFP stand for?

An RFP is a request for proposal, which is a document that outlines the requirements of a project and asks vendors to submit proposals. This question helps employers determine how well you understand public policy processes. In your answer, explain what an RFP is and why it’s important in the public policy process.

Example: “RFP stands for ‘request for proposal.’ It’s a document that outlines the needs of a project or program and asks vendors to submit their qualifications and pricing information. The vendor with the best qualifications usually wins the contract. I’ve used RFPs many times when working on projects at my current job. For example, we recently had to create an RFP for new software because our current system was outdated.”

12. Can you explain what a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is?

An MOU is a formal document that outlines the terms and conditions of an agreement between two or more parties. This question allows you to demonstrate your knowledge of public policy by explaining what an MOU is, how it’s used and its purpose.

Example: “An MOU is a written contract between two or more parties outlining their mutual understanding on a specific issue. It can be used as a way for organizations to collaborate with each other without having to create a full-fledged legal contract. For example, my previous employer had an MOU in place with our local school district where we would provide them with funding for new computers every five years. The MOU allowed both parties to avoid creating a long-term contract that would have been difficult to dissolve if needed.”

13. What are some examples of good and bad communication strategies in the context of public policy implementation?

This question can help an interviewer assess your communication skills and how you apply them to public policy. Use examples from your experience that show how effective or ineffective communication strategies can impact the success of a public policy initiative.

Example: “In my last role, I worked with a team on developing a new recycling program for our city. We had several meetings where we discussed what types of materials should be included in the recycling program and how much it would cost to implement. During one meeting, a member of the team suggested including plastic bags in the recycling program because they were made from corn and could be composted. However, after further discussion, we determined that it would be more cost-effective to use those bags as landfill cover instead.”

14. What is the importance of a conflict of interest when writing a public policy paper?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your knowledge of the ethical standards in public policy writing. Your answer should include a definition of conflict of interest and how it applies to public policy writing. You can also use this opportunity to explain why you avoid conflicts of interest when working on public policy papers.

Example: “A conflict of interest is any situation where an individual’s personal interests interfere with their professional responsibilities. In my experience, avoiding conflicts of interest is important because it ensures that I am not only producing high-quality work but also doing so without bias or ulterior motives. For example, if I were to write a paper about the benefits of a certain policy while receiving funding from a company that would benefit from that policy, then there would be a conflict of interest. This could lead me to produce biased research.”

15. Can you name some legal resources that might help a policy analyst prepare a report?

Interviewers might ask this question to assess your knowledge of the legal resources available to you as a policy analyst. They may also want to know how you would use these resources to complete your work. In your answer, try to name several legal resources that you have used in the past and explain what they are and why they’re important.

Example: “In my last role, I had access to many different legal resources that helped me prepare reports for my manager. One resource was Westlaw, which is an online database where I could find information about current legislation and court cases related to public policy issues. Another resource was LexisNexis, which is another online database that provides similar information to Westlaw but with more historical context. Finally, I also had access to a library at my university where I could read books on various topics.”


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