There’s no doubt about it, job interviews can be stressful. They can be especially nerve-wracking for veterans who may be entering the civilian job force for the first time. If you are transitioning from the military, the good news is that you have a variety of valuable skills and abilities that can help you excel in all types of civilian careers. If you’ve been contacted by a potential employer for an interview, now is your chance to shine and showcase yourself as the perfect candidate for the job. To help you prepare for a successful interview, here are some important do’s and don’ts to consider.
Perform due diligence
Research, research, research! One of your most important pre-interview tasks is to study the company, its culture and what sets it apart from its competitors. You don’t want to be caught off guard. Scour the company’s website for information. Understand its mission, services and products, history, industry, and financial health. View their marketing, advertising and press releases to see how they are positioning themselves and if there have been any recent changes, such as new product launches, company expansions, management moves, etc.
Go beyond the company website to research its competitors and any media reports on the business. Visit the company’s blogs, LinkedIn page, and Twitter and Facebook profiles. Not only will all this insight help you get a better look at the organization, it will provide you with information you can use during the interview to ask intelligent questions, provide thoughtful answers, and show your interviewer that you did your research.
Also visit Glassdoor, a resource that compiles reviews and feedback from current and former company employees. View information on benefits, company culture, salaries, and even interview questions.
Review your resume
Your interviewer will probably be referring to your resume throughout your interview, so be sure to review it prior to your meeting. Since you have already done your research (see step 1), you can now start relating your skills and experience to the position and the company. Bring several copies of your resume with you to the interview since you may be meeting with several people.
Be professional, on time, and prepared for paperwork
Promptness matters. Arrive early to the interview and be prepared to fill out paperwork which may include an application and work history (even if this information is already on your resume or you previously submitted it online). You may also be asked to submit references so be sure you know who you want to include as a reference and that you have all their updated contact info. Don’t forget to let your references know that you used them as a reference and that they may be receiving a call from your prospective employer.
Dress neat and professionally, turn off your cell phone, and greet the interviewer with handshake. As they say—first impressions are everything!
Answer questions with confidence
One thing an interview is not is a military promotion board. Job interviews are more relaxed and, while professional, they are meant to be a two-way conversation where both you and your interviewer can talk and ask questions.
Some questions frequently asked by interviewers include:
“What are your goals?”
“What are your weaknesses?”
“What is your greatest professional achievement?”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Think of what you are going to say if asked these questions, and practice delivering your answers with a family member or friend. Your time in the military has given you strengths that not every candidate will possess. Highlight your military accomplishments in ways a civilian will understand and emphasize your ability to lead, manage stress, resolve conflict, and communicate.
There are many online resources that can help you prepare for possible interview questions. For more sample questions and some valuable tips for how to answer them, visit themuse.com.
Use military lingo
While the military has given you exceptional work and leadership experiences, it may be difficult for a civilian employer to match your skills with their organization when they do not fully understand your past responsibilities. Help them understand by avoiding military jargon and acronyms during the interview. Instead, translate your qualifications into “civilian-friendly” language. For example, a Unit Diary Clerk has skills in data entry, claims processing, customer support and auditing. These are all tasks a civilian will understand. To help identify your civilian-equivalent skills, use this online military skills translator.
Keep the conversation positive and never speak negatively about past employers, jobs, co-workers or managers.
Forget the closing and follow up
At the end of the interview, thank your interviewers and reiterate your interest in the position and the company. Ask any unanswered questions and inquire about next steps. Will there be a follow-up interview? Will they call you? When do they expect to make a decision?
Ask for business cards to be sure you have the correct names, titles and contact information of everyone you met. This will make it easy for you to follow up with the all-important thank you email or letter. The letter/email should be sent as soon as possible after the interview. It can be short but can go a long way toward leaving a positive impression. The letter/email should:
Visit job.hunt.org for sample interview thank you emails and other helpful job search advice.
Job interviews can be stressful, but they can take you one step closer to a great opportunity. Be prepared, confident and focus on the positive. If you don’t get the job, don’t get discouraged. Finding employment takes time and it doesn’t always happen right away. Good luck on your interview!