May 05, 2019


Obtaining an interview does not guarantee you the position you seek, but it is an achievement, and it should be viewed not only as the culmination of the work you put into preparing your resume and cover letter, but also as an indication that your prospective employer validates and prizes the skills and achievements you have obtained over the course of your career. Accordingly, as you prepare for an interview, treat it as an opportunity to showcase your personality, skills, and achievements, and use it to gauge how you would fit with the culture of your prospective work place. Importantly, during the interview, it is essential that you present your military career, and the skills you derived from that experience, as the valuable asset that it is. Your service to your country is a testament to your character, talents, and ability to work within a team to obtain hard-to-reach goals. However, describing those skills and experiences to civilian employers can present some challenges. 

Be Prepared To Address What The Employer Is Seeking To Learn

Though interviews can be conducted in a multitude of different ways, employers are generally seeking to answer the same questions during an interview: (1) does the candidate possess the skills they seek; and (2) will the candidate's personality fit the culture of the workplace. In answering these questions, employers are generally seeking to elicit information about three issues:

Your Personality

More than any other aspect of the hiring process, the interview allows the employer to gauge the personality of the candidate. As in any type of interaction, the process of gauging a person's personality is based on a variety of factors, including the candidate's dress, personal hygiene, eye contact, hand shake, confidence, clarity in speech, body language, and willingness to initiate conversation and ask questions. Be cognizant of all of these factors as you prepare for, and participate in, interviews.

Your Motivation

Employers are interested in candidates that can articulate why they want the job, and how their personality and skills suit the needs and advance the goals of the company or firm they are seeking to join. Do your research about the company and the position - having such an understanding will pay dividends when you are in the interview.

Your Ability to Do the Job

Candidates should be able to demonstrate that they have the skills and experience to meet the requirements of the position. A critical part in making a compelling pitch on this point is to have a developed understanding of what the job requires, and how that role fits into the company as a whole.

In preparing for an interview, strategize how you can show that you possess the characteristics the employer is looking for in each of these three areas. To do so, plan ahead, consider what you will say and what you will wear, practice how you present yourself, and do the necessary research to have a working understanding of the company you are seeking to join and the position you are seeking to fill.

Don't Lose Your Audience - Abide by Civilian Norms

The culture change from military service to civilian employment creates unique challenges that veterans need to be aware of, especially in the context of an interview. At the forefront of that challenge is being cognizant of the differences in speech and dress between the military and civilian work force. In preparing for an interview, make yourself aware of these differences and prepare how to resolve them. In that process, be aware of the following:

Be Cognizant Of How People Address Each Other

While Sir and Ma'am are common ways of addressing individuals in the military, those greetings can be too formal in the civilian work place. If your interviewer introduces himself by his first name, use that name.

References To Military Time, Acronyms, Ranks, Or Other Jargon Risks Confusing Your Audience

Approach an interview with the expectation that your interviewer has not been immersed in military culture. Accordingly, do not lose your audience, or invite the possibility of a point being missed, by relying heavily on military terms, time, acronyms, and jargon. Instead, speak in civilian terms, and where necessary, be prepared to translate or frame your military experience in terms that are readily digestible.

Be Prepared To Translate Or Frame Military Terms To Help A Civilian Interviewer Understand Your Credentials

During an interview, you will need to describe what you did in the military, which will, inevitably, require you to rely on military terminology. In doing so, always remember to translate what those terms mean. The best way to do so is to qualify and quantify your experience. For example, in describing a role consider relaying information such as (i) the number of people that you supported or that supported you, (ii) the types of responsibilities that came with your rank and position, (iii) the skill sets required to perform your role, (iv) the clients you served in your military role; (v) ways to quantify the results of your efforts, and (vi) how your military experiences would transfer to the civilian work force.

Dress For The Job You Are Seeking

Although a military uniform commands respect and turns heads, in most circumstances it is not the proper outfit for an interview for a position in the civilian workforce. Instead, dress for the job you are seeking. Plan ahead and invest in a wardrobe that is worn by the colleagues you are seeking to work with.

Practice What You Want To Say And Anticipate What Your Interviewer Will Ask

Interviews can be challenging and nerve-wracking. But challenges and nerves can be mitigated with practice. In addition to the points here, take time to consider what you will be asked at the interview, and how you can respond, pay special attention to questions that cause you difficulty. Along those lines, this website provides some helpful tips and practice questions.

Remember, the interview is also a great opportunity for you to learn about the company and the position you are interviewing for, so in preparing for the interview, determine what information you want to know about the position and company before joining-on. To facilitate that effort, research the company so as to be able to elicit information that you want to know.

After the Interview: Follow Up

Following-up after the interview is worthwhile. At best, it can separate you from other applicants, as it shows that you are interested in the position, and that you are proactive. At worst, it is an e-mail or note that gets cursory attention. In other words, it can be critical to your success, or not hurt at all. With those odds, it makes sense to show your appreciation for the interviewer's time and consideration of your interest in the position.

As you Prepare for Interviews, Please Consider These Other Helpful Resources