A job interview is your first opportunity to put your best foot forward (in person) with a potential new employer. You want to make a great impression and avoid any missteps. There are general interview mistakes every job seeker should be mindful of, and for veterans, there are a few specific watchouts.
Build a Friendly Rapport
In the military, you were conditioned to write and speak using the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) method of communication. Giving concise, straightforward answers is a valuable skill, but it’s not always the best tactic in a job interview. Interviews are an opportunity for the employer to assess your skills and experience, but it’s also their chance to get to know more about you as a person. Since today more than ever, culture fit is extremely important to most companies, don’t shy away from letting your real personality show. Speak honestly about your hobbies, volunteer and community work, and interests. You never know what will make you stand out.
Be Mindful of Body Language
Body language and eye contact go hand in hand with building a strong rapport. You want to appear confident and engaged, but not too rigid or stiff. Sit up straight, and try to settle into a posture that’s slightly relaxed. You should use eye contact to show you’re engaged with the conversation and comfortable. Look directly at the interviewer or interviewers while you’re answering a question and leverage pauses in conversation to break eye contact and jot down notes or think about what you’re going to say next.
Show Your Value
Your core objective in any job interview is to convince the employer that your skills and experience make you a qualified applicant for the job. For veterans, this can be difficult because there isn’t always be a direct connection between your previous experiences and the responsibilities of the position. It’s up to you to draw those connections for them. Whenever you can, translate your military experiences and skills into civilian terms. If you were a tank crew member, explain that you have extensive experience operating heavy equipment. If you worked in the military as a medic, describe your experiences as a healthcare specialist, and be sure to mention any certifications that translate to the civilian workforce, like an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification.
Ask Questions and Follow Up
In the military, you’re often expected not to ask questions. But a civilian job interview goes both ways, and not asking questions at the end can make you seem unprepared or uncaring. Before your interview, brainstorm several thoughtful questions about the company and role that couldn’t be answered with a simple Google search. (Avoid questions about pay and benefits—save those for when you get the job offer). After your interview, send a follow-up letter or email thanking the interviewer for their time and consideration.
Here are some examples of questions to ask the hiring manager:
- What is the management style of this department?
- What would define success in this position?
- What do the first 90 days in the position look like?
- Do you have veteran resource groups in this department?
No matter the job or industry, the best way to have a successful job interview is by being prepared. Research the role, company, and interviewer. You’ll be more relaxed and able to think more clearly. Good luck!