The transition from a military career to a civilian one can sometimes be a daunting task.
As a veteran of the armed forces, you are a professional with several skills but sometimes translating your military experience to benefit the public or private sector can be confusing.
Here are 10 tips that can help veterans, from all branches, pass their interview
Before the Interview
- Avoid using military jargon or terms. Do research and find a way to explain your military experience using words that employers will understand.
- Contact and/or update your references. If you have not done so, reach out and acquire some outstanding recommendation letters from people you have worked with.
- Make a list of unique military experiences that will help you stand out during your interview.
- Make sure you have reviewed your resume and consider how you will present the most relevant points to the interviewer.
- Do research on how to stand out. It is important that your interview is a unique and memorable experience for the interviewer.
2) Use the right keywords to relate your military experience to the job.
- Keywords are commonly used terms in the industry that will help you articulate your experience and qualifications for the job you want.
- There are many ways to figure out which keywords are important for the job you are interviewing for. You can simply search “(job title) keywords” on Google or go the extra mile and examine related job descriptions for recurring words.
- For example: searching “Retail Manager Keywords” using Google will give you articles that breakdown the primary keywords for the position.
- The article(s) will list keywords that are not used often by the military. Drawing a connection is much easier once you connect the dots (remember to use the job description keywords throughout your resume and interview!).
Here is an example of how to do this for a retail manager position:
Retail Manager Keywords
- Strategic Planning
- Inventory Control
- Safety & Compliance
- Performance Standards
- Team Leadership and Mentoring
Military Related Keywords
- Operations orders, mission execution, objective planning
- Weapon & vehicle systems check-in/out, equipment accountability
- Supply acquisition (requesting equipment, meals, uniforms, etc.)
- Rules of Engagement, vehicle and weapons operation procedures, SHARP Training
- Counseling, Pay grade promotions, PT Scores, Evaluations
- Squad/Team/Platoon Leader, Unit Morale
3) Dress to impress, but don’t wear any uniforms.
- It is always better to over dressed than be underdressed. A collared shirt, a tie, slacks, and leather shoes should be enough for most interviews (but do research on the company as some interviews require a full suit).
- Even if the job interview instructions state that the company has a casual dress code, it is critical to show that you put together and take pride in your appearance.
4) Print out several copies of your resume and bring them in a folder or binder.
- Make sure you have enough copies of your resume to hand out. You may move onto the next level of the interview within the same day and do not want to seem unprepared.
5) Show up 10-15 minutes early and silence your cell phone.
- It is always better to be early than on time. By showing up early to your interview, the employer will see that you understand accountability—reinforcing your identity as an experienced veteran.
- If it is impossible for you to make the interview on time, be sure to contact the interviewer as soon as possible and reschedule.
6) During the Interview: Greet everyone you interact with, get comfortable but maintain good posture, stay confident and positive, and avoid using “umm” and “like” while speaking.
7) Answer questions using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format and be sure to properly explain how your military experience is related to the position.
- If serving in the military was your first job, the odds are that you will have to reference your time in service in order to answer most interview questions. This is great news, because the military tends to be a far more demanding environment than most civilian jobs and this experience may actually impress interviewers.
- However, be careful to not come off as too prideful. While most veterans have had very difficult and trying experiences, it is important to keep your tone and responses professional.
Example Interview Dialogue for Retail Management Position
Interviewer: Please tell me about your greatest accomplishment.
Army Veteran: My greatest accomplishment took place about a year ago. I had just received my promotion to Squad Leader, which is the first position where you are expected to be the leader of 9 team members. But the promotion was not what defined my accomplishment, it was the experience I gained as a leader. While transitioning from a subordinate role to a command role was a bit rough at first, I was proud that I could motivate my team through the rigors of pre-deployment training, manage inventory efficiently, and serve as a good mentor for my team members—especially when they were struggling with morale or specific tasks. The learning process of becoming a leader and manager was stressful, but my ability to keep calm and adapt made being a squad leader one of my most rewarding accomplishments.
8) Thank the interviewer and every person you interact with.
- When thanking the interviewer, be sure to restate your interest in the job and ask when you can expect a follow up.
After the Interview:
9) Reach out to the interviewer or employer after the discussed follow up date (if it was provided).
10) Send a thank you email or (if appropriate) drop off a letter of appreciation.
- Restate your interest in the job position and thank the interviewer or corporation for their time. You can also include any details you may have forgotten to discuss.
If you received a job offer, assess if the work is right for you. Be sure to think about: the job environment, location, salary and benefits, and company culture.
If you do not hear back from the employer or are not chosen for the position, do not get discouraged. Understand that there are many reasons for why you may have not been offered the job and it may have not been because you did not pass the interview. Do a self-assessment of what went right and wrong and refine your interviewing techniques.
Keep up the effort and be sure to follow the aforementioned tips, you will find the right employer and position if you persist and remain resilient!
Written by Joseph Nguyen