Nail a Post-Military Job Interview With These 5 Tips

Nail a Post-Military Job Interview With These 5 Tips
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How can you possibly prepare for an interview when the search term “interview questions” produces 874 million results? Trying to compose answers for every possible question is not only impossible, it likely will cause you to arrive at the interview stressed and exhausted. Instead, focus your effort using this simple formula.

Project confidence. While you don't need to say this to the interviewer, remember the interview is helping you determine whether you want to work for this organization. Particularly, if you've done lots of informational interviews, this mindset changes the scene in your head from an interrogation to a conversation. Observe and interact appropriately with everyone you encounter. It will help you gauge the company culture, and hiring managers often ask front desk personnel for their opinions on a potential new hire.

Be the smartest person in the room. Research the industry, company, interviewer(s), and job ahead of time using the internet and your network.

Organize your thoughts in the days before. Make a bullet list of your strengths, weaknesses, biggest accomplishments, and what you can do for the organization. Then, come up with two answers and three stories you can adapt on-the-spot to answer any of those millions of possible questions. First, “Tell me about yourself.” This isn't a life history but a description of who you are as related to this position -what in your background makes you a fit for this job? Second, “Tell me about a time you've failed.” The answer is not, “I've never failed.” If you haven't failed, you haven't tried. Using the STAR method (situation, task, actions, result), talk about your failure and how you recovered to be a stronger professional. Finally, your three stories. Again using the STAR method, what are you proud of? What do you want them to know? Those stories and your bullets will answer any question they can ask. Take a second to organize the answer in your head, then keep your answers short (less than two minutes) and conversational. Use the interviewers' names appropriately in your answers.

Always ask questions at the end. Your objectives are two-fold: Show you've done your homework and gather intelligence for follow-on interviews or salary negotiations. For example, asking about a trend you've noticed in their profit and loss statements shows off your intellect. Asking about the desired characteristics of a successful candidate allows you to highlight those things in your thank-you note and in call-back interviews.

Maintain your composure through the end. Don't forget a closing statement about why you're a good fit for the position, and convey that you remain interested and look forward to the next steps. Always send an email thank-you note to every interviewer immediately afterward. Notes to others you encountered and handwritten mailed thank-you notes are nice touches and might set you apart from other candidates.

Find more transition tips on the MOAA Career Center.


About the Author

Capt. Erin E. Stone JAGC, USN (Ret)
Capt. Erin E. Stone JAGC, USN (Ret)

Stone is a former Senior Director, Council and Chapter Affairs at MOAA.