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Acing The Job Interview — 6 Tips For Veterans


by Florence Black

Going to job interviews is stressful for everyone, and almost everyone has been or will be to at least one job interview. Returning military personnel may find their first batch of interviews when looking for a civilian posting especially harrowing.

Changing careers and working cultures is not easy, but these six job interview tips should help you feel more relaxed and give you a better chance at landing your dream job:

Prepare Talking Points.

Just like no politician ever steps up to the podium without having prepared something to say, no job applicant should come to an interview without having a mental list of topics you’d like to bring up in conversation. You want to show your prospective employer that you are more than the words on your resume.

Because they may not know what questions to ask you about your military service, be prepared to explain some of the challenges you’ve faced in the military, the opportunities you’ve taken advantage of with military scholarships and the plans you have for your future in civilian employment.

Do Your Homework on the Company.

Don’t spend all of your time at the interview talking about yourself. Yes, you should put your best foot forward and convince the interviewer that you’re the right candidate, but you should also ask questions. And those questions should show that you’ve researched the company, and have taken an interest in what that company does and how it works.

The answers to the questions you ask shouldn’t be easily found on the company’s website or other literature; think of deeper questions, if you can. For example, instead of asking how many employees the company has, ask what immediate needs their team is facing.

Be Enthusiastic.

One of the top tips from recruiters is that applicants should show enthusiasm when coming for an interview. Often people think they should play it cool, or if they feel nervous, they should minimize their reactions. But if you want to stand out as someone who should be hired, you need to show that you are eager to adapt to company culture and that you’re ready to take the offer.

Your recruiter would like to know that you’ll be an enthusiastic worker after you’re hired. Smiling, offering a firm handshake and making eye contact with your recruiter will all help.

Above All: Be Honest.

That’s not to say that your enthusiasm should be faked. If you really don’t feel enthusiastic about a job, it probably isn’t the right job for you. It’s paramount that you are honest in your other answers as well. If there is a period of time or a position listed on your resume or in your application paperwork that is complex or difficult to describe to a civilian, think carefully about how to present it to your interviewer in such a way that you don’t sound like you’re skirting the truth.

If a question comes up that you don’t know the answer to, it’s okay to say so. Honesty will win you points.

Don’t Be Afraid of Phone Interviews — But Don’t Minimize Their Importance, Either.

Many job applicants who feel that they can adequately represent themselves in face-to-face interviews quake when faced with a telephone interview. This is because the outcome of the interview seems largely based on your voice and how quick-thinking you are. However, phone interviews don’t have to be nerve-wracking. When you find out the time of your interview, clear your schedule for thirty minutes to an hour beforehand and prepare yourself mentally. Go over your talking points and your notes about the company, breathe deeply and drink plenty of water so your throat won’t feel scratchy during the call.

It helps some interviewers to dress up for phone interviews, even though no one will see you; the feeling of being in more formal clothes may give you confidence. Don’t forget to smile during the interview, either — you’ll come across as more pleasant and trustworthy over the phone if you put a smile in your voice.

Close the Interview as You Would a Sale.

If you’ve ever tried to sell something to someone, you know how important it is to “close” on the deal before your conversation ends. Even if you can’t ask the interviewer “well, are you hiring me or not?” you should indicate at the end of the interview if you’d like to take the position, and find out what the next steps in the company’s hiring process are.

People always talk about the importance of first impressions, but if you bolt out of the interview like a startled rabbit without having nailed down what happens next, you’ll create a poor impression as surely as if you’d shown up late and unprepared.


Florence Black is a career counselor who formerly worked in human resource departments in top-ranking companies in the Southwest. In her current practice, she’s helped over 100 veterans transition to civilian life.