Interview tips for veterans entering the civilian workforce
Like many other service members leaving active duty service, I found preparing for the civilian workforce frustrating. Crafting your military service into a resume and preparing for an interview is daunting. One of the most common questions that I receive is, “How should I answer interview questions?” But it is just as important to think about what questions you will ask the employer.
Interviewing is a two-way dialogue. Yes, your potential employer will ask questions to learn more about you and the skills you bring to the table. It is great to leverage tools, such as the STAR technique (i.e., situation, task, action, result), which will help you practice translating your military experience and assist with preparing a clear and concise response to your interviewer.
While you are preparing to answer questions, it is equally important you prepare relevant questions to learn more about your potential employer, supervisor and the position to ensure that the opportunity is a good fit for your career aspirations. The best approach to asking fact-finding questions is to keep them focused, open ended and not too broad. Just remember to stay away from questions that yield yes or no responses. If you are unsure about what to ask in an interview, below are some key examples that will help you showcase you are the perfect hire.
At the beginning of an interview, an employer often asks to learn more about you and what you are seeking in a job. This question is an opportunity to set the tone of the interview and to showcase what you want to highlight about yourself. As you conclude your answer, use the opportunity to learn more about what the interviewer is seeking.
Perhaps, “I was excited to meet with you today. Could you tell me a bit more about you’re looking for?” This question accomplishes a few things. First, it prevents you from talking too much. When job candidates are not being interrupted—and are possibly nervous—they tend to ramble.
Asking a question can give you a break and allows the employer to talk. This strategy can also help establish a trend of productive back-and-forth dialogue. Another question to ask at the beginning of the interview is, “Could you explain the roles and responsibilities of this position in more detail?” When the employer answers this question, ask if him or her could prioritize the duties for you as well. This way, when the employer asks you to articulate what you’ve done in your previous roles, you can highlight how your previous experience aligns with the position in front of you.
Next, consider drafting questions that can help you learn more about the organizational culture, day-to-day jobs, responsibilities, education, skills and experience requirements, as well as soft skills or character traits the employer is seeking. The employer will be analyzing you on competency and culture fit, looking skills, education, personality, and desire to do the job well. At the same time, you should be looking to determine whether you want to work for the company, and whether the opportunity is one you can perform.
To help your thought process, it can be beneficial to ask questions about the goals or objectives for the position:
—How does the employer determine success in this role?
—What obstacles might you encounter to accomplishing those goals?
—Are the goals realistic?
—What resources are available to achieve the goals?
Remember, an interview is an exchange of information. Asking thoughtful questions is a great way to determine whether you really want the job. Good luck!
Pamela Johnson is the Veterans and Military Families Program Manager, Goodwill Industries International.