Employers use interviews to learn about the person behind the resume. When transitioning from the military into the civilian job market, this can be intimidating. You want to be sure to answer each question with ease. So come prepared for the interview! Your military background will be in full evidence on your resume, so the interview will give you the chance to show who you are outside the military. People want to relate to you to know you are going to be a good fit for their company and team. The interview process will reveal your personality, skills, abilities, strengths, and (possibly) weaknesses.
Here are a few interview questions for you to begin working on now. Transitioning can be tough, but you are the toughest of the tough and being prepared is one of your greatest assets. Use it to your advantage. Practice!
1. Why should we hire you?
This is the best first interview question to be asked. It places the ball in your court and enables you to set the tone for the remainder of the interview. Sell yourself to hiring managers by describing your professional skills and what makes you the best candidate for the position. Remember to speak in terms that are easily understood and steer clear of military jargon. Speak their language and tell them what makes you the right person for hire and why you are capable of doing the role in question. Offer examples that prove you are the right hiring choice. SOF are known for their high energy, team work, problem-solving skills, ability to anticipate and deal with the unexpected, drive to succeed, and calm under pressure. This is the time to highlight these attributes that make you a uniquely compelling candidate to employers.
2. What makes you the best candidate for this position?
Be sure to prepare an answer for this or you will find yourself fumbling for words. Practicing ahead of time will improve your responses and delivery. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel. Be sure to provide examples showing why you are the right candidate, again in understandable terms. War stories will not be sufficient qualification for hire and should be avoided or minimized. It is possible to explain an operations management position in terms that a hiring manager can appreciate.
3. Why are you leaving the military and coming over to the civilian job market?
This can be a difficult question. Keep the answer as professional as possible. It is not necessary to say that you are getting divorced and you felt pressured into leaving the military to be closer to your children, for example. Use future career goals as your primary reasons. You have professional goals set for your future and wish to achieve those goals within their company as a benefit to you both. You want to utilize what you have learned from your experience in the military to better advance your career.
Be careful not to offer critical remarks, political opinions, or anything that could be a direct reflection of you personally. Negative remarks or an inability to answer can be a red flag to the interviewer. If you do not know why you left the military, now is a good time to figure out the answer. (There is no one right answer to this. Wanting to use your skills in new and different applications, a desire to be with family after extended deployments, etc., are reasonable explanations.) The more specific you can be in relating the reason to the job, the better off you will be. Prove to your potential employer that your transitioning from the military is a positive asset to the company.
4. What do you know about our company and what makes you the right fit for this position?
Always learn and read about the company you are interviewing with. If you come unprepared to the interview then you may as well have stayed home. Research the company extensively, along with the position you are interviewing for. There is no need to remind people that you are a transitioning veteran, as they will see that from your resume. They want to know which skills you are bringing to the company and how you will fit into the culture of their business.
5. If you could start your military career over again, what would you do differently?
In transitioning from the military, many find themselves asking this exact question. “Is this a good idea? Did I plan and prepare enough for this transition?” It is ok to share areas within your career where you learned from your choices. Be careful not to answer this question with personal information that is not relevant to your professional career choices. Do not tell them that you don’t know or that you simply went into the military after high school, etc. They want to know how you have learned from your choices and mistakes within your career, and how you will be able to apply these lessons to your advantage when working for them.
6. What will your last supervisor say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses while working for them?
Be honest with yourself and the hiring manager. Be professional and direct. Do not offer information irrelevant to the question. Do not share war stories or use military jargon. The purpose of this question is to learn about your character and how you work with supervisors and co-workers. They are looking for a team player. Being in the military you have always been a team player. Make yourself relatable and talk to managers in a way they can understand.
7. Do you work well under pressure? (Yes, they may actually ask this!) Give me an example while working at your last position.
Careful here, you may think this is a green light to share a war story, but it is not. Do not tell them how you captured the enemy under fire inside enemy lines and retrieved intel worth $2M. (This is also a breach of security.) Instead, tell the hiring manager how you successfully achieved the goals and requirements asked of your supervisors as project leader of a team of 10, in a high-stress environment, and successfully achieved $2M in savings. Be honest about what you did, but restrained when it comes to war stories.
8. How do you handle conflict in the workplace? Give me an example while working at your last job.
This is another question that does not give you a green light to share war stories. Do not tell them how when in conflict you killed the enemy and retrieved a hostage and intel worth $3.5M. Instead, describe a professional situation in which you handled conflict successfully by following the code of ethics and company protocol .
9. Tell me about the best boss you ever worked for and why?
Everyone has worked for someone he/she admired at one time or another. Be careful not to use names or share government secrets. Describing a great leader and mentor gives you the opportunity to demonstrate things you learned from him/her and how you apply them to the way you manage your own team. This question is posed to see how you have learned on the job, to assess the strength of your teamwork orientation, and to understand character and management traits that are important to you.
10. Where do you see yourself in five years?
You need to plan for this question. Provide clear goals that tell the hiring manager your plan of success within that particular career path. Not knowing the answer to this question can be perceived as a weakness. Emphasize your drive, your experience and skill set, along with the your potential to make the company more successful.
Enjoy the process. There is a variety of questions you can be asked while in the interview process, including questions tailored to the specific role you have applied for. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these types of questions prior to heading into the interview process. Put on your best suit and tie and, for the ladies, your best professional skirt and blouse, smile often and keep eye contact. Show up ON TIME and you will do just fine. As always, my services are free of charge to all veterans. If you are in need of resume writing or help in brand management, I am always happy to help. – Jena Muller