Most transitioning military personnel have never had to interview for a position. In the military, natural career progression and a demonstrated record of performance have dictated the particular jobs you have secured. Corporate America is different. In order to secure the position you are targeting, you must be able to convince an interviewer that your military experience and your demonstrated track record of performance are a strong fit for their organization. The candidate who can best relate his or her background and strengths to an interviewer will be the one who gets the job.
There are four basic steps you should take when preparing for an interview: 1) research yourself, 2) practice, 3) research the company, and 4) logistically prepare.
1. Research Yourself
It is guaranteed you will be asked a question you didn't prepare for during an interview. It is crucial that you know and understand your performance history to be able to answer any question. You must analyze your strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures, in order to:
- Emphasize specific strengths during an interview
- Talk about specific examples you can relate to support your answers
- Sell yourself
You must take the time to practice your responses whether it is with a friend or spouse, tape recorder, or by videotaping yourself, in order to check speech or behavioral idiosyncrasies you may have that you are not aware of. Know your resume and be prepared to explain the responsibilities, roles and achievements of each position. Prepare examples from your military and personal history that will support your responses and differentiate you from other candidates. Thinking through your answers is not enough for most people. It is important to verbalize your answers. It is much easier in an interview setting to answer questions you have already practiced out loud.
3. Company Research
The first interview requires some research to ensure that you have some general knowledge of the company. The information you uncover in your research will allow you to ask thoughtful questions that illustrate a strong interest and potential fit with the company. The second interview will require much more in-depth research. For any interview, take time to understand the following information:
- Current Status
- Corporate structure (HQ location, size, divisions, international or domestic?, public or private?)
- Record of Corporate Growth as related to products and expansion in general (don't talk specific financials)
If possible, talk to people who work at the company. Act like a prospective employee and you will be viewed as such
In order for an interview to go as smoothly as possible, you must make sure you are logistically prepared. Arrive early, look sharp, and present a professional image. Make sure your attire is ready and you know where the interview is. If you can answer the following questions, you should be set for you interview:
- What time is your interview?
- Who are you interviewing with?
- Where is your interview? How long will you be there? How long does it take to get there?
- Is your attire ready?
- Did you remember to bring extra resumes in a tasteful folder (portfolio) with paper and pen?
- Do you have a brag book? If interviewing for sales, you must have a Brag Book (a three-ring binder, with plastic sleeves containing resumes, evaluations, transcripts, awards).
Any logistical misstep can cause you to be nervous or rushed. If this happens, stay calm. Remember to check yourself in the mirror before each interview. Have a phone number to call in the event that you will be late to the interview.
Continue to the next topic: Types of Interviews