Skills #5: Interviews (Part 1)


In this episode I share advice from the Beyond the Uniform community about how Veterans can best prepare for and excel at a civilian interview. This is a new experience for those on Active Duty, and one of the most cited challenges that veterans face in their transition. 10 different members of the Beyond the Uniform community weigh in with their advice and recommended resources.

This is a new type of episode, and I’d love any feedback on this approach. Usually, I interview military veterans about their civilian career. Today, instead, I’m going to dive into a specific skill I think would be helpful to veterans in their civilian career.

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Selected Resources:

Show Notes:

  • Jon Anderson – network!
  • Meg Potter: Two things: actually wear your interview outfit to ensure fit/comfort and work with a friend to rehearse/drill possible interview questions. Oh and actually familiarize yourself with the company and position.
  • Mark Mitchell: Read PCS to corporate America
  • Aaron Burch
    • Learn how to interview: Watch sample interviews on YouTube. Learn the STAR method. Look up lists of behavioral interview questions. Prepare a mental list of 10-15 examples from your past experience that can be tailored to answer most of the behavioral questions you can find, and memorize those examples. Practice interviewing with someone, and record yourself, then watch with them and someone else and ask for feedback. Repeat this.
    • Learn about the company: Google the company, their competitors, suppliers, and customers. If they are publically traded, read their annual report and listen to their latest earnings call. Research common interview questions and scenarios used at the company.
    • Learn about your interviewer: Look up your interviewer on LinkedIn. Find out how long they’ve been with the company and their previous roles. Find them on Twitter or other social media and look for anything relatable.
    • Learn about the position: Read and re-read the position description, noting key skills and experiences, then think of ways you fit the bill, either directly or indirectly. Look up the position on GlassDoor, TransparentCareer, etc. Try to find a loose connection with someone at the company who has or previously had the job you’re interviewing for, and talk to them.
    • Make yourself memorable: Depending on your skillset and the position type, make a “leave behind” to give your interviewer. Maybe it’s an infographic. Maybe it’s a book of previous projects. Ideally, it has some parallels to the types of work products you might expect to produce in the position.
    • Execute: During the interview and where appropriate, sprinkle in anecdotes you uncovered during your preparation. Maybe it’s a commonality you share with the interviewer. Maybe it’s an idea for a new service. Demonstrate that you’re already thinking of real ways to cut expenses or grow revenue, before you even have the job. Show genuine interest in the industry, company, and position. If you can’t find genuine interest after all of this preparation, it’s probably not a good fit for you.
    • Follow Up: Depending on the size of the company and the industry, send an email or handwritten thank you card within 24 hours of your interview, thanking the interviewer for his/her time and expressing your continued excitement.
    • AAR: Doing everything above isn’t reasonable for every interview. Take what you learned, having done it all, and tailor your approach next time to what seemed like the most value added activities.
  • Richard Herron
    • WRT the interview, be yourself.
    • Think more about what career you want to interview for. A big help for me was finding a mentor to chat about options. Most people we dealt with were also on AD and hadn’t seen the other side. Go on LinkedIn and cold email people that have the career you’re considering.
    • Thanks for BTU. I wish this existed when I was transitioning.
  • Jared Wymer
    • In military terms, treat each interview as a mission. Just as you tailor your resume for a role, you should also tailor the way that you talk about your experience, the role, and the company. For instance (and get used to using the phrases “for instance”, “for example”, and “and by that I mean”), the same work that an active duty service member put into writing the resume that got them the interview (ex: SCOUR the company website so you understand [1] culture [2] business objectives [3] how you fit into the mix [4] how you add value [note: this is much easier with public companies who are required to disclose certain information]; look on websites like Glassdoor, O*Net, etc. to make sure you understand the breadth of what you can bring to the table; make sure you can speak to every line of the job description in a PAR or STAR format. I could frankly provide a whole layperson class/presentation on this, but these are some of the key actions.
  • Lee Haney: What we learned in the military still applies: nothing beats a Leader’s Recon before a tactical movement! In this case, that means learning everything you can about the company and the role before the interview, including informational interviews with people who already work at the company with which you are interviewing.
  • Michael Beard: find veterans in the civilian industry you are targeting, and spend time with them in an informational interview. ask for blunt feedback on your resume and interview skills. use them to get the debriefing and feedback that most civilians are too cautious to give. An HR person will not tell you that you are coming across too stiff, or using too many acronyms, or not smiling enough.
  • Charlie Mello: Discuss how your skillset will provide and drive value to the company. It doesn’t matter as much what you have already done….it matters more what you are willing to do to help the company grow
  • Brian Henry: I actually have 2 of Orion Talent’s podcasts I’d steer them to that we did to address this question. Episode #5 addresses beginning the preparation process and Episode #7 hits a few of the most important questions to be prepared for and how to answer them. https://www.oriontalent.com/podcasts/