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Interview Tips to Start Your Civilian Career

Interviewing in the civilian sector is different. In this blog post, we'll discuss some tips for preparing for job interviews as a veteran. Keep reading to learn more!
Interview Tips to Start Your Civilian Career

Interviewing in the civilian sector is different. Your military service provided you with transferrable skills and there are ways to effectively position them in the interview. In this blog post, we'll discuss some tips from our team of Veterans' career experts to prepare for job interviews. Keep reading to learn more!

Research the Company, its Solutions, and its Competitors

Before you walk into an interview, it's important that you know as much as possible about the company. What do they do? What are their values? What are their major products or services? The more you know, the better prepared you'll be to answer questions and discuss why you're a good fit for the organization.

Additionally, it's important to research the company's competitors. What are they doing that's different? How does the company you're interviewing with compare? This will help you position yourself as a solution to the company's challenges.

Highlight Your Military Experience

Your military service has provided you with skills and experiences that are highly valued in the civilian sector. When you're preparing for an interview, take some time to think about how your military experience can be applied to the role you're interviewing for.

For example, if you're applying for a management position, you can discuss your experience leading a team of soldiers. If you're applying for a customer service role, you can discuss your experience dealing with difficult customer service issues in the military.

Research the Interviewers

In addition to researching the company, it's also important to research the individuals who will be interviewing you. This can be done by searching for them on LinkedIn or other social media platforms.

When you know more about the interviewer, you'll be better prepared to ask questions and connect with them on a personal level. This will help build rapport and make a positive impression.

Review the Job Description

Before your interview, review the job description and make a list of the key qualifications that are required for the role. Then, think about how your skills and experiences match up. Think about clear examples of how you have done each of the requirements or responsibilities in the service.

This will make your responses to the questions more relevant and make you stand out as the best candidate. Plus, this exercise of reviewing the job description and coming up with talking points will also help you to directly prepare for many of the likely questions that will be asked in the civilian interview.

Prepare for Common Interview Questions

There are some common interview questions that you should be prepared to answer, regardless of the role you're interviewing for. These include questions about your experience, your motivation for applying, and your goals for the future.

Additionally, you should be prepared to answer questions about your military service. What was your role in the military? How did you develop the skills that you have? What are some of the challenges you faced while serving?

Some common interview questions in the civilian sector include:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a challenge.
  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake.
  • Why should I hire you?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

Dress for Success

When you're interviewing for a civilian job, it's important to dress for success. This means wearing professional clothing that is appropriate for the role you're applying for.

For example, if you're interviewing for a customer-facing position, you may want to consider wearing business casual attire. If you're interviewing for a more senior role, you may want to consider wearing a suit.

If you are interviewing by video rather than in person, most civilians expect you to dress exactly how you would if you were in person. The video interview can be more casual, but it is still an interview. That means you may not need to wear a suit, but you need to look professional and capable of joining the team. The key is to always dress in a way that makes you feel confident and shows that you're taking the interview seriously.

Arrive on Time

Be sure to arrive on time for your interview. This means being at the interview location 10-15 minutes early or to log-in on right on time (if not a few minutes early). If you're running late, be sure to call the interviewer and let them know. Similarly, if you experience technical issues, make sure you let the interviewers know. These things happen, but you have to communicate them to the interviewers so they can find a workaround.

Give Succinct, Clear Answers

In the civilian world, interviews are often conducted by people who are not familiar with military life. This means that you may need to explain your experience in terms that they can understand.

For example, if you're asked about your experience leading a team, you may want to talk about a time when you had to give orders and manage people. If you're asked about a time when you had to solve a problem, you may want to talk about a time when you had to come up with an innovative solution under pressure.

The key is to be clear and concise in your answers. The interviewer is likely not familiar with military jargon, so avoid using it in your responses. Instead, focus on giving specific examples of your experience and explaining how it has prepared you for the role you're applying for.

Write Some Questions

At the end of the interview, you will likely be given an opportunity to ask questions. This is your chance to show that you're truly interested in the role and the company. It can also be an effective way to identify potential red flags about the organization, its culture, and whether it really is the right first civilian job for you.

Some questions you may want to consider asking include:

  • What are the biggest challenges this team is facing?
  • What are the company's goals for the next year?
  • What are the team's values?
  • How is someone in this position evaluated for success?
  • What types of projects can the person in this role expect in the first 90 days?
  • Why do you like working here?
  • Do you have any concerns about me as a candidate?

By asking thoughtful questions, you can show that you're engaged and eager to learn more about the role and the company. This is a great way to make a positive impression on the interviewer and increase your chances of getting the job.

Ask About Next Steps

At the end of the interview, be sure to ask about the next steps in the process. This shows that you're interested in the role and want to move forward in the process. It also gives you a chance to find out when you can expect to hear back from the interviewer.

For example, you may want to say something like, "Based on what you've told me, I think I would be a great fit for this role. What are the next steps in the process?"

This is a great way to end the interview on a positive note and show that you're excited about the opportunity.

Practice for the Real Thing

Once you've prepared for your interview, it's important to practice. This can be done by doing a mock interview with a friend or family member. Consider role-playing different types of questions so that you're comfortable with the format and have a few go-to answers in mind.

You can also practice your answers out loud so that you're familiar with them and can deliver them confidently in the interview.

The more you practice, the more confident you'll feel going into the real thing. And when you're confident, you're more likely to make a great impression and get the job you want.

Follow-up

Once the interview is over, be sure to follow up with a thank-you note. This can be as simple as sending an email to the people you interviewed with or the HR contact that has been coordinating the interviews. Take the time to do this follow-up right away (or within 24 hours of the interview) to have the best impression. Effective follow-up is a great way to show your appreciation for the interviewer's time and reaffirm your interest in the role.

When you're preparing for job interviews as a veteran, it's important to keep a few things in mind. First, you may need to explain your experience in terms that the interviewer will understand. Second, ask questions about the role and the company. And finally, practice for the real thing. If you would like more help in preparing for your interview or your civilian job search, our team would love to help. Use the form below to schedule a free consultation to find out how our Veterans' career experts can assist.