After creating an impressive resume, performing well in the interview is the next critical step towards securing your target opportunity. Chances are, you will be asked, “Why should we hire you?” at some point in the hiring process, so it is critical that you consider your answers to questions such as:
- What assets (education, experiences, skills, etc.) do you bring to the table?
- What makes you unique?
- What value can you bring to my organization?
If you have experienced a military promotion board, then interviewing for a job may feel very similar, and to be successful in both, preparation is key. In my work as a corporate recruiter, as well as observing countless practice interviews, I have noticed some characteristics that may make all the difference in separating a so-so interview from one that is outstanding:
- Research the Opportunity/Organization
Prior to the interview, research both the opportunity you applied for and the organization. If you are preparing for a job interview, identify at least three reasons why you are excited about joining the organization. These may include the organization’s reputation, its products or services, or its culture. Be sure to consider how you would fit into the organization. Why is this job a good fit for your education, skills, and/or experiences?Another point to consider: why do you want to work for this organization? HINT: Just saying, “Because you are military-friendly” is not enough. Plenty of companies say this, and many do make hiring veterans a priority. So why this organization? Is it that they are located close to home? Do you know a lot of people who work there who say it is a great place to work? Are you excited about their mission, the job, the company’s reputation, etc.?
- The First 10 Seconds are Key
We all make judgments about people as soon as we see them, and this is especially true in an interview. Arrive at the interview 15 minutes early dressed professionally. During the interview, be courteous, and have a firm handshake, upright posture, and good eye contact. Smiling is also a good way to show your personality and to demonstrate that you are not overly uptight and rigid (negative stereotypes that some recruiters may have about veterans).
- Give Examples
One big mistake I see many job seekers make is not providing specific examples to prove they have the skills they claim to have. For example, when answering the question “Why should I choose you,” many job seekers will provide a laundry list of characteristics (“I’m a great leader,” “I have excellent communication skills,” and so on). Instead of this strategy, give an example for each of these traits to prove you have these skills.While explaining your experiences, be sure to use terminology the employer will understand. You cannot assume a recruiter will understand terms like PCS, FOB, ICBM, fleet, squadron, battalion, etc. At the very least, avoid using acronyms without explaining them first, and clarify how many people are in a battalion or aircraft/ships are in a fleet. Ideally, have a non-military friend listen to you explain what you did in the military, and ask for candid feedback about whether your explanations were clear and straightforward.
- Ask Questions
Finally, be sure to ask the interviewer relevant questions to show your strong interest and to help you determine if this is the right job for you. Usually this takes place at the end of the interview. Prepare your questions in advance, and bring them with you to the interview. This is often the only time when you are truly in control of the interview. The questions you ask can end your interview on a high note and leave a positive last impression.
Interviewing is a skill that can be developed over time. Most interviewers can spot individuals who walk into the interview without adequate preparation. If you do not come to the interview prepared to talk about why you should be chosen, then why should the employer choose you? Researching the organization, preparing your list of questions for the interviewer, and practicing your answers to interview questions are simple tasks that are critical to your success.
To help practice your interview skills, UMUC’s CareerQuest platform offers two tools, Quinncia and Interview Stream, which will allow you to conduct mock interviews, review your recordings, and receive feedback.
Best wishes to you as you plan and prepare. If you need assistance, please feel free to reach out to UMUC Career Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or (240) 684-2720.
Kristin Schrader is the Assistant Director of InternPLUS and Military Career Programs at UMUC. Prior to coming to UMUC, Kristin taught the Department of Labor Employment Workshops at military bases in six different countries and online. A proud Army spouse, she is very passionate about helping UMUC’s military-affiliated students achieve their career ambitions.