When preparing for an interview the critical question is – what questions will I be asked? The defense industry and defense contracting careers come with their own unique requirements. Expect questions that delve into your trustworthiness, as well as your capabilities.
Defense contractors are usually required to perform at very high levels of achievement and be ready to perform their jobs with very little transition time. Adaptability is a key trait. The operational tempo may be difficult for some employees to adjust to, so it is critical that hiring managers chose the right individuals. Given lengthy waiting periods for security credentialing and access, it’s important that each hire is a long term investment.
Below are five questions you can expect to be asked by a defense industry hiring manager. Have others you’d add to this list? Make a note of them in the comments section.
Do you have an active security clearance?
Defense industry hiring managers prefer to hire talent that has already been cleared. They will also want to know the dates of your last reinvestigation, which agency conducted the clearance, and other details. A facility security officer within the company will verify any information you provide, so be sure it’s correct. If you don’t know the status of your clearance, answer honestly – don’t fudge the details. It is best to discuss security clearance as soon as possible, as it is often a non-negotiable condition for being hired.
Do you have prior experience working for a government agency?
Obviously it would be beneficial to have had previous experience in another agency, but depending on what kind of job you are applying for, it may or may not be a solid requirement. Positions within the Defense Department often require some knowledge of the military and its culture- e.g. military ranks, protocol, and other aspects of dealing with high-level senior officers in a more formal setting.
Are you able to work in an environment where the stress level may be elevated?
Working for the Department of Defense is very different from most other government agencies. A job candidate should be aware of the high level of expectation and that stress is a part of most jobs-especially those in organizations that support senior leadership with high-profile missions. A candidate should be prepared to answer questions which address their ability to be flexible and proactive. The Department of Defense has a mission which requires a great deal from contractors, and the expectation of a hiring manager will be that their employees will provide consistent levels of excellence for the government client.
Are you willing to travel?
Department of Defense contractors may be required to travel in order to perform their job, but for the most part, contractors are assigned to a duty station and may only be asked to travel within a 50 mile radius of their job site. All government agencies, to include DoD, have cut back on travel, but it’s still a requirement for some positions.
Are you comfortable working independently? How do you work in team environments?
Government contractors often face the sticky situation of having to please two bosses – both an on-site government manager as well as their company supervisor. Historically, government personnel have not performed annual reviews for contractor staff. Recently, some organizations have allowed government input for contractor employee reviews since their opinions and experiences with the individual can provide a contracting company supervisor valuable insight into the employee’s performance. Knowing that not all employees deal with the nuance well, expect hiring managers to try to flesh out your capacity to work in both a team environment, as well as independently on a work site. They want to know that you’ll both represent them well with your expertise, while being respectful of the government lead’s authority.
While there may be high-demands in government contracting, it is also an environment that has the potential for great satisfaction, excellent mentorship, and professional growth. There are good reasons why many people make defense contracting their life-long profession. Acing your interview is the first step to becoming one of them.