In the transition from military to civilian employment, veterans often hear the advice to practice mock interviews. These simulated sessions aim to familiarize job seekers with common interview questions. The idea is that through repetition, veterans can confidently communicate their background to civilian employers. While this advice seems straight forward enough – there is a caveat to this advice. The more that veterans practice answering employment questions- the more they can sound like they’ve been rehearsing lines and can come across disingenuous.


While there is certainly value in understanding how to express military experience to civilian employers; I would question if mock interviews are missing the mark. Let’s compare mock interviews to rehearsing lines of a play. The actor spends a considerable amount of time remembering their lines. Once they have remembered their lines and embedded it into their  muscle memory,  they can add emotional elements to the dialogue. This is where the rubber meets the road for actors. The emotional element of the conversation starts to take form when the lines the actor remembered becomes their truth.

Typically during a mock interview, the interviewer will ask the veteran a series of popular employment questions. The veteran is able to take those questions home, practice their answers, and answer the questions. The problem with this is that there is no way to predict what the interviewer is going to ask. Let alone, what type of emotional elements (body language) will be involved in the process. It’s easy to feel confident with scripted responses. But when impromptu questions come up, many are not prepared.

From my experience working in a hiring capacity, there are typically one of two responses that happen. One experience is that the veteran is able to quickly think on their feet and find a correlation to what they’ve been practicing to the questions asked during the interview. Another experience is that the veteran will stumble to find a connection to the unexpected question and inevitably fill the room with uncomfortable silence. At this point, the interviewer will either move on to the next question and the veteran will likely feel frustrated at their lack of response.


Mock interviews can certainly assist a veteran with getting comfortable expressing their military experience to civilian employers. However, most interviewers can tell when a job candidate has been “rehearsing their answers” versus speaking in the moment. It is important to not rely too much on the scripted research and theory of a mock interview. Make sure you’re having candid conversations so you can learn to speak in the moment and without a script.

Unfortunately, the best way to learn how to “sell your experience” to a civilian employer is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The best strategy for an authentic job interview is to turn over control and the need of preparation – and allow the natural unfoldment of your truth to come out. After all, why do you need to practice telling your truth? Trust your instincts and master the interview.

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Carin Richelle Sendra is a Post 9/11 USAF Veteran that served both in active duty as well as D.O.D security contracting OCONUS. She has spent time in both the private and public sector working within the Human Capital space assisting organizations to train and develop their teams. She has spent time as a lecturer for academic and professional development. Carin has spent several years supporting the military and veteran community while offering her unique perspective that many veterans encounter post-service. She has a Master's degree in Management studies from The University of Redlands and a certificate from Cornell University on The Psychology of Leadership.