How many times have you heard that transitioning from the military to a civilian lifestyle can and will be a challenge? You’re going to hear it a lot more because it is 100% fact. I am going on my eighth month of transition, and I am still being caught off guard by the sheer audacity of lessons that life has been throwing my way. 

One thing that you may need additional practice on is your approach to interviews. It is nice when they tell you what you must do to prepare, but wouldn’t it be better if they taught you how to prepare? The military taught us how to adapt and overcome obstacles. Still, generally, those lessons came with new gear, a little instruction in terms that we get, and some practical exercises.

Quick and easy lessons

I am here to hopefully help you learn these lessons in a much easier fashion instead of a brutal spin-kick to the face at the worst time. Here are some tailored interview tips for transitioning service members:

1. Translate Military Experience to Civilian Terms

  • Avoid Jargon: Explain your military roles and achievements in terms that civilians can understand. For example, instead of “Squad Leader,” say “Team Leader.”
  • Relate to Job Requirements: Focus on how your military skills and experiences align with the job you are applying for.

2. Highlight Transferable Skills

  • Leadership and Teamwork: Emphasize your leadership experience and ability to work effectively in teams.
  • Problem-Solving and Decision-Making: Provide examples of how you’ve tackled challenges and made important decisions.
  • Discipline and Work Ethic: Highlight your strong work ethic, discipline, and commitment to excellence.

3. Prepare Your Story

  • STAR Method: Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your answers. This helps in clearly communicating your experiences and achievements.
  • Practice Common Questions: Prepare for common interview questions like “Tell me about yourself,” “Why do you want this job?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

4. Research the Company

  • Understand Their Mission: Learn about the company’s mission, values, and culture. Relate your experiences to align with these aspects.
  • Know Their Products/Services: Be knowledgeable about what the company offers and how your skills can contribute.

5. Dress Appropriately

  • Professional Attire: Dress in professional business attire. Make sure your clothing is clean, well-fitted, and appropriate for the company culture.
  • Grooming: Pay attention to personal grooming, ensuring a neat and professional appearance.

6. Show Enthusiasm and Confidence

  • Positive Attitude: Display a positive attitude and enthusiasm for the role and the company.
  • Body Language: Maintain good posture, make eye contact, and use a firm handshake. Smile and engage actively during the conversation.

7. Prepare Questions to Ask

  • Insightful Questions: Prepare thoughtful questions about the company, team, and role. This shows your interest and helps you assess if the company is a good fit for you.
  • Future Prospects: Ask about growth opportunities, company culture, and how success is measured in the role.

8. Practice Mock Interviews

  • Get Feedback: Conduct mock interviews with friends, family, or career counselors. Use their feedback to improve your answers and delivery.
  • Record Yourself: Record your practice interviews to self-evaluate your performance and make necessary adjustments.

9. Address Potential Gaps

  • Explain Transitions: Be prepared to explain any gaps in your employment history due to deployments or training.
  • Continuous Learning: Highlight any additional training, education, or certifications you’ve pursued to stay relevant.

10. Follow-Up After the Interview

  • Thank You Note: Send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview. Express your appreciation for the opportunity and reiterate your interest in the role.
  • Reflect and Improve: Reflect on the interview to identify areas for improvement. Use this knowledge to prepare better for future interviews.

Represent yourself right

If you follow these tips, you will not only present yourself better to the interviewer, but you can also present your skills clearly and effectively. As a veteran, you have skills that nobody else has and you have experiences that more than likely none of your coworkers will have. You are disciplined and you are dedicated. Communicate these things to your interviewer and they will see your value.

Interviewing, from what I have experienced is a lot like my time in the military; I get out of each interview, the same amount that I put into it. If I don’t prepare, go in blind, and hope for the best, I am nervous and unsure and stammering because I am trying to figure out what to say or what to ask. But when I go in prepared, I am confident and ready to get that job and blow their minds as employers. It just takes a little more effort than usual and they will see that effort. Good luck out there.

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Aaron Knowles has been writing news for more than 10 years, mostly working for the U.S. Military. He has traveled the world writing sports, gaming, technology and politics. Now a retired U.S. Service Member, he continues to serve the Military Community through his non-profit work.