Key Interviewing Tips for Civilian Careers

Below you'll find key interviewing tips for successful civilian careers.

The single most important part of interviewing:

    1. Do the job in the interview. Let's not kid ourselves. An interview is not about what your favorite color is, or what animal you would be if you were one, or a myriad of similar interview questions of which we have all heard rumors. The interview is about one thing and one thing only: Can you do the job?

Beyond every interview is a position that needs to be filled, a job that needs to be done. If you are able to see that job, put yourself in it, and actually do the job in the interview, you will be well on your way to a follow-up site visit and an offer.

You must know the answers to the following four questions about the position before you go into the interview:

    1. What does the position entail? "As I understand it, the work that needs to be done is..."
    2. How does it fit with your skills? How would you do the work? "Here is why I can do the work and why I would do it..."
    3. How will you demonstrate/communicate how you will do the work? "It seems important that the job be done this specific way..."
    4. How will the employer profit from you doing the job? "I can make this job more profitable for the company by..."

You will receive the answers to these questions in the company briefs which occur the day before you interview. The 15 to 20 minutes you spend that evening preparing for each interview will work wonders the next day when you are able to give the interviewer every reason in the world to hire you.

Remember: Do the job in the interview. Additional important points about interviewing:
    2. Speak using words you are comfortable with. Do not attempt to use "corporate" words. If you use unfamiliar words during your interviews, you might as well be speaking a foreign language. Your natural enthusiasm and confidence will be muted by your concentration on what you are saying and not how you are saying it.
    3. Smile when your picture is being taken. An interview should be your opportunity to present yourself in the best possible light. Interviewers are not selection boards that have every evaluation and award on a screen in front of them to use in evaluating you. The only way they will know about your accomplishments is if you tell them. Being too humble and self-effacing may be desirable qualities in everyday life but they are lethal during interviews.
    4. There are core areas that you will be expected to have answers for. The questions could be asked in a variety of ways but your answers can remain relatively constant if you prepare for general subject areas rather than for specific questions. The following subject areas will comprise 90% of all introductory questions:
- High School
- academics, athletics, leadership accomplishments.
- College
- why you chose to attend that particular college.
- why you chose your major.
- extracurricular activities, including social organizations, athletics and any leadership accomplishments.
- Military
- why you went into the military.
- the jobs you held and your significant accomplishments in them.
- why you are leaving the military.
- Personal
- Your biggest strengths and weaknesses with examples.
- where you grew up.
- Sample questions
- Tell me about yourself?
- What are your short and long term goals?
- Why are you leaving the military?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? Provide examples.
- What is your management style and how do you motivate others?
- Why should a company hire you?
- Why manufacturing/engineering/operations?
    5. Know yourself and your resume. Cold. Do not wing an interview. Review your life. Why did you make the major decisions you made? What successes and failures have you had? What do you really want to accomplish!
    6. Never view yourself as being above a job. Odds are you will require training before you are of value to a company.
    7. You must sell yourself. Never assume that your resume will speak for you and that an interviewer will understand everything on your resume. In fact, it is possible that he has not even read your resume prior to the interview. You must be excited about yourself. If you are not, the interviewer will never be.
    8. You must express a sincere interest in the company. A company doesn't want people who don't want them. Again, you must specifically state that you are very interested in the opportunity. Interviewers are not mind-readers.
    9. Your answers must show depth and sensitivity. The leadership positions you are being groomed for require both.
    10. These companies will not hire a military "machine". Sitting straight-backed in your chair, not smiling, saying "Sir" and talking in acronyms are signs to the company that you will be unable to fit into a civilian work environment that requires maximum flexibility and superior interpersonal skills.
    11. The questions you ask during an interview demonstrate as much about you as the answers you give. Ask questions with depth that require the interviewer to think. He will be impressed. Just because you know the answer to a question is not a reason to not ask it. Never ask about money or benefits on the initial interview. You may be perceived as a mercenary.
Questions should center on the specifics of the opportunity, the people you will be supervising or working with, the training program and the career track. If you run out of questions, ask the interviewer about himself.
    12. Be focused on the opportunity being discussed. Telling a company about your desire to get an MBA and eventually own your own company while interviewing for a manufacturing opportunity that requires shift work could kill your chances for employment with that company.
    13. Interpersonal skills are a priority for these companies. When you discuss a military accomplishment you must mention how great your relationship with your people was and how "we" did it. Discuss recognition programs, situations where you turned a "bad" kid around, etc. Hobbies mentioned should be group activities, e.g., racquetball, basketball, etc. instead of gardening, jogging, and reading.
    14. No negative answers. Regardless of how bad your boss was or how much you hated being in a certain place, negative comments give the impression that you are impossible to please and will be unhappy wherever you go.
    15. Thank you notes should always be hand-written. Ensure you have the proper spelling of your interviewer's name and after writing a brief note that expresses your interest in the opportunity and mentions something specific about your interview get them in the mail ASAP. Speed impresses.


    Lean forward in your chair. This shows interest and enthusiasm. Be careful if you sit on a couch. There is a natural tendency to lean back.
    Look the interviewer in the eye. Good eye contact is one thing all interviewers look for.
    Be animated. Talk with your hands. Show enthusiasm.
    Firm handshake. Same for both male and female interviewers.
    Smile. Smile and the whole world smiles with you.