One key to a successful career search is learning to relax
In our military careers, we’ve all been locked at attention at one point or another in front of a board that will determine whether or not we get a well-deserved promotion. As we approach the civilian job sector, many of us revert to the strategy that not only worked for us in the military but was also required.
However, civilian interviews are totally different, and we need to have a different approach for them. You no longer need to sit at attention, and this will not be an interrogation where the person you’re meeting with asks all the questions. Interviews are now a two-way street — they are interviewing you to see if you would be a good fit for their company, and you are interviewing them to see if they deserve to have your talents and skills.
With this in mind, here are some tips to help you set yourself apart in the interviewing process:
- Research the Organization
- I’ve interviewed quite a few people over the years for positions, and there is a marked difference between those who are prepared and ask me questions and those who simply have no questions or throw real softballs. The best folks I’ve ever interviewed are those who’ve actually caused me to think hard about something.
- One of the most effective ways to research a company is to see if they’re on social media, primarily LinkedIn and Facebook. On LinkedIn, search not only for the company under Companies, but also search for the company in both the Jobs and People categories. You can often get good insight into what’s happening there from their social media platforms. You can also search for companies on Facebook, as most do have a presence to reach customers.
- Research the Sector
- Not only should you know about the organization; you should also have some questions or thoughts about competitors and the market. Even if you’re going into an interview for a customer service position, find out what else is going on in the market.
- Great places to look are discussion groups on LinkedIn. Let’s say you’re looking for a position in customer service; a search on LinkedIn of groups related to this returns results such as Customer Service Professionals, Customer Service Champions, Making Excellent Customer Service the Standard, etc. In fact, there are more than 10 pages of results that appear when you run this search. Many of these groups are open and you can join and view some of the latest discussions on industry trends.
- Be a Good and Active Listener
- A key part of a successful interview is just like being a good friend — listen to what the other person has to say. Ask what the interviewer likes about the company, what are the biggest challenges the company or the sector is facing, or what they see as expansion potential for the company.
- Make sure you let the interviewer talk and don’t jump in with “Well, I have experience in this because…” Let them finish — it’s not a race. In fact, the longer your interview, the better. If they’re taking the time to engage you, that means you have something to offer that they like.
- Have Demonstrable Examples From Your Past
- You will be asked “tell me about a time when you…” in most (if not all) interviews. This is where the first three paragraphs of an op-order serve as a great outline for setting up examples from your past: Situation, Mission and Execution. This was the issue, this is what needed to happen, this is what you did and here are the results.
- You should be able to find multiple stories from your past. One thing you can do is refer to writeups from awards and commendations you received while in the service.
- You Will Be Asked About Your Faults
- One question that’s usually asked is, “Tell me about your weaknesses” or “What is your greatest weakness?” While many people try to take the route of “I work too hard” or “I’m too detail-oriented,” any hiring manager can see right through these answers and you will not come across as genuine. Nor do they want to know that your biggest weakness is an inability to match your socks or get yard work done.
- Instead, talk about things you’d like to achieve that you may not have been able to do in a previous position or something that was unavailable because you were in the military. One thing I’ve used that’s worked well is getting certified in something I have knowledge in through experience (working with fellow veterans with brain injuries) but no certificate saying I’ve been trained in that area.
- Finally, one thing that will help is for you to relax when you go in. Take a deep breath and consciously slow yourself down. During the interview, pause for a moment after a question is asked. It allows you to collect your thoughts and shows you’re thinking about the question.
You’ll find job interviews are much easier than a promotion board — and you don’t have to remember to knock exactly three times to enter the office. Good luck!
*This article was originally published on Every Veteran Hired.
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