Job Interviews: Oh, the places you’ll go…

As you depart the military and hang up your uniform you are going to be placed in a new and unusual position.  Throughout your time in the service your career path was largely determined for you by someone who worked at the manpower branch of your service headquarters, such as a Monitor or Detailer.  This individual was charged with filling open positions within the service branch with qualified individuals who had the right rank, skills, and experience level.  After reviewing the population of “movers” (those folks who had been in one place for three years or so) and comparing it to the list of openings (holes in the spreadsheet created as “movers” leave), the Monitor or Detailer would pick someone and issue them orders to their new job.

Sure, there was a lot of politics involved, particularly for jobs requiring higher rank and experience.  Sure, there was favoritism as bosses influenced the process to get “their people” into their units.  Sure, some jobs required interviews of candidates (such as serving as an aide-de-camp for a general or admiral). What there was not, however, was a free and open competition for jobs.  Even if you did not like the assignment you received in the military, you were still in the military and the paychecks still show up twice a month.  If you don’t get the job you want in the civilian world, you are unemployed.

Big difference, that.

As a transitioning servicemember you no longer have somebody in a distant headquarters telling you where to go or what to do when you get there.  Now it is up to you to do that for yourself!  We have already looked at the decisions needed to end up where you want to live as well as what industry or job you would like to pursue, and now we are going to drill down into how to actually get that job.

The last step in the job-seeking process is to go through the interviewing process with the company in hopes of securing an offer of employment.  That is what we will be talking about in the next string of posts.

Interviews come in many forms and styles depending on the type of employment you are seeking.  There are traditional types of interviews where you show up at the firm at the appointed time, go into the hiring manager’s office, and sit across the desk from the person who will determine your fate with the company.

In the modern age, however, you may not actually have to go to the office.  You may have a telephone interview or videoconference in cases where the company is too far away for a face-to-face without incurring a lot of travel costs.

You may be interviewed over lunch.  Or dinner.  Or maybe even breakfast, so that the interviewer can learn about your manners and mannerisms while asking you questions.  Maybe at a bar to see if you get hammered every afternoon.

More senior positions often require much more in-depth interviews.  Perhaps you will be interrogated by a panel of Vice Presidents, or maybe spend an entire day at the firm in order to meet a variety of people.

Maybe you will be flown into the company’s headquarters, where you will be evaluated by everyone from the bus driver who picks you up to the receptionist to the interviewer.

For technical skills there may be a test of some sort, and for other disciplines (such as management consulting) there may be a case example for you to study and comment on.

You may go through a series of interviews of different types.  For example, you may have a phone interview that leads to a Skype meeting with the hiring manager that results in a plane flight to the company headquarters where you are grilled by a panel of executives to see if you are someone they want in the company.

It can be quite bewildering!  How can you be sure you are ready to do your best?

You have already done the prerequisites: resume and cover letter have opened the door to the interview, you have updated your wardrobe and worked on your manners and hygiene.  What’s next?

Research, pure and simple.

Get on the internet and search for sites or blogs that discuss the steps others took while interviewing for a particular firm.  Use search terms like “interview preparation for company X” or “interview tips for firm Y”.  Read through them to determine trends.  Make sure to focus on the level of employment you are seeking.  Don’t prepare for a mailroom interview if you are looking to be an executive, or vice versa. Spend an afternoon surfing the net and taking notes.

Also ask around.  Use your network of friends and family to see if anyone has interviewed at the company or knows someone who has.  Pick their brain to see what they learned.

You can also perform some interviews of your own by seeking out people at the company or in the industry to learn more about the firm and to ask them about their experience   This takes a little chutspah on your part, but it may pay off in the long run.  It can be a win-win for you if it is done properly, or a guarantee that you won’t be hired if you do it wrong.  An informational interview is one in which you ask someone about the company in order to learn more about it, and the hiring process is certainly germane to the discussion.  Just calling out of the blue to ask about getting hired, though, is a non-starter!

We’ll dive into specific interviews in future posts…


Lessons Learned:

1.  Interviews are different depending on the company, position, and level of responsibility.  They are not all the same.

2.  Research what type of interview is normal for the job you are seeking.  Use the intenet, your personal network, and the informational interview to learn more about the company and their interview process.

3.  Prepare, prepare, prepare!  Depending on the type of interview you will need to polish different skills.  If it is a lunchtime interview, do yourself a favor and review your table manners.  If it is a traditional interview, make sure to take your suit to the cleaners the week before.




2 responses to “Job Interviews: Oh, the places you’ll go…

  1. Thanks Mike Your posts are always informative and easy to read and digest. After being in a lot of industries over the years, I found that most people were not ready for that interview. Vets, in general, were more apt to come across the desk as more focused and informed. Keep up the great posts and get this generation of vets working!

    • Thanks, Frank! I’ll keep doing my best to keep it relevant and interesting. Thanks to you for all of your great work with helping vets find work. It is really making a difference!

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