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Train Up for Interviews

To succeed at this make-or-break stage, you must arm yourself with information and confidence. Here’s how.


Just like every other mission you’ve been on, the more intelligence (or “research” in the civilian world) you have going in, the better. Know at least these things about the company you’re applying to: its mission, its history and its biggest clients. Find out whether it has military-specific hiring programs. Research the hiring manager through LinkedIn. Then drop your knowledge into conversation during the interview.


Sand table drills, chalkboard walkthroughs and dry runs—these all work in the military, and they will work now. Just remember: Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent, so practice with some kind of feedback mechanism. Have someone you trust observe (or watch a video of) your mock interview and tell you how to improve.


Carry things in hand to your interview: of course, several hard copies of your resume, but also materials related to major projects you’ve worked on, like training plans or budgets—anything that can reinforce your quality of work. Carry these documents in a professional-looking case or bag, and use them when appropriate. Even if you don’t use them, just having them will show you’ve done your homework, and seeing them will help the interviewer better understand your military background. Last, always come with at least three questions to ask the interviewer.


Know (and practice) ahead of time how you will talk about your military experience in civilian terms. Next, know (and practice) exactly how you’re going to handle difficult questions. Finally, visualize yourself being successful. Even if you think positive thinking is for hippies and art teachers—it will give you your best chance at success.



The military gave you habits that will be great in an interview. You’ll look your interviewer in the eye, speak authoritatively and be confident. But there are some traits you’ve acquired in your service that will work against you.

1. Using military-speak. Unless you know that the interviewer is also a Vet, take “Roger,” all acronyms and any curse words out of your vocabulary.

2. Being modest. The military taught you to be humble, but an interview is the place for you to seize the spotlight. Blow your own horn. No one else will. Give an example of how you led a team, solved a problem or met a challenge.

3. Failing to engage. If you were meeting with someone senior to you in the military, your job would be to shut up and listen. That’s no good here. Prove you can fit in by carrying on a conversation. Ask questions.

4. Assuming civilians understand. Connect the dots for interviewers—don’t just say you were a noncommissioned officer (no acronyms!). Tell them what that means: that you were a manager of X individuals on a day-to-day basis.

5. Being overconfident. Do not just wing this. The military adage (PG version) applies here: Prior preparation prevents poor performance.



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