Interviews are the part of the hiring process that will make or break your shot at a job. They are also the part that I look forward to most and you should as well. The interview offers you the chance to engage in a one-on-one conversation, and sets you apart from the piece of paper listing your credentials. Interviews are my strong point, however, for those who get rattled at the idea of a tough interview, here are some recommendations to help you prepare, from someone who has survived some of the toughest interviews in the business.
1. Be prepared. Your first objective once you’ve scheduled an interview is to research the position and the company; have a good command of the facts. Doing your research means being able to speak at length beyond some talking points about the company, its history, the job, the competition, and more.
Some employers may ask you why you want to work for their company. Be prepared to discuss what you’ve read about the company’s culture and work environment. Read through the position description and be able to articulate how you will succeed in that role and what you bring to the company. Be sure to leverage the unique traits that set you apart. You are a military veteran, which means you have real world leadership experience, can think and perform under pressure, etc. It is important to be able to easily articulate these traits, particularly if the hiring manager is not as knowledgeable or as warm to your veteran experience.
2. Know the job. It does not matter what you are interviewing for — a job in the film industry, medical field, finance, or as a ballerina — these professions all require training and commitment in their own way; they require endurance, and strict attention to detail. Sound familiar? You get my point that your military experience is applicable anywhere, it is all a matter of how you articulate it.
In preparing for the interview, get to know the job description inside and out and be able to explain how you are able to do each of the qualifications and have performed similar functions in past roles. If you don’t previous experience, that is okay. Demonstrate that the responsibilities you held in the military make you a good fit and that these qualities much harder to find in employees.
Also, make an effort to show that you have already taken initiative to learn whatever it is the job requires, such as taking a class, developing a new skill, or reading up on a topic relevant to the position. This will show that you are serious and committed to this role. Finally, although it is important to have a command of the facts, it is also acceptable to say you don’t know something. This is common when applying for a position that will be a new experience for you. You don’t ever want come across as faking it if you cannot reasonably explain the facts.
3. Know your interviewer. It is smart to research the hiring manager(s) online and look the person (or people) up on LinkedIn to learn who they are and their background (Be aware of LinkedIn settings to share users who has viewed their profiles). This process will help you tailor your comments, question and approach toward the person. If there is a school, geographical region, or any other shared experience between you and your interviewer, be sure to work that into the conversation. If you don’t know how to do this, ask someone to practice with you ahead of time.
4. Look the part. Dress for success! When you walk through the door, the hiring manager’s first impression of you will be based on what you are wearing.
It is critical to look the part of your desired profession. Actor Cary Grant once said, “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally became that person. Or he became me.” Learn to immerse yourself in the world you wish to enter. A potential employee will judge you all around, no different than Marines do when you step in front of them. Right or wrong, it is a reality. Think back to your military days, and how you responded differently to the non-commissioned officer or lieutenant based on his or her image.
5. Be confident. Confidence kills as they say, as does good posture and presence. Some excellent research by Anna Beninger on a concept called “power posing” that was made famous by Professor Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School, which says that basically stretching out your arms much like an athlete does in a celebration after scoring a touchdown increases your confidence. The research on “power posing” showed that your level of cortisone (testosterone) literally increases when you exert your posture. Hence, hold your head up, chest out, and stretch those arms out to get ready for an interview or presentation.
In the Marine Corps they had a saying to never to “go internal,” meaning, in the face of some harsh experience don’t ever cower inward. Walk into that interview room like you own it, never arrogant, just very confident.
These examples are not just for the interview, they should be used throughout the course of your life. Practice correctly, and practice some more until it becomes second nature.