I remember one of my first interviews as a first-year MBA with a major, international automobile manufacturer. I did horrible … horrible. My responses were unstructured, I did not translate my military experience at all, my communication style was stiff, and I expected the interview team to have extensive knowledge of special operations. I was the only member from my business school that did not get a second-round callback interview.
After that interview, I learned that I had to apply my military experience to understand, plan, execute and improve how I approached an interview. Just like rehearsing actions on the objective, or planning a raid, interviews must be prepared for and practiced in order to be successful. Interviews can be difficult, but they are immeasurably easier when you plan your strategy, prepare your answers and practice your performance.
The first part of an interview preparation strategy is to have an honest, personal and approachable communication style. The ability to quickly establish an effective communication exchange in an interview is essential to having an effective interview. This can be achieved through the HEAT model.
• Humility: A humble, but straightforward and honest style with clear, non-military language.
• Engagement: Strong personal leadership presence in the interview process demonstrating readiness to help the company.
• Attitude: A willingness to translate and apply military skills and background to meet company needs.
• Timely, complete response: The use of a complete and brief answer style to address all interview questions.
The HEAT interview communication model will help establish and maintain an engaged and effective communication style that is essential to a successful interview.
The second part of an interview preparation strategy includes maintaining a standardized, consistent and structured question-response style to ensure interviewers understand and recognize your experience and how you will be able to executive your responsibilities in a civilian role. The use of a standard framework like the STAR format for responding to interview questions will ensure that you effectively relay how your military experience and personal values will be an immediate benefit for the company that hires you. Explaining your impact on a process to save money, to create a new process, to make something safer, or to reduce risk are absolutely essential examples that should be used to convince an employer that your military skills and background will make their company better.
• Situation: Fully describe the setting, living conditions, weather and operating environment of a specific situation you found yourself in using simple, clear and non-military language. Provide details on what made the assigned task so challenging.
• Task: Fully describe what task you and your team were assigned to do and the ways you measured the effectiveness of your mission. Make sure you highlight roadblocks and other challenges that you met.
• Actions: Discuss what steps you and your team took to understand, plan and execute the plan to achieve your results.
• Results: Discuss the outcome of your actions and how they achieved the intended results.
The STAR format is easy to use and easy to remember when answering an interview question.
The third part of a successful interview preparation strategy is the ability to answer the 10 questions below employing the HEAT communication method in the STAR format. Don’t be afraid to practice each answer out loud to ensure your response is well-thought out and clearly articulated during the actual interview.
- What would your current boss say is a weakness of yours?
- How do you translate and apply your military experience and background to this position and company?
- Why did you choose this company and this industry?
- Describe a time you overcame failure.
- Describe a time when you led a cross-functional team in a project.
- Describe a time when you made an unhappy customer happy.
- Describe a time when you used technology to improve a process.
- Describe a time when you created a new process. How did it solve a problem?
- Describe a time you dealt with and managed a difficult boss or colleague.
- What would you change in this company today if you could?
Once you have answers to these questions mastered, you can use them to answer other questions that may not be on this list.
A successful interview uses a relaxed and effective communication style combined with a structured, complete response to common interview questions. The HEAT communication style combined with the STAR response method will ensure that you walk into your next job interview confident and ready to impress.