July 7, 2020

{Guest Post} Returning to Work: How to Prepare for an Interview

Returning to Work: How to Prepare for an Interview
Transitioning from military service to a career as a civilian can be overwhelming. From the employer’s standpoint, there is a tendency to either have high expectations from you or be reserved about hiring a soldier freshly out from service. Other than the currently limited job opportunities, the competition with other applicants is also a factor at play. And for veterans, it may be scarier to dive back into the civilian world compared to life in the military. 

There has been a significant change in the economy with the ongoing global pandemic, and more so with the work industry. Work-from-home set-up to those who can are imposed and interviews or meetings are done with little to no contact if possible through video calls to minimize the spread. It is a tough time for all, but we are a resilient bunch, so we are all managing in the best way we know how. 

Returning to the civilian workforce means looking for job opportunities and narrowing it down, sending out your resume, and going through the interview process. The interview process is probably the more difficult one out of the three. While the basic etiquettes and rules still apply in preparing for a job interview, we have added a few enhancements in consideration to the digital transition from field to a remote setting. This may seem a lot to process or a bit intimidating, but with time and ample preparation, you will be breezing through the hiring process like the champ that you are! 

  1. List your Strengths:
It is a known fact that military men and women are not just any man or woman. The military produces a different type of individual who is known for their discipline, strong work ethic, focus, dedication, loyalty, integrity, and leadership qualities. The list goes on. These are incredibly valuable attributes that employers look for in applicants. The key is applying the skills you have learned during service to civilian life. 

Depending on the job you have applied for, practice relating these attributes to specific scenarios or areas that will apply in the work setting. A common question from the interviewer will be along the lines of “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”

We have covered your strength. In divulging your weaknesses, maneuver it to come out as a positive weakness. For example, being a “perfectionist” may be considered a weakness to you as this may lead to little to no room for mistakes, but employers may see this as being “detail-oriented,” which is always an asset. “Spontaneity” may be another form of weakness, but employers will interpret this as “preparedness” wherein you work better when prepared instead of cramming at the last minute. 

While admitting a flaw or weakness shows that you are conscious of areas you need to improve on, it is more advantageous to highlight a trait that is a flaw to you but an asset to the company. 

2. Update your style:
Removing any bias or preconceived notions will help both you and the recruiter focus on more important things, which is the value that you will be contributing to the company. 
Civilians can easily spot a military person. Other than how a military person carries themselves, there is a universal style for those who have served in the military. Military members naturally stand out from civilians by the way they walk/stand, their haircut, or using jargon that is lost to non-military individuals. 

Dressing up still applies, even if it is an online interview. Dress to impress, but in a civilian standard, not the military’s. It only takes a few seconds to make a positive impression during interviews, so make sure that you are dressed appropriately for the job that you want. You can never go wrong with a suit, but a business-casual style is also appropriate and more chic. One can never go wrong with a crisp, solid-colored, buttoned-down polo shirt. A well-fitted cardigan or navy blazer can be worn over it to add an even more polished look. If you still have your military haircut, consider growing it out for a more civilian look. Neat and chic is the essence of dressing up for an interview.  

3. Begone jargon! 
Having served in the military, picking up jargon is expected and has probably merged with your daily vocabulary. However, do not assume that the interviewer will know that Bravo Zulu is a compliment. Start familiarizing universal terms again. Be conscious of the constant jargon that you use and replace it with its equivalent common word. While AWOL is now a universal acronym commonly used in the workplace, hold off on the jargon during interviews before the interviewer puts your resume and interview assessment on File 13.

4. Consider hiring an interview coach:
The upside of hiring a professional is the certified training and real-time feedback you will get to prepare thoroughly and ace your interview. Other than this, interview coaches can also help you explore the right career option if you still find yourself in limbo and assist you to develop the confidence you need to ease back into the workforce. There are professional career and interview coaches specifically for veterans, so take this into consideration when you are ready to consult with one.  

5. Connect with other veterans:
One of the great things about belonging to the military is gaining an extended family. There is a vast veteran community where you can network and connect with other veterans who may be in the same transition stage as you are or, better yet, have gone through the process who you can seek advice and tips from first-hand. Connecting with other veterans will help you gain insight into what to expect in civilian life transition and easing your way back to the workforce. Check with your local community or neighboring cities for a veterans’ community or organization near you.

With everything in life, the hardest part is getting your foot in the door. Thankfully, there are various organizations and dedicated online assistance programs for veterans to be well-informed and guided into returning to civilian life. There are also a lot of military-friendly employers who understand the value of employing a veteran that you can look into to make the hiring process a bit more bearable.

Post solely written for amilitarystory.com by Amanda Rivera

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