I’m not an expert on interviews by any means. I’ve only been on a few so far, but I have learned some things from the ones I have gone on. Hopefully my little mistakes will help others when they are up in front of the hiring manager.
Those of us that have served are too used to people we speak with understanding everything we say because we are usually talking to other service members. Even if the person is from a different branch there usually isn’t much need for a translation. When you are on an interview you have to get away from the acronyms and military speak. You will sometimes have to explain things like you are talking to a child if you want to be successful. It might sound funny, but it’s true. Most civilians don’t understand what a First Sergeant is, but they do know what a Senior Supervisor is. Same thing with Composite Risk Management, but it does relate somewhat to a thing called Six Sigma that a lot of them are familiar with and looking to see if you are too.
Speaking of Six Sigma, if you can get any type of background in this it would be a great idea, especially if you are trying for a senior level supervisor position or higher. The unfortunate thing about the military is that they trains us in many great and wonderful things, they just don’t certify us in a lot of them. Sure they do a few, but for those of us that have been managers of some type they don’t teach us or certify us as those in the civilian sector do. We go to our basic and advanced schools but that doesn’t count for much in the civilian sector. It also doesn’t matter that the civilian and military way of doing things is very similar if you were to step back and look at them side by side. The piece of paper you get in the civilian world is what matters.
Just from a little reading, Six Sigma is a business strategy used to improve the quality of whatever is being done by identifying shortfalls and failures and taking steps to improve upon them so they don’t happen again. It’s a management tool that I thought that sounded strikingly familiar to what I, as a leader, did every day. I would look at how my shop ran and see if there were any problems and then brainstorm to come up with ways to fix them or on the flip side if an issue had already happened we would figure out a way to prevent it from happening again through training and other methods. Thousands of leaders in the military do this type of thing every day. It isn’t really something we are “trained” to do per se; it’s just something a good leader does naturally. In the civilian world though, this is trained and ingrained and certified. If you don’t have those certifications, the best military leader in the world would probably have issues getting a job.
Enough about that, on to some other things. I was asked to tell a group about some of my best traits. For many of us this might be a bit difficult. I never really thought about what my best traits were. Again, these “traits” are more of something that a good leader does every day without thinking. It’s second nature. Having to sit there and think about them and the reasons why they were my best traits kind of put me on the spot. I quickly thought up some satisfactory answers, but I would recommend taking the time to think about it a lot more before an interview so you can have a great answer instead of just a good one.
All in all, I’ve been told by numerous interviewers that I have great interviews. Great is okay, but in todays job market you need to have the “knock it out of the park” interview if you want to get hired. Taking the time beforehand to think about things and make a plan might serve you just as well in your civilian life as it did when you did it in your military one.