Interview Questions for Military Veterans

February 3, 2020

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Though a military career differs in context and culture from a civilian career, many skills are transferable from one to the other; therefore, many of the job interview questions a veteran can expect aren't so different from those asked to a civilian. As with a civilian applicant, there are legalities regarding what an interviewer is allowed to ask, and a veteran expects to be held to the same standards of professionalism as any civilian. If you're a military veteran, take the time to think about how the skills you acquired in the military can transfer to a civilian job as well as how your passions can be fulfilled in your next role. This article will list some common interview questions that military veterans can expect to be asked, as well as what the interviewer is looking for in your answers and some tips to help you prepare for the interview.

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General questions

As a military veteran, you'll have developed strong skills in leadership, discipline, communication and strategic thinking that are transferable to any number of jobs. Keeping this in mind when preparing for a job interview can help boost your confidence, and it will show as you deliver your answers with conviction and poise.

Researching the company with which you're interviewing, practicing your delivery and having an idea of what questions you'll be asked are all helpful ways to prepare for this step. Here are some general interview questions that are common to any interview, regardless of the role or industry:

  1. Tell us about yourself.
  2. What do you know about this job role/company?
  3. Why are you the best candidate for the job?
  4. What are your most prominent strengths?
  5. Discuss a difficult situation you've faced at your job, and what you did to resolve it.
  6. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  7. What type of environment do you work best in?

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Sample interview questions and answers

How you answer these interview questions will help the interviewer identify how well your values align with the company's, as well as your experience and personality, to determine your suitability for the role. Here are some examples of interview questions you should be prepared to answer during your next interview:

  1. Can you relate your military career to what you want to do next?
  2. Tell me about a time you had to complete a job with inadequate resources.
  3. Do you prefer continuity in structure or frequent change in your daily work?
  4. Describe your ideal work environment.
  5. What is your most significant career accomplishment so far?

1. Can you relate your military career to what you want to do next?

The interviewer wants to know that you've thought out your next steps, and have chosen to interview with this particular company because you've been able to relate your skills and interests with what you'd be doing in this role.

Example: “In the military, I was responsible for planning, organizing and leading troops into missions that had the potential to become intense or even dangerous. These experiences taught me to strategize and make decisions, plan and provide guidance and support to my team, giving me an overall strong grasp on how to be an effective leader.”

2. Tell me about a time you had to complete a job with inadequate resources.

Your answer to this question will tell the interviewer how you react to certain high-pressure situations, how you utilize your problem-solving skills and how creatively you solve problems in an immediate, unplanned situation. Keep in mind that it is considered a behavioral based question that requires you to provide a specific example that occurred in the past to show what you've learned and how you will perform in the future. Use the STAR method to answer these types of behavioral based interview questions.

Example: "The first time I had to lead a field training exercise, I failed to notice that I had more men than gear until mid-exercise when the gear was needed. To improvise, I devised a team-like simulation and completed the exercise somewhat unconventionally, but successfully. Now, I check to make sure that I have everything I need before I begin a project or exercise."

3. Do you prefer continuity in structure or frequent change in your daily work?

Your answer should indicate that you're comfortable with both types of work environments, with the main focus trained on whichever is more likely in this prospective role

Example: "I enjoy change and challenge, which is why I frequently spearhead the most difficult or complex assignments. Changing daily landscapes keep me energized and challenge keeps the mind sharp and innovative. However, I feel there is value in a continuous schedule in which certain tasks are repetitively performed; I've found that such tasks help develop patience and discipline, and they provide a sort of comfort to some people."

4. Describe your ideal work environment.

Interviewers ask this question to find out how well you'd fit into the company's culture. Researching the company beforehand will give you an idea of where their culture aligns with what you feel comfortable with. These areas of overlap are what you'll want to incorporate into your answer.

Example: "I'd like to work in a team-oriented environment no matter what happens. I was surrounded by my team members every moment of every day in the military, and I believe that leaning on each other is how we've gotten through the toughest of times. I've been good at being a leader because I took the time to listen to my team. Now I look forward to building a similarly tight-knit team."

5. What is your most significant career accomplishment to date?

The interviewer is looking for how you've used your leadership skills, problem-solving and adaptation to circumstances and how these examples set you apart from other candidates. Whether you choose to talk about a team-related accomplishment or one in which the credit was all yours, an open-ended question such as this allows the interviewer to identify what's important to you. Make sure your response omits military jargon. You can rely on the STAR method for this question.

Example: "My unit was responsible for managing the training of new recruits. When I started, the orientation process, while necessary and required, was difficult to complete - not because the recruits were inept, but because the material was overly technical and frankly, really dry reading. This wound up leading to low evaluation scores, jeopardizing the recruits' future in the military. To make the program more relevant and engaging, I revamped the program to make it much more interactive and therefore comprehensible. I'm beyond pleased that the new structure of the program has been so well-received. Now, scores average closer to 93%, compared with an average 27% under the previous version of the program. I actually received a jump-step promotion, which is jumping two ranks rather than just one, after the first nine months of the new program implementation."

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Tips to help military veterans succeed in a job interview

Following these tips will help you succeed in your next civilian job interview.

  • Remember your audience. Do your best to avoid military jargon in your responses. It's a good idea to practice using the civilian versions of military terms when referring to experiences that took place in the military. The interviewer can lose the meaning of your answers while they're struggling to understand what you're talking about.
  • Speak positively. When referencing any part of your work history, do your best to use positive language, even if the situations you dealt with were not optimal. Speaking positively about former coworkers and bosses will show the interviewer that you can acknowledge the benefits of different personalities and approaches to situations and what value they offer to their team and to the company.
  • Provide real-life examples. Practice relating your experiences with potential situations you'll need to handle should you get this job. Make sure your examples explicitly outline how your skills were used to solve a problem and produce desired results. This will give the interviewer valuable insight into how you are likely to behave in their workplace.
  • Show your enthusiasm for teamwork. Emphasize your capability to motivate and work alongside a team to contribute to high productivity and excellent results. This will show the interviewer that you don't expect to work alone all the time and that you welcome the opportunity for collaboration.
  • Be confident. Even if you're nervous, exude confidence. You have the skills needed to do this job, so you shouldn't hesitate to explain how you will bring value to the company. Your research and practice will help you be prepared to validate your qualifications and allow your enthusiasm for the role to show.

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