4 Keys to a Better Interview: Relating your military experience to the role

In an interview, the goal of the hiring manager is to find a qualified team member who will fit well on the team and bring value to the organization. Cameron-Brooks offers 4 Keys to a Better Interview: Relating your military experience to the role.

When interviewing Junior Military Officers (JMOs), hiring managers often understand that a JMO’s experience is atypical (relative to who they usually interview); however, they are motivated to hire proven leaders with the ability and desire to grow to higher levels of leadership in their organization (JMOs). That said, managers sometimes struggle to understand a JMO’s experience and accomplishments. This is especially true if the hiring manager does not have prior military experience, but can even be true if the manager does have a military background but it is different from the background of the person he or she is interviewing.

I sometimes see very qualified JMOs get looked over for a position because they did not effectively help the hiring manager see, specifically, how their background and experience directly relates to the role for which they interviewed. Typically, this happens because the JMO does not attempt to describe their background in the context of the role for which they are interviewing. I see JMOs go into an interview with scripted, well-rehearsed interview answers and deliver them without any acknowledgement of the intricacies and nuances of the specific role that they are trying to get.

My advice is to make it easy for the hiring manager. Help them understand, fully, your background and experiences and how they specifically relate to the role. Don’t just tell your stories with no acknowledgement of the role for which you are interviewing. That forces the manager to work to understand your background and see exactly how it might fit with the role he or she is attempting to fill. Here are four interview preparation tips to help you better explain your background in an interview:

  1. Fully understand the essence of the role. That is, gain an understanding of what will you be doing and for what purpose. This is the cornerstone step to connecting your background to that role. If you don’t fully understand the essence of the role, it is very difficult to select specific points from your past that specifically relate. Also, as you read the job description, try to get a feel for the environment. Where are you? What equipment is around you? Who are you interacting with? What are you wearing? This mental exercise can help you better understand the essence of the job.
  2. Determine the critical leadership competencies of the role. These are the leadership traits that hiring managers look for that will translate to success in the role. Examples of leadership competencies are: Team Leadership, Project Management, Problem Solving, Technical Aptitude, Autonomous, Relationship Builder, Goal Oriented, Continuous Improvement, Collaborative, etc. Often, when you read a job description, these competencies are not explicitly described. In context of the essence of the role, pull out the implied competencies you perceive to be required for success in the role as you read through the description. Usually there are three to four key competencies that you can focus in on. Leadership competencies are different than key responsibilities.
  3. Understand the key responsibilities and determine exactly when you you’ve done them (in your environment). One of the best ways to do this is to look for the verbs in the job description. This will help you to see the exact responsibilities that are required for the role, so you can match your specific functional experience directly to the required responsibilities.
  4. Pull it all together. Once you understand the essence of the role, critical leadership competencies, and key responsibilities, you can then use those criteria as a filter to pick out the most relevant and specific experiences to highlight from your background. In doing so, you will be describing your military experience in direct context of the role in view.

You can find more interview tips in PCS to Corporate America. For more information about how Cameron-Brooks helps military officers transition to leadership roles in Corporate America, please visit our website here or call us at (800) 222.9235.

Best,
Pete Van Epps