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Answering “How do you…?” Questions During Your Military Transition

As I was working with the Cameron-Brooks candidates preparing for their military to corporate transition at our April Conference, I helped them develop their ability to explain the process behind their key competencies.  I found that a couple of key points helped direct them down the right path.  I’d like to share these with you because understanding the process behind your ability will help you clearly articulate it in questions where the recruiter asks, “How do you…?”.  It will also help you better describe how that competency contributed to a particular accomplishment.  Some areas to focus on in your preparation:

·         Make sure you fully understand the competency from a business perspective.  This may seem a little unfair at first since you’ve operated primarily in the military during your career.  However, you are coming to the business world and good candidates do the research to understand how to translate their military experience.  One common example of difficulty in “translation” is with projects.  JMO’s frequently lump together projects, problems and processes.  I will ask a candidate to tell me about a project they managed and the first words out of their mouth will be, “I had a problem where….”  I understand where this comes from because “field problems” are projects and many projects assigned to JMO’s are about solving problems or you may even be assigned the responsibility for a “project” that is actually a process.  It’s up to you to make sure that you can distinguish between them.

·         Research the competency so you can describe it completely to a recruiter.  In an interview, the recruiter can only evaluate your ability based on what comes out of your mouth.  Nothing can be assumed.  Frequently, a candidate will stop short of fully describing a competency.  When I point out the area that they are missing, they will say, “Well, obviously I do that.”  Okay, but obviously the recruiter won’t know your process unless you say it in the interview.

·         When describing your process, keep in mind the career field to which you will apply it.  Work to highlight the aspects of your process that are critical to the career field.  Often in “up leadership”, candidates will discuss building rapport with the person they are trying to influence.  They will talk about going to lunch or getting to know someone’s family and interests.  Up leadership is a critical aspect of sales and while there is nothing wrong with trying to get to know your customers personally, it is more important to know their business goals and needs.  By thinking about how the competency will apply in business, you can bring out the most important aspects of your experience.


Now the tough question is how to do this.  I’ll give you 3 steps to get you headed in the right direction. 

1.      In your preparation, you are already researching the career fields in DPP©.  Think through the competencies that are critical to that career field and how you will use them in that type of position.  By starting with the career field, you’ll be coming at the competency based on how you will use it.

2.      Think about specific examples from your experience where you used that competency and write down the steps that helped you be successful.  Work to completely describe your process from beginning to end.  Think about how these steps apply to the career field with which you started.

3.      Use an outside source to further research the competency and ensure you completely describe it in your answer.  Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) is a great start. You can type in the competency and the results may remind you of other aspects of your approach that you’ve left out.  We have some key competencies on our prep center (team leadership, cross-functional leadership, up leadership and project management) so you can listen to those recordings to ensure you are fully describing your competency.


Building a full understanding of your competencies will not only help you with describing your processes but will also help you bring out key areas in your accomplishments.  When a recruiter asks you to give an example that highlights a competency, you need to make sure that you fully describe how that competency contributed to your success.  Describe your approach from a business point of view, highlighting the areas that you know will apply to a business career field.