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BY Joel Junker

Are You Ready to Interview for a Military to Business Transition?

Are you ready to interview for a military-to-business transition? Let me tell you an interesting story… Many years ago, the Transition Assistance Program at the Naval Academy asked me to facilitate a lunch and learn teaching how to interview for post-military positions. During the class, I explained that some recruiters will ask them to explain their leadership style. I recommended being prepared to answer this question by writing out or outlining an answer, then practicing it with a colleague, and into a recording device before they conduct an interview.

A Navy Captain in the audience politely and confidently said, “I don’t think that is necessary. I have been leading people for over two decades. I know my leadership style. That’s easy.” I asked him to explain his leadership style in two to three minutes. He stated he is a servant leader and explained his principles. When I probed deeper, asking him to describe specific actions he takes to employ this style, he struggled. He admitted, “Explaining my leadership style in detail so someone understands it is a lot different than knowing my leadership style and putting it into practice.”

Success in the Military ≠ Interviewing Success

This Captain’s mistake is common among transition veterans, including junior military officers (JMOs). Roger Cameron used to say, “Success in the military equals business success. We know that because thousands of veterans and JMOs are in key leadership positions in business. Yet, success in the military does not necessarily equal success in interviewing. The skills necessary to plan and execute a deployment from Georgia to Qatar or prepare and pass a ship inspection are much different than those necessary to explain in an interview so that a recruiter understands what the officer did.”

This equation is true: Success in the Military = Success in Business

But this is not necessarily true: Success in the Military = Interviewing Success

Here’s why “Are you ready to interview?” is a hard question to answer honestly.

Overestimating Interviewing Ability

I observe this equation frequently. When interviewing JMOs to determine if we should form a partnership for their transition, I ask, “On a ten scale, how confident are you in your ability to prepare for competitive interviews?” I would estimate the average number I receive is an 8. JMOs tell me, “I feel confident, I am a good communicator, and I know how to tell my story.” Or, “My brother (sister, dad, or mother) works in business; they can teach me.”

I also observe this in conducting thousands of mock interviews yearly and working with a couple hundred JMOs yearly at our conferences. I read everyone these JMOs OERs. I know they are talented. They are top performers, the best. However, some struggle in the interview environment. After all, interviewing is not natural. You are walking into a room (virtual or in person) and answering many probing questions to a stranger you have never met. It can be incredibly uncomfortable.

Preparing to Interview is Like Preparing a Speech

Can you wing it? I am sure people do. I do not recommend it. Would you wing a critical speech? Probably not. I am sure you would take time to research and learn about your audience, in this case, the business world. The next step you would take is to research your subject, you, and your fit with business. You would then create an outline and then practice it a few times. Why would you do all of this? So you would be confident and comfortable when delivering your speech in front of a group of strangers. You would want to impress. I recommend the same formula for preparing for an interview.

Expert Interviewing Guidance and Coaching

Cameron-Brooks will optimize that process for you. We have many strengths as an organization, and I firmly believe one of them is teaching someone how to interview successfully. We are excellent coaches and guides who help you be your best when you interview. In fact, if someone asks our JMO candidates “Are you ready to interview?” The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

One final point: interviewing well takes time. If you are getting out in the next 12 months, prepare now! I encourage you to call us at 210-874-1500! You can also check out our website and YouTube Channel and follow us on LinkedIn. You can also email us at candidates@cameron-brooks.com


Joel Junker