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BY Joel Junker

Delivering Concise Interview Answers Requires Preparation and Practice

We just wrapped up our April 2019 Career Conference where most of the 50+ JMO candidates attending had their first interview ever.  For these first time interviewers, one of the more difficult interviewing techniques to master is delivering concise, pointed and substantive interview answers.  This is an important concept to master because strong communication skills are foundational for every type of leadership development role.  Companies hire leaders who can interact with and influence customers, team members, peers, bosses and suppliers.

Interviewing in general is hard, but I think there is an added difficulty for a JMO because he/she is translating his military background to business.  In an effort to ensure the recruiter understands him/her, they can over explain and lose the recruiter in too many details.  However, preparation and practice can fix all of this. Here are some tips on how to ensure effective communication during an interview to help you demonstrate the poise and presence of a future business leader.

Preparation steps months before interview include:

1) Take time to conduct self-analysis; understand your strengths, weaknesses, 3-4 significant accomplishments, 1-2 failures, and the key lessons you learned from the military.  You should also be able to explain your leadership style in less than 3 minutes.

2) Write out your answers to commonly asked interview questions.  When you get them down on paper,  study them to determine if there is anything that does not add value and cut out the extra verbage and “fluff.”

3) Practice your verbal delivery numerous times.  You do not want to memorize the answers, but you want to be comfortable with the content.  The first time you deliver an answer should not be in your first interview.

Get a copy of PCS to Corporate America 4th Ed. to learn about some models you can use to stay on point during the interview.

You may have noticed these steps are similar to preparing for a speech.   We have all suffered through long winded speeches.  Typically they come from failing to research the subject, not writing out or outlining key points, and/or not practicing delivery with the intent of making points that connect with the audience.  Interviewing is similar.

Preparation steps a week to a couple of days before the big interview:

1) Take a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle, put “Company Recruiter Wants” on one side, and “What I Possess that Connects” on the other side.

2) Study the job description thoroughly.  Identify the essence of the job, the 3-4 key responsibilities, competencies and functional experience required.  Put those ideas on the “Company Recruiter Wants” side of your paper.

3) Go back to your self-analysis and your resume and evaluate what relates to this position.  Then, write down your key strengths, significant accomplishments and functional military experiences on the ‘What I Possess that Connects” side of the paper.

This becomes your plan on connecting your background and skill set to the requirements, ensuring you stay on point during the interview.

Once you are in the interview, I recommend using a technique to deliver answers that Roger Cameron taught me 20 years ago when I made my transition:

1) Listen to the recruiter’s question.  THE WHOLE QUESTION.  Do not mentally cut off the recruiter and start determining what you want to say.  You may miss part of the question.

2) Reflect on what you want to say, think back to your sheet of paper, and determine the points you want to make.  Because you prepared in advance, it should be a brief mental moment.

3) Deliver your answer – answer the question bottom line up front, support your points, AND once you have answered the question with good supporting content, close out your answer.

We all ramble.  I do it.  I did it today trying to explain something to one of my teammates.  Because I observed the teammate’s body language, I knew I lost her during my story.  I adjusted my story and got to the point.  When interviewing, read the body language to listen to subtle cues from the recruiter.  If they stop writing notes, have the “glazed over” look or even say something like, “I have several more questions to get through and only 30 more minutes…”, you know you need to adjust.

Joel Junker