Job Search Etiquette for Military - The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Job Search Etiquette for Military
by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor

Share |

Article Sponsored by:  URS

Tom Wolfe

Much like the rules of etiquette that exist for society in general, organizations tend to have their own standards of acceptable behavior. You are familiar with military service etiquette, and when you join a civilian organization, you will discover a new, albeit similar, set of rules. During your transition, it is important to keep in mind an additional set - those that define job search etiquette for military.

The rules of etiquette in a job search deal with behavior. Certain behaviors are expected and others may or may not be acceptable, depending on the circumstances. Since it is impossible to cover the entire range of circumstances, here are some general guidelines. Use your instincts and common sense to fill in the blanks.

Confirm the appointment. Do this 24 hours or one working day in advance. Make sure you know the date, the time, and the location of the interview. Also, make sure you have the appropriate phone numbers in case you have to call.

Clear your calendar. If possible, keep your schedule free of any other commitments. The interview might run over or you could be asked to stay longer. Explaining that you have someplace else to be could create an awkward situation.

Do some recon.
If at all possible, it is always a good idea to travel the route and physically locate the office or facility where the interview will occur prior to the day of the interview. Knowing exactly where it is and how to get there will reduce your anxiety level and help assure that you . . .

Do not arrive late. Showing up late, regardless of the reasons, not only casts doubt on your reliability or planning skills, but can also label you as discourteous or rude. If unforeseen circumstances arise and you will be arriving late, do everything in your power to call ahead of time to explain.

Do not arrive too early. Time your arrival so you are 15 minutes early. That is about when they start looking for you. Any earlier and you could create an uncomfortable situation. They might not know what to do with you while you are waiting.

Dress appropriately.
Arriving at the interview and discovering that you are not properly attired is embarrassing for both parties. If possible, find out in advance what clothing is appropriate. When in doubt, take the safe course. Being overdressed in your interview suit is preferable to the alternative.

Be patient. Get ready for a double standard. Although you cannot be late, they are allowed to keep you waiting. Keep smiling. Make eye contact with the receptionist. Try not to fidget, sigh, or look perturbed. After about thirty minutes, ask the receptionist for a glass of water or directions to the lavatory. He or she will get the hint.

Body language. The behaviors here - expected, acceptable and otherwise - are many. It starts and ends with eye contact and a handshake, both of which will send a strong signal regarding your self-confidence and level of interest. A warm, natural smile not only conveys interest but also makes the interviewer feel good - a feeling that will be associated with you!

Social interviews. Except for a cup of coffee or a glass of water, conventional wisdom says that your mouth has but one purpose during an interview - talking. Social interviews are different. There is frequently an element of eating and drinking. When choosing your meal, stay away from foods that are difficult to eat (shellfish in the shell) or may get caught in your teeth (spinach) or create lingering effects (garlic) or those with a premium price (surf and turf). Regarding beverages, use caution when alcohol is involved. If you do not drink alcohol, there is no issue. If you do, play it safe.

Follow-up activity. Make sure you are aware of any post-interview expectations on the part of the interviewers. You might be asked for additional materials, a modified resume, to complete an application form, provide references, etc. Whatever the case, do it and do it in a timely and accurate manner. Additionally, send follow-up letters. Make sure those letters have two themes: they express both your gratitude for the person's time and consideration, and also your level of interest in the position.

As you can see, most of this is basic common sense. The new information is probably due to the less formal style of the civilian sector when compared to the military. When in doubt, simply combine this common sense with a little do unto others... and you will be fine.

Tom Wolfe, Career Coach, is a nationally recognized expert in military to civilian career transition and a Contributing Editor at Civilian Job News.  He served as a surface warfare officer in the Navy and has provided career guidance to military personnel since 1978. Contact him via e-mail


Return to July/August 2010 Issue