by Mike Arsenault - Vice President of Candidate Services
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Bradley-Morris answers questions from transitioning military job seekers.
Q: It is probably the easiest question to answer, but I’m stumped when I’ve been asked in an interview, “Tell me about yourself.” Is there a good way to open this up without sounding too arrogant, too boring or completely weird?
A: Yes - this question is often the first question of a civilian interview and it can be awkward. When I interview potential employees for Bradley-Morris, I usually get the conversation started with something like this as well. There are several reasons why hiring managers will pose the question and it has to do with both what you say and how you answer.
First, you need to think through and have practiced what to say in response to this question. If you have a coherent and well-thought-out reply, this will demonstrate to the interviewer that you have considered your responses and have come prepared. You should spend about 2-4 minutes on your reply (time yourself when you practice). A seasoned interviewer can tell if you’re “winging it.”
Second, the interviewer will consider the content of your answer along with how effectively you are communicating. As your resume is likely in front of the hiring manager, this gives you the opportunity to touch upon some areas that are not reflected in that document. I like to hear where a person is from; whether or not they came from a military family; why they chose to serve; why they are concluding their military service; what things throughout their lives influenced them to make significant decisions; and any sort of hobbies, interests, passions, etc.
For example, if part of your answer is, “I spent 10 years in the military, and most of my time was in the aviation field,” I can probably see that on the resume. However, if you say “My father was a commercial airline pilot and I’ve always been around airplanes. When I was 12, we worked on refurbishing a Piper Cub together and learned to fly at 16,” this really adds personal texture to your answer and I have an idea what has had a profound influence on decisions in your life.
Remember, you are already a fit for the organization based on your skills and experience on paper, now an interviewer just wants to know if you fit into the corporate culture by meeting you in person. I would suggest writing out a timeline of the significant chapters of your life, circle the most important points or successes, and carry the answer up to present day.
Mike Arsenault is Vice President of Candidate Services at military placement firm Bradley-Morris, Inc. He can be reached at (800) 330-4950 ext. 2105 or by email at marsenault (at) bradley-morris.com.
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