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Ask the Recruiter

by Mike Arsenault - Director of Candidate Services

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military documents for job interviews

Let Mike know your questions for future articles by emailing them to marsenault (at) This month’s Q&A is below:

Q: I’ve been in the military for 20 years and I am just about to begin my job search. I’m concerned I may come off as inflexible in my job interview. How can I overcome appearing too rigid?

A: There’s no denying that some military stereotypes exist. However, your military service has provided you with expertise and education that is attractive to many potential employers. Hiring managers can assume certain personal characteristics from military service members that are not quite accurate such as doing things only one way, being too rigid, and lacking creative leadership. It is important to defeat this type of negative stereotype.

In truth, stereotypes tend to disappear when you have the opportunity to meet in person. Prior to your interview, do as much research about the company as possible, including understanding the details of the job and how you can make a difference to the company’s bottom line. Your military service will most likely be addressed during your interview. Use that time to discuss how your service has given you a unique perspective into the role. In order to overcome appearing too rigid - be sure to talk about how you were part of a team. Discuss how important it was to collaborate with others in your unit by soliciting feedback and opinions after an exercise or training event, all with an eye on improvement.

Also, be conscious of your body language - begin with a confident handshake, maintain good eye contact and smile. Work on establishing a rapport with your interviewer. Keep your shoulders back, yet establish a relaxed posture. Remember, the fact that you have been asked to interview is important and the more you can reinforce those positive military stereotypes (great work ethic, reliable, flexible, ethical, etc.) - the better.

Q: How honest should I be of prior work experiences when I’m interviewing?

A: You should always be honest and open about your previous work experiences, but it's rarely a good thing to 'go negative.' In terms of “sharing,” try to be discerning. When asked about a previous job or location, be upbeat and positive, even if you were miserable. Words like “hate,” “awful,” and “worst,” stick with someone long after the job applicant has left.

For example, if your overall experience in the military was something you'd like to forget, rather than talk about your 'bad bosses' or negative experiences - you need to find some positives. Something to the effect of "I learned some things about myself, met people and went places that I otherwise would not have experienced had I not volunteered for military service. Even though I am concluding my time in uniform, I'm glad to say I've served honorably."

One way to look at this is to think of yourself as a brand. Brands are built by PR and marketing departments which are focused on ‘selling’ a message. Associate your conversation or message with positive ideas. This will help to create a successful image for the hiring manager to remember. Negativity is contagious - don't be associated with this trait.

Mike Arsenault is Director of Candidate Services at Military Recruiter Bradley-Morris, Inc. He can be reached at (800) 330-4950 ext. 2105 or by email at marsenault (at)

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