Interview Questions - The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Transition Talk

by Mike Arsenault, Vice President of Candidate Services

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Article Sponsored by: RecruitMilitary

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Bradley-Morris answers questions from transitioning military job seekers.

Q: To say that I am nervous about finding a civilian job would be an understatement. I’m so used to training for every mission, and it seems the only training for job hunting is actual interviewing - trial and error. So can you guide me through a typical civilian interview from the minute I arrive at the company until I leave so I will have a better idea of what to expect?

A: I’m glad you asked this as I’m sure it will be informative to many of our readers.

First, it’s key that the day before the interview, you know where you are going and how long it will take to get there. Do not be late! It’s better to be really early and do some last-minute interviewing prep in the parking lot before you go in. Leave time to navigate a parking garage and get through security after you arrive at the location.

Also, be sure you know what to wear. Sometimes, if you are doing a site visit in a plant or industrial environment, the employer will specify more casual clothing as you may have to put on additional safety gear. But if dress is not specified, wear formal business attire; that is, a black, navy blue or dark gray suit, white or blue shirt and, for men, a conservative burgundy or dark red tie.

Finally, if you know who you are interviewing with, see if you can find them on LinkedIn. Check out their background, how long they have been at the company, etc. This could give you the basis to make conversation with them based on commonalities with their experiences and/or alert you to some good questions when that time comes in the interview. For instance, you may say, “I saw on LinkedIn that you’ve been with the company for nine years. What has led to your longevity here?”

Once you meet the interviewer, remember to smile and project interest and energy. Sit toward the front edge of your chair.

Hopefully, you’ve already practiced some common interview responses. This is the one area in which I disagree a bit with your initial question. You can and should train to respond to interview questions before the interview. It’s the only way you will feel comfortable and seem at ease when you are actually in the interviewand be able to view the time as a conversation, not an interrogation.

There are a number of sites online where you can review lists of common interview questions. Go find them and practice, practice, practice! Here are a few examples:

1. “Tell me about yourself.” Ideally you would include some bits of your background that make you a match for the job opening.

2. “What do you consider your most significant accomplishment?” The key here is what you did. Service members tend to be “we” people, but in an interview it needs to be about “I”.

3. “Why are you leaving the military?” Those transitioning might get this question.

4. “What do you consider your most significant weakness?” This one trips up a lot of folks, but it’s your opportunity to show a weakness you improved on and turned into a strength. For example, “I used to believe, if I wanted to get the job done right, do it myself. But as I grew, I learned how to maintain responsibility for the job, but to train and delegate to others to perform at my expectations, improving the effectiveness of my team.”

5. “Why should we hire you?” You need to be able to highlight the elements of your background and training, as well as your career goals, that make you a fit.

After their questions, as mentioned above, it will be time for you to ask questions. You must ask some questions! This helps you demonstrate your interest in the job. Don’t ask about salary, benefits, vacation, etc. though. The time for those types of inquiries will come later if you receive an offer. Make the questions about the job.

This will probably conclude the interview. Ask for the business card of the interviewer so that when you get home you can email a short thank you note. As you shake their hand to leave, be sure to express your interest in the position.

That’s about it! Hopefully that has given you a good overview as to what to expect in a civilian interview. Good luck and get to training!


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

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