Thou Shalt Not
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Return to November/December 2016 Issue
Following these Commandments will lead you to a promised land called Interview Success. In part one of this two-part series, we will focus on the First through Fifth Commandments.
1. The First Commandment: Thou shalt not be late.
There is no excuse for being late to an interview. Even a legitimate excuse will do you no good, unless you have contacted the interviewer well in advance and explained a cause that was unforeseen and beyond your control. That seems unfair and a bit harsh, doesn’t it? Well, maybe so, but think about this: Assuming that everyone else interviewing for that job managed to show up on time, what does that say about you? Show up late and there will be a gray cloud hovering above your head. What’s in that cloud? Lack of preparation? Inability to problem solve? Failure to plan and anticipate? Lack of courtesy? Questionable reliability? Even if none of that is true, it will not matter. Perception is reality. This commandment applies equally to both face-to-face and telephone interviews.
2. The Second Commandment: Thou shalt not ask too few or inappropriate questions.
At the most basic level an interview is nothing more than a Q&A session. Both parties check each other out and find out what they need to know by asking and answering questions. For you, the job seeker, your questions are the most powerful tool in your military-to-civilian career transition toolbox. There are two reasons for this power, one fairly obvious and one frequently overlooked. The overt reason for asking questions is to get answers. This is how you learn about the organization, the job, the opportunity, the culture, the environment and the people. The second reason? Asking the right questions will contribute greatly to your ability to express interest in the company. This gets tricky. Your questions must be about them, not you. Save the self-serving questions (salary, benefits, vacation, holidays, etc.) until after the job offer is on the table.
3. The Third Commandment: Thou shalt not exhibit improper body language.
Interviewing is a combination of listening and talking. It all comes down to communication and language, and there are two components to language - verbal and non-verbal. Although solid verbal communication skills are critical to interview success, the non-verbal component - i.e., body language - is equally important. Body language comes in many forms and presents itself from the second you walk into the interview until you walk back out that door. It starts and ends with a unique form of body language, the only one that involves touching - the handshake. A handshake says much about a person’s style and self-confidence. It needs to be firm, but not too firm. Duration is also important. No more than a second in length. Either party can initiate it, but do not wait too long before you stick out your hand and introduce yourself. Do not vary your approach based on the gender of the interviewer. Many men, especially military men, will shake a woman’s hand differently - bad idea. Limp handshakes and sweaty palms are notorious for killing interviews. Accompanying that handshake is another form of body language - eye contact. Solid eye contact sends a signal of self-confidence, interest and situational comfort. Bad eye contact sends the opposite signal. Many people do fine with eye contact when they are speaking but not so well when the other person in speaking. Think about the signal that sends. Additional expressions of body language include the way you sit in the chair, placement of your hands, crossing your legs, facial expressions, hand gestures, fidgeting and nervous habits. Do yourself a favor and ask a friend or colleague to observe and evaluate your body language, then adjust or modify as needed.
4. The Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt not dress inappropriately.
Many military-to-civilian job seekers relish the thought of never again having to wear a uniform and/or concern themselves with being in the appropriate uniform of the day. Being out-of-uniform will no longer be a bad thing. Not so fast. Although you may choose to avoid the many civilian jobs where uniforms are required and the organizations with strict dress codes, there is one more uniform of the day that you have no choice but to wear - appropriate interviewing attire. One key to interview success is being memorable. You and your competition are alike in so many ways, and the interviewer meets so many candidates, it can be hard for that interviewer to remember who is who. It is obvious your goal is to be remembered for positive reasons, but it would be a mistake to think that your interviewing wardrobe will contribute to that goal. The premise here is that you and your competition will all dress appropriately and interviewing attire becomes a common denominator among all the candidates. If, however, you are remembered for what you wore to the interview, I guarantee it was because of how inappropriate it was. Do yourself a favor and find out in advance what you should wear. Sometimes it will be the traditional interview suit. Other times it could be coveralls and work boots. Sometimes you will need more than one outfit. Regardless, do your best to be memorable for the right reasons rather than what you wore that day.
5. The Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt not lack self-knowledge.
Here’s a quick and foolproof way to determine whether or not your interview was successful. As soon as you leave the room, pull out your IMVGs (Interviewer Mind Vision Goggles) and take a look at the picture you created in the mind of the interviewer. What do you see? Maybe nothing - that is as bad as it gets. Perhaps there is a vision, but it is fuzzy or indistinct - again, not good. There is a chance you will see a picture of you doing a job, but not the one for which you were being considered. That too is problematic. How about this one: The interviewer sees you in the job, being productive, but with a frown on your face. Or, maybe you are smiling but doing the job poorly. One last shot: There you are, in the job, doing it well with a high level of job satisfaction. Congratulations! How do you create that vision? With a well-developed level of self-knowledge it’s not hard. Without it, it’s impossible. What are your strengths? Talents? Attributes? Skills? Motivators? Wants? Needs? What really matters to you? By arming yourself with the answers to those questions and by knowing the particulars of the job, you can present yourself in such a way that the interviewer has no choice but to see you in the job, successful and happy.
Remember this: You most certainly have competition for that job. There are almost always more good candidates than there are good jobs. The interviewer needs to narrow down the field, and he or she can afford to be picky. You have a choice here: disobey one or more of those Commandments and make it easy for him or her to cross you off the list. Or, make the interviewer work hard to find a reason to reject you. As the interviewer digs deeper and deeper and gets to know you better and better, things will start to change. Unable to find reasons to say NO, he or she will start to focus on reasons to say YES, and that leads to interview success.
Please join us in the next edition (January/February 2017) of Military Transition News where we will take a look at Commandments Six through Ten.
Tom Wolfe is a Career Coach, Columnist, Author and Veteran and can be found at www.out-of-uniform.com.
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