- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Well read? Knowledge is Power in an Interview

By Evan Offstein, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: URS

One senior manager I know would always ask applicants about the last book they had read. In one case, an applicant mentioned that he did not read for fun. Another applicant said coyly that the only book he ever read was the autobiography of Larry Bird. Not surprisingly, both answers were unacceptable. This question often catches people off-guard and is taken too lightly. Here is some insight on what interviewers are looking for when they ask that question.

First, they are trying to assess mental and intellectual sophistication. While many read USA Today, fewer (and a different type) read the Wall Street Journal or Harvard Business Review. Recruiters and senior managers infer much during an interview. The space between the Wall Street Journal and USA Today is not a space, it is a canyon. Make sure you are on the right side of that canyon.

Second, and especially for former military men and women, recruiters want to see evidence that you are making the transition smoothly. Reading the business press demonstrates that you are serious about making the leap from the military to civilian life.

Third, the business world uses a different doctrine, language, and vocabulary, and military personnel need to pick up on this. One of the best ways to do so is to read business and management newspapers, journals, and books. Just as field and training manuals provided guidance in the military, trade journals and newspapers provide similar direction in a corporate setting.

Finally, reading what professionals do, and to fit in and become accepted, it is necessary to engage in the routines and habits in which other professionals are engaged.

Additionally, professional reading ramps up and accelerates our learning curve - we get smarter, more competitive and more valuable. I asked a successful entrepreneur to give me one critical component of his success. His answer? You guessed it - reading. Reading becomes even more important as globalization makes our world more complex and uncertain. Only those who read, perceive, and reflect can begin to make sense of all of these variables. So, pick up the paper and read. You will be better for it, I promise.


Dr. Evan H. Offstein is the author of “Stand Your Ground: Building Honorable Leaders the West Point Way.”  He and Jason Morwick are also the authors of Making Telework Work (forthcoming, Davies-Black Publishing).


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