How to Prepare for That All-Important Job Interview

06/01/2015  |  By Combined Insurance

Finally, your job search is paying off and you have been invited to interview for one or more of the positions for which you have applied. That means it’s time to polish your interview skills. While interviews are generally tough even for the most seasoned of interviewees, they can often be tougher for military veterans who may have been out of civilian life for long periods of time. 

If you fit that description, below are some tips and guidelines that can help get you through the interview process with flying colors.

Before the Interview

Don’t skimp on preparation. Take time to learn as much about the organization as you can. Visit their website and check out their mission statement, products or services, recent news and management structure. You can also do a Google search to find out more about the organization’s reputation and market position in the industry.

Next, write down a few key things you want the prospective employer to know about you and any questions you may have relative to the specific job responsibilities. It’s also important to prepare and rehearse responses to questions you may be asked (see below). 
Don’t forget to print out multiple copies of your resumé to bring with you to the interview. It’s always good to have extras for anyone who may unexpectedly ask. You may also be asked for references – both job-related and personal. Put together a list that includes their contact information to take with you as well. But first be sure to get permission from your references to use them so they aren’t caught off guard if a potential employer contacts them. 
Finally, double-check the location of the interview and show up on time, even if this means arriving early and waiting a while. Wear professional clothes to make a good impression and plan what to wear in advance to avoid the risk of running late. If the job is an office or sales position, it’s best to wear a conservative suit or dress. If more casual dress is called for, go with a “business casual” look, which consists of nice slacks, a collared shirt and sweater for men, or an attractive dress or blouse and slacks for women. Avoid anything flashy or loud and be sure to be well-groomed.   

During the Interview

Many employers screen candidates first via a telephone interview and, in general, the process is similar even though you are not speaking face-to-face. For a phone interview, choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted, have your talking point notes and questions handy, and if you are using a mobile phone, make sure it is fully charged and that you have good reception.

For either onsite or phone interviews, keep it positive and pleasant. Avoid making negative remarks about past jobs or bosses. Employers want to hire people who are positive, enthusiastic and confident that they can do the job and meet its challenges. And, for an in-person interview, be sure to turn off your phone so there are no embarrassing interruptions. 

Some typical questions you may be asked during the initial interview include:

•    Tell me about yourself and your background. Be truthful about your background, and focus on how your background, training, skills, work ethic and values make you the best candidate for the job. 
•    Why do you want to work here? Here is where your research can pay off. Focus on how you understand the company’s mission and why you believe you have the skills and ability to contribute value. 
•    What are your strengths?  Focus on the particular strengths and skills you bring to the position, based on the job description and on points you included on your resumé. As a military veteran, you already possess many of the skills and personality traits employers look for.
•    What are your weaknesses? A trick question, right? Not really. Turn it in your favor by taking a positive approach.  You might say, for example: “Everyone has some areas in which they need to improve. I’m a great believer in ongoing training to improve my skills so I can continue to grow.”   
•    Give me an example of an obstacle or challenge you faced and how you overcame it. Have one or two good specific examples ready. If you can, provide an example from a previous work position you held. If you don’t have a prior work history you can draw from, look to your military or academic experiences for examples. 
In addition, remember to ask the interviewer those few questions you prepared in advance. They can relate to the business, the position, and day-to-day responsibilities involved. For example, you might ask: “To whom would I report and what criteria would be used to evaluate my performance?” or “Can you describe how a typical day would go?” Also feel free to ask any questions that occur to you during the interview to get more detail or clarification. 
After the Interview

Follow up is an important part of the process. Send a personal note right away to everyone you met with thanking them for the opportunity to meet, and reiterate your interest in joining the organization. You can also affirm one or two key points as to why you believe you’re a good fit for the position. If you don’t hear back in a week or so, it’s a good idea to follow-up with a call asking if a decision has been made. Diligent follow-up demonstrates your professionalism and emphasizes your interest in the getting the job. 

Combined Insurance is committed to helping veterans transition into the civilian workforce. We consider it an honor to help those who have served our country find employment. Good luck in your job hunt!
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