You landed the interview - great job! - but now you have to figure out what to do about those nerve wracking interview questions.
You know the ones we're talking about. How long do you plan to live in the area? [How should I know?! Ask the Defense Department!] And Tell us about your past job experience. [Well there was that one time four years ago that I had a great job right before we moved to the middle of nowhere]. Or Where do you see yourself in five years?" [Again, ask Uncle Sam].
The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) is hosting a free career symposium in Alexandria, Va. March 26 packed with experts to tackle the tough military spouse career topics just like these. (Want to attend? Go here to register!)
But we gave two of their experts appearing on a Real Spouses: Real Stories panel a little pre-symposium project. We asked our Facebook fans what interview questions they are most afraid to hear. And the experts weighed in with their advice.
5 Interview questions every spouse is afraid to hear (and how you should answer):Terrifying Question (TQ) 1: "Why is there a large gap between right now and your last job?"
Expert Answer (EA): Spin it to the positive. Say something like this, says Brenda Linnington, director of the Better Business Beauru's (BBB) Institute for Marketplace Trust and BBB Military Line:
"I have the great honor of being a military spouse and have accompanied my husband/wife to all sorts important locations based on the needs of our Nation. I’ve learned so much from relocating to new places.. In fact, I bring this unique education; an enhanced knowledge of diversity and cultural differences with me into each new professional position and that has helped me get established and succeed quickly."
TQ 2: "How long do you expect to be with the company if we hire you?"
EA: Traci McCombs, a Human Resource Specialist at the National Institute for Health, says the best way to take on this one is to be honest, but redirect the interviewer towards your strengths. She says you should say something like this:
"That is a great question. Unfortunately, this is a question I cannot answer with certainty. But, what I can answer is 'What will I accomplish for your company while I am here.' (Insert your best accolade or talent here). Although I was only with Marriott for a year and a half I produced over 800,000 worth of ownership vacation for the company which was better than any of my counterparts who were seasoned sales executives. If you choose to hire me you may have me for one year or you may have me for five years. But no matter which one it is I will be sure to use my colorful palate of experience to bring a positive hard working attitude to work along with the knowledge I have gained from my masters program. (insert your strengths, licences, education, etc, here)."
TQ 3: “What brought you to this area?” [in other words she should reveal she’s a military spouse?]
EA: McCombs had some great advice on this one. Here is what she said:
"I always have a hard time with this question because lying is a red flag in interviews. You don't want to mislead the interviewer only to get the job and have broken trust. I usually approach this question with a little candor. You have to evaluate the situation and make the personal decision to re-route the question or face it head on. Depending on the company I go one of two ways. If I do not want to reveal my stance as a military spouse I would build off an approach such as, 'I love Washington DC because ... and I am seeking new opportunities.'
If I believe I can use this question to my advantage I say something along the lines of this:
'My husband recently received a great career opportunity here.' This answer ALWAYS leads to 'Oh, what does your husband do?'
Use this to your advantage. This is a chance to brag about ALL the amazing things your husband has accomplished. It makes you relate-able and possibly helps an interviewer have more appreciation for what you go through.
'Actually, my husband recently accepted a fellowship with the United States Army and will be working for Congressmen Bishop while attending the George Washington University. When that is complete he will be transferring over to the Pentagon where they will assign him a new office. I am very excited for his opportunity here and I believe we both will have a long term success here in D.C.'
TQ 4: "Tell me about your some of your weaknesses?”
EA: Again, be honest but spin it towards the positive. Linnington suggests you say something like this:
"I’m impatient at times. I sometimes get involved in the details of work being done by those around me, when I really should wait to see what they deliver. Although detail oriented, I also could be more organized -- and I work hard on that aspect of my workplace behavior. Sometimes, getting wrapped up in the details makes for long nights."
TQ 5: "Where do you see yourself in five years?"
EA: McCombs said you shouldn't be afraid of this one -- instead embrace it!
"As a military spouse, I always hope they will ask me this question. This question allows a company to try to visualize a working partnership with you. You must prepare for this question before the interview. Research the company, know their mission statement, their cause, what they are known for, and what they are trying to accomplish. Imagine yourself in the position and explain how you share in their vision.
I always block out the thought, 'It doesn't matter... I won't be here anyway.' It does matter! Try your best to put yourself in a situation where you are familiar with staying in one place for a long stent of time. It is much easier to answer this question if you can do this. It also will bring comfort to the interviewer that you can think long term. "