As you transitioned out of service, you were likely overwhelmed with all the resume writing courses, job search tools and transition resources available. When interviewing for a job or promotion, your goal as the candidate is to highlight your offer as a benefit for the company and show a direct correlation between your experience (military and non) and the goals of the company.
Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
1. Appearing unfocused about what you offer. It is not the responsibility of the interviewer to discover what you stand for, what you are good at, and why you are the ideal fit for the position they are hiring for. It is 100% your job to connect all the dots between who you are and what they need. While this might take practice and training, as the military does not teach you civilian "self promotion" skills, it is worth learning.
2. Saying, "Sorry I was late. I had an important call to finish." This can leave the interviewer thinking: What am I? Chopped liver? Apologize for being late, but don't dwell on what caused your timing. Traffic, unforeseen circumstances and bad timing happen. Move past it instead of making elaborate excuses.
3. Asking, "How quickly can I be hired?" Pushing too hard about next steps might tell the interviewer you have short-timer syndrome. You see this as a stepping-stone and won't commit fully to the job. It is appropriate to ask about career path and possibilities in the company, but be careful about being too direct. Instead, ask, "What is the next step in the hiring process?" or, "When can I expect to hear feedback on my viability as a candidate?" These are more appropriate.
4. Wearing jeans to an interview at a financial firm. It's critical to know how people dress in the industry, company, and community that you're pursuing. While I'd always advise dressing up for an interview — it shows respect for the interviewer and the occasion — if you dress 10 notches above or below everyone else, you might give the impression you won't fit in in that job or company.
5. Looking at your watch, cell phone, tablet, etc. too often. If you are using your tablet to take notes on, tell the interviewer in advance. Otherwise, it can appear that you are impatient, bored, or both.
6. Not being prepared. In today's information world, it is unacceptable to arrive at an interview without having done research: Have good questions for the interviewer, research their prior commitment to hiring veterans, know what the company does and who they serve, look at the LinkedIn profiles of key stakeholders, and come prepared to the meeting.
7. Speaking in negatives. Instead of saying, "I haven't had much job experience since I left the Marines," focus the conversation on your assets, "I'm excited to leverage the skills and technical expertise I developed while in the military!" If the conversation has too many negatives, even if you are refuting misconceptions, the negatives might be what the interviewer remembers about the meeting.
8. Downplaying your successes. This is a challenge for veterans, indeed. But, an interview is not the time for modesty. Humility is appreciated, but when someone asks you about your talents, skills, passions, and goals, it's critical that you are clear, focused, and can connect your offer to the opportunity for which you are being considered.
9. Forgetting to say "thank you" at the end. It might feel like a small step to the candidate, but the interviewer spent time reviewing the resume, preparing for the meeting, and asking probing questions. Before you leave the meeting, offer a verbal, "thank you for spending time with me today."
10. No follow up. The end of the first interview meeting is the start of the interview conversation. Immediately after the meeting, write a handwritten note to the interviewer(s) thanking them for their time, referencing something that was discussed, and reminding them of your interest in the position. If there is a good reason, then a quick email thank you can occur as the handwritten note is in the mail. Email should never replace the handwritten note completely.
Interviews are a stressful part of the job search. With these tips, you can maximize the chances of getting the offer — then YOU get to decide if you want the job!