TAO Self-help

Title:Veteran Interviews 2.0: Get Connected!

Author:Dr. Ryan Wallace

Date:April 2014


Your resume finally landed you an interview! Don't start packing your bags for the new job just yet, as an interview is merely an invitation to scrutinize you further.

Interviews are about establishing connections. To successfully make it past the interview stage and land a job offer, a candidate must make connections to the job, the company culture, and the people.

  • Clearly link your knowledge, skills, and abilities with the position's requirements
  • Show compatibility between your personality and the company's culture
  • Establish a connection with the interviewer(s)

You've told me you can do the job, now show me.

The bulk of interview questions focus on your knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform job tasks. Many of these "qualification" interview questions are focused on your past experience, education, and certifications. Most applicants find qualification-based questions relatively easy to answer, as they tend to focus on clear objectives. In fact, the vast majority of questions will be directly related to the qualification or experience requirements listed in the job posting! Be prepared to offer specific, concrete examples of how you meet the qualification requirements. Recall anecdotes that highlight your knowledge and skills. If you are lacking in any of the required areas, demonstrate that you are actively working to improve these skills.

Be ready to backup any self-promoting claims you made in your cover letter or resume. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for applicants to exaggerate in their resumes. While exaggerations may land an interview, they can be easily found out by an experienced interviewer. Be wary of overselling and under-delivering.

I recall when I was a young schoolboy, our class participated in a weekly themed "show and tell" event. A week prior, each student would tell the class what they would bring to show, based on each week's respective theme. This is much like your resume—you are telling the hiring manager what you are going to show them in the interview. After you've told them what to expect, you better be able to deliver! In one show and tell session during "careers" week, a boy promised to bring in a fire engine. While most of us expected him to bring a toy model, you can imagine our elation when his father rolled up in the parking lot with a full fire rig! You want to have the same effect during your interview—be prepared to deliver big on your resume promises!

Get cultured!

Its time to trade in the proverbial "military kool-aide" for the "corporate coffee". I'm talking about buying into the new corporate culture. Spend time reading about the company online. If you know employees in the organization, try to get the inside scoop about the corporate culture. How do employees interact? Is there a strict formality or are relationships more casual? How are decisions made—by consensus or by dictate? Use the information you learn to adjust your behavior, attitude, and image to align with the new culture. You need to show that you belong at the company. Exceptionally-qualified candidates are often removed from consideration in the interview process if they are perceived to be a poor cultural fit for the company.

Find common ground.

I call this the gift of gab—small talk. There will inevitably be short points before, during, or after the interview that go unfilled by interview business. This often happens at the beginning of telephonic interviews while waiting for all committee members to sign into the call. Instead of letting this time run void, don't be afraid of exercising a little chit-chat. If at all possible, research the backgrounds of the interviewers in advance of the meeting and find common ground. Perhaps you went to the same college? Maybe you are involved in the same civic or volunteer organizations? This technique must be used sparingly, but has the advantage of developing personal connections with the interviewers. Now I'm not saying that a company would choose to hire an individual based solely on such personal connections, however, hiring is not merely an emotionless endeavor. People like those who are similar to themselves. As a candidate, you are looking to establish a slight edge over the competition. If you were the hiring manager, given equally qualified candidates, wouldn't you want to hire someone with whom you established some form of personal connection?

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