Congratulations—you got the call and they want you to interview! Most likely you’re preparing to explain how your military experience translates into business expertise—smart thinking. But successful interview performance also relies heavily on things you don’t say.
1.) Sounding Clueless About the Employer
We’ve all been there. We get so wrapped up in polishing our pitch about our experience, we get myopic. Remember, the person(s) on the other side of the table wants to know you’ve done your homework about the company. By the grace of all that is holy do not ask questions about the basics of what they do—you should know that!
The best ways to do your homework:
- Research their website. Know the business’s history and mission. Hiring managers like to hear that you’ve thought through how your expertise relates to their mission statement.
- Research news related to the company. If possible, explain how your skills apply to new projects that they’re launching.
- Try to know your interviewers and c-suite executives by sight—now that’s impressive!
2.) Talking Smack About Past Superiors
This is a seriously bad move. It can start innocently enough: An offhand answer to “Tell me about a negative experience you overcame” dovetails into a seemingly lighthearted tale about that crazy sergeant who told you to… do something crazy, etc. But don’t. Just don’t. Interviewers translate any negative comments about previous superiors as a red flag.
What to do instead:
- By all means explain how you overcame difficult tasks using your ingenuity and team-building skills—interviewers love to hear about your ability to collaborate.
- Explain what you’ve learned from negative experiences and how they helped you improve.
It’s best to stop at humble. The bragging kicks in if you answer the inevitable “Tell us about a weakness of yours” by saying, “I’m an overachiever” or “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m always the last one to leave.” Ugh. Hiring managers actually want an honest answer to this question. Reply in a way that expresses how you—like everyone else—are a work in progress. For example, “I’m really focusing on working smarter, not harder.”
4.) Depending on Jargon to Sound Good
The military and business world love their jargon. Career experts, however, advise against relying on industry-speak too much. It signals either insecurity or pretension. In fact, communication experts are begging businesspeople to abandon acronym-dependency altogether.
Concise, clear, thoughtful expressions of how your skills and expertise will help an employer improve their bottom line are what interviewers want to hear. Not: “I’m known for scaling best practices and producing actionable buy-in and deliverables that future-proof our paradigm shift.”
5.) Asking Too Much, Too Soon
Some people presume too much during an interview. A first interview is not a good time to be asking about vacation, can you work from home on Fridays or when you’ll be getting a raise. If conducted over a meal, it’s best to place a modest order instead of, say, lobster.
Job candidates also often presume the interview is all about them. Okay, that’s understandable to a degree, but the problem is when the interviewee thinks they have to do all the talking. Interviewers want to be heard, too, so arrive ready to listen—which is one of the soft skills employers look for anyway.
Hiring managers get it: You’re nervous and there may be an awkward moment or two. But they’re also expecting your best, and nothing helps deliver that more than practice.
LinkedIn has recently launched a tool that allows users to record themselves responding to typical interview questions. Premium members have access to videos of career coaches modeling the best ways to respond.
Or, just find a friend to role play with who’ll give you honest feedback. You’ll be glad you did!