Interviews are stressful. What will you be asked? What is the interviewer looking for?
The first part is anyone’s guess, but there are a multitude of articles with common interview questions — and it’s not a bad idea to rehearse some answers to those common questions. But the second part may be the most nerve-racking. Here is what your interviewer is thinking, even if he or she won’t ask the question directly.
1. Will you succeed in this job?
Different things may determine success — if you’ve done the job before (make sure you translate your military experiences well!), if you have displayed certain required traits before, or if you have the right accomplishments.
As you talk about your experiences, focus on your accomplishments and experiences as a story, explaining how what you learned helped you contribute to your work, and how it prepared you for the job at stake in the interview. Describing your experiences this way will help the interviewer envision you—in a positive way—working at the company.
2. Can you work well within the company?
The interviewer will be evaluating your communication skills as well as listening closely to your experiences to evaluate relationships you’ve had with co-workers and bosses in the past.
Body language and tone of voice can betray your true feelings about a boss you didn’t like, just like a heightened level of enthusiasm indicates that you felt like you really fit into a job (and by extension, your co-workers). The interviewer may be paying extra close attention to your relationships because of pre-conceived notions about military rank structure, so you want to emphasize the teamwork and dedication of the service (and not so much the instant and willing obedience to orders).
You won’t know if your interviewer prefers direct (“blunt”) relationships or friendly, tactful ones — but you should come prepared to show either, with experiences to match.
3. How much do you want this job?
This comes down to research. If the interviewer senses that you feel entitled to the job, or that you’re not serious—like if it’s your “backup job” or if you’re just seeing if you’ll get an offer—then he or she will cross off your name as soon as you leave the room.
There are lots of people who are just looking for a job—what the interviewer wants to see is someone who wants that particular job. And the easiest way to show that is to have a little knowledge about the company; something a little deeper than the front page of the company website or the Wikipedia page.
Where do you find this information? Ask the recruiter who sets up the interview. Also, search online for news stories that mention or feature the company. Referencing recent company events or company core values as a reason for your attraction to the job shows that you’ve invested in this job, which interviewers will appreciate.
4. Do you know what you’re getting into?
Interviewers want you to have a clear idea of the job you will do, which also comes down to research — this time the job posting itself, and perhaps some similar jobs in competitor companies. It’s important to the interviewer that you don’t discover you don’t want the job after being hired, because then that time and money spent by the company is wasted.
And — this is important — be prepared to listen if the interviewer wants to explain something about the job to you.
It doesn’t mean you’ve failed the interview when the interviewer wants to explain something. Many people think that it does, and will panic and start vomiting out their experiences in the hope they “recover” from a perceived lapse. Listening thoughtfully, and responding thoughtfully, shows that you can learn and be respectful, ultimately showing you’re prepared for the job.
5. Are you confident in your abilities?
It’s no surprise that a good salesman can “dress up” past experiences to make him or herself appear to be the very best person ever at their previous job. But if you seem uneasy or try to change the subject back to something you’ve clearly rehearsed, it will appear if you are hiding something.
Also, if you try to talk loudly and dominate the conversation, you’ll send the same impression. So if you’re nervous or you get flustered by a question (and the interviewer will try to do that to you), just take a beat, think, and give a considered answer.
A pause, no matter how awkward, followed by a thoughtful response is far more impressive than any amount of babbling, subject-changing, or a response that doesn’t answer the question.
Advice about interviews may seem contradictory: you’re supposed to be confident and talk about yourself, but you’re also supposed to present well and be respectful. Just remember, however, that the interviewer wants to hire someone they can respect, trust, and teach — he or she wants a team member, and that’s something you learned in the military. Don’t treat the interview as a performance you have to give so much as a chance to develop a relationship with a future boss.