Our top interview tips to help veterans get a job

As a veteran applying for jobs is both daunting and exciting, especially for those who have spent several years serving in the military. Veterans have impressive skill sets, but can face unique challenges when transitioning between military and civilian life.

As veterans ourselves we know how hard the transition is, so in this guide we’ll provides a comprehensive list of job interview tips for veterans, and key steps that are designed to help veterans like you find jobs and ace interviews.

Preparing for your first interview as a veteran

You may or may not have come across the saying “Proper planning prevents poor performance” well this saying applies to job interviews. Moving from the military to a civilian role can be challenging, not least because the application process is very different.

Many veterans like you may be applying for a job for the first time in decades, so it’s fundamental that you are prepared. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. So, if you’re gearing up for your first interview after leaving the military, here are some of our best job interview tips for veterans.

Research the role and the company

Before you go to a job interview, you must research the role and the company thoroughly. Learn more about what the job entails, read the job description again and note down questions to ask.

Finding out as much information about your prospective employer is essential. Search for and read about the history of the business or organization, (usually found on their website) and be sure to learn about the backstory and research any core values and business objectives they might have.

Plan your route

Punctuality is instilled in military personnel, but it’s still important to make sure that you arrive on time for your interview. Make sure you know the exact location and plan your route carefully. Services like Google Maps are brilliant to get an idea where a business location or interview might be taking place. They’ll also give you an idea of how long it takes to get the location via car or train etc.

Read the brief carefully and rehearse

Many employers and interview panels ask candidates to prepare something in advance, for example, a presentation or pitch.

If you’ve been asked to answer questions or present to a panel, read the brief carefully. Read your answers, make sure you’ve covered all the points and rehearse your presentation. Ask a friend or relative to listen and ask questions. Practice as much as possible to boost your confidence and ensure that you’re comfortable with facts and figures.

Suit - Job Interview tips for Veterans

Dress appropriately

First impressions can be hugely influential at a job interview. You want to create a positive impression. Dress appropriately. Unless you’ve been advised to wear casual clothing, dress smartly and make an effort to do your hair and polish your shoes. This will be ingrained in you from your Military service so this is something you shouldn’t have to think about too much.

Up-sell your military experience and transferable skills

The military provides unique professional and personal experiences, which can be incredibly valuable to employers.

Take the opportunity to up-sell your military experience and showcase transferable skills at your interview. Veterans are adaptable, agile and focused, they respond well to working under pressure and they are excellent team players.

Use your experiences and skills to show how you would thrive in a new role. Speak clearly and confidently, and show off your personality as well as your professional skills and training.

Remote Interviews

If you’re applying for a remote job most of the above still applies, however some of these steps may take place online (either via Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams). So make sure you have access to one of these in order to take part in any interview stages. It’s important to note that most companies these days may incorporate some form of phone interview stage, so be prepared for that.

Questions not to ask during a job interview

You may be thinking about what you want to ask in your interview, but it’s important to be aware of questions to avoid too. Here are some examples of questions not to ask your interviewer:

What will my job involve?

This question suggests that you haven’t done your research. You should be familiar with the job description by the time you get to the interview.

What does the organization do?

This is another example of showing that you haven’t done enough research before the interview.

Instead of asking what the organization does, use questions to gather more information about the company, for example, what they plan to do in the future to develop corporate social responsibility.

Have you got other jobs available?

You should go into an interview focused on the role in question. Avoid asking about other roles unless your interviewer discusses other jobs with you.

interview tips for veteran

When can I take time off?

Employers have a duty to discuss vacations and leave with their employees, but it’s wise to avoid asking about when you take time off during the interview. If you get an offer, you can check the terms of the contract and ask for clarity if required.

Any personal questions

Some employers may be very open when it comes to chatting about their personal lives or career experiences, but as a general rule, it’s best to avoid asking any personal questions.

What are the downsides of working here?

You may be desperate to learn about the pros and cons of working for different companies but try to avoid any questions that have a negative spin. Instead of focusing on the downsides, ask about the best things about the company and what the interviewer hopes to see in the future.

How to answer ‘Tell me about yourself’ interview questions

It’s natural to dread questions like “Tell me about yourself” if you find it difficult to talk about yourself. The best way to approach this question, which is a common feature of job interviews, is to be open and have confidence in what you’re saying. Here are some of our top interview tips:

  • Provide a brief but comprehensive overview of your professional experience and career achievements
  • Share your core values and what matters most to you
  • Be open about your career ambitions and hopes for the future
  • Tell your employer why you think you would be a great candidate for the job and how you would bring value to the organization
  • Give reasons why the job excites you
  • Include previous career successes
  • Share your interests and passions

Feedback Job Interview Tips for Veterans

How to ask for feedback

This is one of the key job interview tips for veterans we can share with you, and that is feedback. Feedback is incredibly valuable because it enables you to highlight strengths and weaknesses and learn quickly. Negative feedback can be helpful, even though it’s tough to take. If you’re told where you went wrong, you can address these problems and work on specific areas for your next job interview.

If you’ve been to a job interview, it’s natural to want to know how you performed. Employers may provide feedback without being asked, but if you don’t receive feedback, there’s no harm in contacting the interviewer and asking for feedback. It’s wise to wait until you hear from the panel. If you’ve been successful,

congratulations! You might still want to hear more about the interview and what persuaded the interviewers to choose you, but most will tell you why you were the best candidate without asking.

If you were unsuccessful, contact the interviewer and ask if they could provide some notes on your interview. Be polite and courteous and explain that the feedback will help you in the future. Most people will be happy to talk to you or send an email outlining key points. However, some employers may refuse to give feedback… Unfortunately, in this case, all you can do is ask politely and hope they change their minds.

If you don’t get any feedback, don’t panic, and move on. If you are experiencing this issue a lot, it might be worth exploring resources and training you can access to improve your skills, such as practice or mock job interviews.

What if you didn’t get the job?

Competition for jobs is fierce. In some instances, people are competing with tens or even hundreds of others to secure jobs. The most important thing to do when you don’t get a job offer is to carry on the job search. Don’t let a rejection dent your confidence or put you off trying to find a job. Follow these steps to help you improve your chances next time you get an interview:

  • Ask for feedback and use both positive and negative comments to develop your skills
  • Focus on jobs that complement your skills and interests
  • Improve your interview skills: Everyone can learn. Look for classes or online courses and skills workshops to help you address weaknesses and increase confidence.
  • Have confidence in your abilities: A lack of confidence can hold you back.
  • Practice: The more interviews you have, the better you will get at answering questions and engaging in conversation.

Remember that most people get rejected at some point: Even the most successful leaders and moguls have experienced rejection. Concentrate on how you’re going to recover and bounce back.

One final piece of advice is to apply for multiple jobs at the same time. As recruitment processes can take a few weeks to complete due to the number of stages involved, it’s a good idea to have more than one in the pipeline.

Worst case scenario is that you might have to a couple of interviews lined up in quick succession, but that is better than pinning all your hopes on one job, and not having any back up opportunity. 

Let’s summarize that all for you.

We hoped that you found these job interview tips for veterans useful. Job interviews can be daunting, especially if you’re moving from the military to the civilian world of work.

But please don’t forget to prepare, showcase your transferable skills, and talk about the value you can bring to table at any company you’re being interviewed by. You might face knock-backs and you might get to the interview stages of several companies and told that “Unfortunately, you’re not suitable for this role”.

If you do it’s important that you don’t give up, and learn from every interview. We wish you the best of luck in your search, and we have plenty of guides here for you to help land that dream job.