If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail
The interview. It’s the critical step to landing any dream job. It’s the part of the job hiring process that most people fear. But, there is an old axiom in the military you might be familiar with: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” So here are some common veteran interview questions that you should plan for.
Preparing For Veteran Interview Questions – Tip Number One
Most interview questions are going to start with “tell me about…” What the interviewer is looking for is for you to tell them a story. Make sure when you answer this question that you avoid military jargon and use plain English. Nothing will ruin your chances faster than forgetting who your audience is.
For example, in the United States Navy, they use terms like “head” instead of the bathroom. They use “ladder” instead of stairs, “port” for the left, and “starboard” for the right.
So assume you’re asked a question like: “Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a co-worker?” A Navy veteran might answer the question like this:
“Well, I was heading up the port side ladder to go the head when I ran into seaman Smith. Smith had been gone for over 45 minutes. The reason, he decided he wanted a smoke break and was out on the smoking sponson.”
Can you see how you would totally confuse your audience if they had never been in the Navy before? In short, avoid military jargon. Period.
Preparing For Veteran Interview Questions – Tip Number Two
Practice translating your military experience so that a civilian is able to understand. You’ve worked in very specialized environments. These environments create very specific military cultures.
For example, you may have lived on bases, ships, or subs. You ate in chow halls, or in the galley… or even M.R.E.’s. You shopped in commissaries or exchanges.
You’ve deployed to unique locations; you’ve enjoyed a tight-knit sense of community. The skills you developed as a service member are truly valuable and in high demand. Never forget that. But, it’s your job to translate those skills to a prospective employer, as difficult as it may be. It is essential to bridge the culture gap that exists between military and civilian workplaces.
In fact, according to the Military Benefits Association: “research shows that more than 70 percent of hiring managers find it difficult to ascertain recent veterans’ skills based on their resume alone.”
Most Common Veteran Interview Questions
Go through this list and ask yourself: “how will I answer this question”. Practice with friends and family that have NO military experience. Have them stop you when you use words or phrases they don’t understand.
Practice translating your military experience into civilian applications. Remember, tell a story.
- Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a co-worker.
- Tell me about a time you had to complete a job with inadequate resources.
- Have you ever had to commit an unsafe act in order to get a job done?
- What is your vision for your future here at this company?
- What do you know about our company and what we do?
- Tell me about a time you had to learn a whole new skill set you weren’t prepared for.
- How would you go about learning a new skill set?
- How would you respond if you were placed in a situation where we needed you to do something you weren’t trained for?
- Why did you leave the military?
- Why do you want to work here?
Not sure how to translate your military experience into a civilian application? According to the Military Benefits Association, you should use one of the numerous online military skills translators that are available. This will help you describe your experience in a way that hiring managers can better understand.
You can find Veteran skills translators online at:
Preparing for veteran interview questions; final notes:
There are a wealth of websites and books that can help you prepare for a job interview. However, nothing works better than practice. Don’t forget; you are there to get a job, not to make friends. Remember, just like you learned in the military, you perform what you practice.