By now, someone should have informed veterans that military service, while smiled upon, isn't a golden ticket to a post-military career. That being said, once you get that job interview, you'll need to bring your A-game because recruiters and hiring managers are overwhelmed by hundreds of applications for every position -- and they need to narrow them down somehow.
That isn't to say that every interviewer is going to look for the tiniest flaws, but most of them have been around for a while and have developed their own criteria for cutting candidates out of the running.
Assuming you're going into the interview groomed, showered and appropriately dressed, here are a few key things to avoid that will help keep you in consideration.
1. Don't Walk in Like You Own the Place
Being a veteran is a feather in your cap, especially to employers. Many employers see veterans as dependable people who know how to take orders and work well in teams. And while your experiences in the military are a value-add, they're not everything. And pretending like they are is a surefire way to turn an entire office of strangers against you.
Instead, remember how you were when you arrived for your first day of work in the military. You were knowledgeable and dedicated but humble because you admired the people who came before you and outranked you. The job you're interviewing for is no different.
2. Don't Get Too Comfortable with the Interviewer
While many job interviewers will prefer to have a casual conversation about your life, your work experience and other relevant questions, this is not the time to take this relationship to the next level. If he or she asks how you're doing, stick to small talk and pleasantries. Talking about your ex-girlfriends, family drama or last night's bender is not a good idea.
Besides, talking about your trip to the office that day allows for you to ask them questions, which is always appreciated.
3. Don't Avoid Eye Contact
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who has trouble making direct eye contact? How did that feel for you? For many people, not making eye contact keeps them from creating a direct connection with you. Studies have also shown that avoiding eye contact makes people see you as less trustworthy.
So if you want the interviewer to remember you for your work history and not as the shifty person who wouldn't make eye contact, be respectful and look them in the eye. For interviews with multiple interviewers, be sure to make eye contact with everyone.
4. Don't Lie
The problem with lying is that lies beget only more lies to cover up for the previous lies. After a while, it's hard to keep all those lies straight, and you might end up lying to cover yourself for a lie with a lie that was different than a lie you already told.
Is that last sentence confusing? So is all that lying. So if you didn't lie on your resume (and stretching the truth is so not the same as an outright lie), there's no reason to start now. Getting caught in a lie is the best way to ensure you won't be getting that job.
5. Don't Sidestep Questions
Interview questions are tricky -- and they're supposed to be. You might be talking with someone whose sole job is to fill jobs at their company, and their long-term success likely depends on your long-term performance in that job. So, many of them enjoy finding out more about candidates by using tricky questions.
Some of those questions are designed to force you to answer a negative, to choose the least worst of a number of options and explain why. Don't try to spin a negative answer to a positive when there are no good answers. The interviewer wants you to do this.
6. Don't Trash Your Previous Employers
No matter how your time at a previous job ended, be diplomatic in answering why your tenure there ended. This is not the time to wax on about how everyone there was stupid except for you. The interviewer will see that as a possible inability to take responsibility for all actions, including failures.
And on that note ...
7. Don't Try to Be Perfect
Everyone knows no one is perfect, and trying to frame yourself as incapable of making a mistake is a mistake in itself. That's why one of those "negative" interview questions we talked about earlier in this article is about making you point out your own flaws. It doesn't project confidence, it projects arrogance.
For those who really do think of themselves as flawless, the interviewer knows better. They will see only a total lack of self-awareness, which means your resume will end up in the vertical file.
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