Interview Tips for Veterans

· by Tricia Hutchinson

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Congratulations, vet! You managed to survive military life and transition out of the military. Now you have plenty of time on your hands to grow that epic veteran beard and catch up on your sleep. Once you’ve gotten those things off your plate, you’re going to need to acquire some funds, which means you are about to have to enter the civilian job market. Reentering the civilian job market means that you will have to face the interview process. So how do you take all those skill you learned in the military and apply them to your new life?

There are a few tips and tricks that will help you navigate the transition to working in the civilian sector, so get out a pen and pad, because you will see this material again.

Once you walk through the door for your job interview, every question you are asked will fall into one of three categories:

  • “Tell me about yourself.”
  • “Tell me about your work history/qualifications for this job.”
  • “Why are you interested in this job/company?”

Answering these questions the right way will get you a long way towards accomplishing your objective; a successful job interview is 90% preparation and 10% luck, so here are three tips (positive and negative) to help you prepare:


Highlight your military experience.

You bring something unique to every interview that you take: your military experience. Whether you were an artillery forward observer, a chaplain’s assistant, or an infantryman, you bring something extra to the table that your civilian counterparts do not. If contemporary experience has taught us anything, it’s that veterans of the United States military are some of the most widely admired and highly thought of members of society. So congratulations on officially being one of the cool kids. While there is a time and place to live up to the “quiet professional” label, a job interview is not one of them. So highlight your military experience and if there’s another veteran on the interview team, all the better.


Make your military experience relatable.

One thing you ought to be doing for every interview is tailoring your answers for the specific job you are seeking. However, as you well know, there are some aspects of military life that do not cross over into the civilian sphere. Therefore, when you describe your military job, describe it in a way that your interviewer will understand. Were you a NCO responsible for a squad? Congratulations, you were a manager. Did you plan operations in Afghanistan or Iraq? Excellent! You can describe these missions as projects—projects which you oversaw.

Your average civilian interviewer doesn’t understand the ins-and-outs of infantry operations or the planning that goes into planning religious support for deployments. So it’s your job to translate your experience into language that they’ll be able to understand.


Drop the jargon.

Every job has its own jargon and internal language that’s unique to the community, and the military is no different. Keep in mind, however, that military jargon is incomprehensible to the uninitiated, so don’t use jargon that you don’t explain. Don’t assume that your interview knows what you mean by SOP (standard operating procedure), or by some other acronym that’s in common use in the military. Another good term to stop using is “latrine.” Civilians don’t relieve themselves into holes in the ground or PVC pipes leading to pits of filth and shame. Call it a bathroom. For everyone’s sake, don’t ever use FUBAR. And while we’re at it, leave the “hooah” at home.

The transition back to civilian life can be tough, but with time and preparation, there is no reason that any veteran cannot market the unique skills and intangibles that he or she possesses and become a success in the civilian environment.


Author’s Note: Special thanks to my husband, an Army veteran, for his insight and assistance with this blog post.