Military spouses applying for jobs are faced with tough questions. But with a little preparation, you can be ready for whatever an interviewer is likely to throw at you.
There are two things any job searcher should understand when thinking about an interview. First, an interview is a business meeting between equals. The company has a job and it needs someone to fill it. The second thing to remember is that the job seeker must be prepared and always at his or her best for the interview.
Regardless of the job you are interviewing for, you should be able to answer certain basic questions.
Interviewer: “Tell me a little bit about yourself.”
OK answer: “I’m from Jacksonville, Florida, and I have a degree in computer science. I’ve been out of the paid work force for several years, and I’ve been volunteering.”
Better answer: When answering this question, it’s good to start out with where you are from and what experience you’ve had in the last few years. Military spouses should downplay frequent moves. Explain your career goals and what you have done to reach them. This is your opportunity to tell what you want the employer to know. Consider this your own 20-second commercial.
Interviewer: “Why should we hire you for this position?”
OK answer: “You should hire me for the job because of my education and my past work experience.”
Better answer: “There are several skills that are needed to do this position. I have acquired many of these skills from hands-on experience. Additionally, I have studied and learned more about the field in order to stay current with today’s technology. Let me give you an example. While working for XYZ Corporation, I researched, developed and implemented the following programs…”
Interviewer: “What do you know about the position and our company?”
OK answer: “To be honest, I just know what the secretary has told me about the position and your mission. It sounds interesting, and it sounds like something I can do.”
Better answer: “I’ve been researching your company and the industry. I am very interested in it, and this programming job matches my skills well. I know that this job is a new position and that you are working on a software program for human resources. Additionally, I found out that your company has been in business for the past 10 years and it has been consistently profitable. I understand that your work culture is very flexible and low-key, and that your company places great value on teamwork.”
Interviewer: “Why do you think you are qualified for this position?”
OK answer: “I am qualified for this position because I have the skills you need and the experience to back it up.”
Better answer: “I believe I am the most qualified for the job because I have completed 15 years in this field. While working, I attended a night school in order to stay current with the latest technological changes. I am dependable and goal-oriented, and I work well in teams. Last year, for example, my team increased office productivity by 39 percent by developing a simple record-keeping program for the company’s health insurance. We completed the project well ahead of schedule, too.”
Interviewer: “Why are you seeking employment at this time?”
OK answer: “I’ve been a homemaker for several years, but I decided I wanted to go back into the paid workforce. I’ve been volunteering in order to keep my skills current. I saw your job advertisement, and I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for me.”
Better answer: “This is a career move for me. I have been volunteering for the past few years to keep my skills current. I’ve always been interested in this career field and the timing couldn’t be better for me to return to the paid work force. I’ve completed my education, and I have been working as a volunteer programmer for five years for a non-profit organization. Your position requires someone with programming skills, plus you need someone who can work well in teams. And if I understand you correctly, you need a person who can communicate not only in technical terms, but in layman’s terms as well. I believe I am that person.”
Here are some of the more difficult interview questions for service members or spouses re-entering the workforce. Practice answering these questions out loud.
Interviewer: “Why did you leave your last job?”
Answer: This is a difficult question to answer. The employer is fearful that if he or she hires and trains you, you will leave too soon. What you have to do is convince the interviewer that you may indeed leave in a few years to follow your military spouse, but, while working, you will take great pride in your job and give it your best effort. You could point out, if appropriate, that many jobs today are portable, via computer link-ups. Perhaps when it’s time for you to leave, it will be possible to take the job with you.
Interviewer: “Do you have children?”
Answer: Although this question is illegal to ask, many employers find ways to ask it indirectly. Employers want to know if you will be dependable and whether you will need to take off to care for young children. Again, you must convince the employer that you take your career and job very seriously and that you take great pride in being dependable. Explain that you have back-up plans for sick children and plan to be available to work as often as needed.
Interviewer: “What are your salary requirements?”
Answer: Know ahead of time what your salary requirements are. This may involve doing some research on the Web or at the library to determine what salary to expect from an employer. When asked, answer by stating the salary is negotiable – it depends on the job, the duties, hours and whether travel is involved. Get as much information from the employer as possible, then answer by giving a range. The interviewer will usually indicate whether you are in the ballpark.
Once a firm offer has been made, take some time to consider it. Tell the employer that you would like to think it over and give the answer to him or her in 48 hours. This will give you a chance to review the complete offer, benefits, working conditions and the job itself, and to talk it over with your family.
The employer wants to know if you have the skills and experience to do the job and if you will be dependable, honest, able to follow directions, work well with a team and fit into the company’s culture. The responses you make, along with your body language, can provide the answers for a prospective employer.
Many employers make assumptions based on how you present yourself. Don’t slouch, fidget or fiddle with your hair or clothes. Do present a firm handshake (but don’t break the interviewer’s fingers!), smile and be polite.
Be a good listener and answer questions with the confidence that comes from a well-thought answer. Only by listening carefully to the question is it possible to give a responsive and meaningful answer.
Prepare for your interview, do the research, think about how you’ll answer questions that are likely to come up, and practice. This strategy will help you enter the interview with confidence and leave it with success.
By Deborah Moore