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Interviews are a two-way street

You’ve prepared for the questions the employer is going to ask you. Now, you need to prepare questions to ask your potential employer about the position, your boss, and the company in order to be sure that this is the right job and right company for you. Think back to when you chose the particular branch you served in. Why did you choose the Navy? Why did you choose the Army?

You must consider why you would want to work for this new employer just as you chose which branch to serve. In addition, if you don’t prepare smart questions, you run the risk of the interviewer assuming you aren’t interested or haven’t prepared.

Your opportunity to ask questions usually comes at the end of the interview. You must prepare at least four questions that demonstrate your interest in the position, your drive to excel in the role, and the fact that you’ve done some homework (researched company, industry, department).

  1. Avoid yes or no questions and avoid questions that are so broad that they are difficult to answer. You don’t want to put the interviewer in an awkward position when you’re trying to make a good impression and develop rapport.
  2. What is the average tenure with the company? To break it down a little further, ask: what is the average tenure within the department you will be joining? If tenure is low, it could be a sign of high turnover which could indicate a sign of low pay, lack of opportunity for career advancement, or incompetent management.
  3. Describe the culture of the company. Are you a good fit for this particular organization? Make sure you are comfortable with the culture and the dynamic of the company.
  4. Does the company give back to the community? In what ways? If it is important to you that the company has an established corporate responsibility or gives back, then understanding their level of involvement offers important insight.
  5. Where do you think the company is headed in the next 5 years? If you plan to be in this role for several years, make sure the company is headed in a growth mode so you have opportunity to grow with the company.
  6. What do you like best about working for this company? Ask about the interviewer’s personal experience for additional insight into the company’s culture.
  7. What is the management style within the company? Within the department? Civilian corporations each have different management styles. After serving in a structured environment such as the military, understanding what style your potential employer works under is vitally important. If management is too “loosey goosey”, it will likely drive you crazy; if it’s too rigid, it may remind you of the military when you are no longer interested in that structure.
  8. Who do you consider your top competitor, and why? Having done your homework/research on the company, you should already have an idea who the company’s major competitors are, but hearing it from someone within the company gives you good insight to how they are handling the competition.
  9. How is success measured and over what time frame? You need to know if expectations are realistic with respect to what you will need to accomplish and by when. It doesn’t matter how many zeroes the paycheck comes with – if you do not or cannot deliver results, you will not be successful.
  10. Is this a replacement or addition to staff? If it’s a replacement, why is it open? An addition to staff indicates the company is growing and in a good place financially. If it’s a replacement, the answer to why can be very insightful.
  11. How many veterans currently work here? Is there a veteran resource group? If this is important to you, it should be asked. This will be an indication of the company’s programs and military readiness.

Red Flags To Look For In An Interview

It happens all the time – you’ve gone months without a phone call and then, suddenly, the phone finally rings. The voice on the other end introduces themselves and wants to set up an interview with you. So what do you do now? As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, you prepare for the interview. You anticipate questions and practice your responses, but what we didn’t talk about was that the interview isn’t just about their impression of you – it’s about your impression of them as well.

Many people fall victim to having blinders on during an interview. They want the chance to get the job so badly that they fail to prepare questions for the interviewer or take the time understand what red flags they should be on the lookout for. A “red flag” is anything that would make you question the environment you could be entering. So, here are a few things to look for during your interview:

  1. Is the interviewer significantly late? We all know things happen at work. A meeting with the CEO can run a couple of minutes over. It happens. But if you’re waiting for 15 minutes past your appointment time, that’s just bad planning on their part. The interviewer should respect your time as much as you do theirs. They should build in a few minutes prior to the interview to have time to prepare.
  2. Did they review your resume prior to the interview, or are they seeing it for the first time? If they haven’t reviewed it, this shows lack of preparation on their part. The interview should be conducted as if this is the “best day” at their company. If they haven’t made specific comments regarding your experience outlined in your resume or prepared questions to the same, this could be a sign of things to come. If this is their best day, what does a normal day look like once you’ve signed on the dotted line?
  3. Is the interviewer overselling the position? If they are working really hard to sell you on the position, be careful. This could be a sign that it’s a “high turnover” position – people get hired and leave too often. This is where you could have a question ready to go such as, “How long was the previous person in this position?” This may not be the case, but they should be spending their time asking you about yourself while you ask the questions about the position. Not the other way around. If it reeks of desperation? Red Flag!
  4. Is the interview conducted in an area without disturbance? Is your interview being interrupted? This is a big deal for many companies, and unfortunately not that uncommon. Again, if this is the company on their best day, they should ensure the interview goes start to finish without distractions. If you’re in a room with the ability for those outside to see there’s a meeting in the office, do they walk in? Or, do they respect the meeting and wait until it is over? If the interviewer has these sorts of walk-ins on a normal day, they should put up a Do Not Disturb sign or inform the staff to not disrupt the meeting. These interruptions can mess up the flow of the interview or break your train of thought during your response to a question. It’s incumbent upon the interviewer to set that expectation of privacy.
  5. If the interviewer doesn’t offer, ask for a tour of the facility. You need to imagine yourself in the environment. Your impression of the workforce’s morale is a huge indicator of what you’re getting into. This impression starts when you first walk into the facility. Did you meet a receptionist? Were they professional? As you walk around take notice. Do the employees look happy, or not? Is the place a total mess? Or, is it neat and organized? You should have a sense that you’re walking into a professional environment where the employees are treated well and enjoy their jobs. If you get the feeling this isn’t happening, you may want to consider walking away. Trust your gut on this one!

It’s a great feeling when the phone rings and they ask you to come in for an interview. Please make sure you look out for red flags along the way. The ones we’ve pointed out here are not all-encompassing, but they should help you actively plan your observations during your interview.

Good luck!

Preparing For Your Interview

The phone has finally rung and you’ve got your interview scheduled. Now it’s time to prepare for that interview. So what do you do to prepare?

The first thing you should do is to anticipate the questions the interviewer may ask. You should also have at least 5 questions of your own to ask the interviewer. We’ll discuss that in a later blog. There are plenty of interview question lists out there: I put together a list of 50 questions that my interviewer could ask. You don’t have to go that far, but you should have answers for some of the most common ones. Here’s a list of 10 questions the interviewer could ask.

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Many people know that interviewers use this question as an icebreaker. But many of us fail to prepare for it, but you should. Be careful not to get too personal. There are HR rules that prevent an employer from asking certain personal questions. Come up with a general, concise response with 2 or 3 main things about yourself that could be tied back to the position if possible. Additionally, practice your responses out loud sometimes what is in your head doesn’t necessarily come out the same way. You don’t want to be in the interview stumbling through your responses.

2. What are you looking for in a new position?

Make sure you have read the job description and align your response with that description. Ideally, your wishes will already be in line with the duty description but you might not be sure. This is where you can develop some questions of your own to make sure the job is a good fit for you as well.

3. What do you know about our company?

At a minimum you should go to the “About” page to learn about what the company does. But don’t stop there, find out about how their product or service has helped someone or some cause and commend them on this effort. Check out what they do in the community, if anything, and see if there’s anything there that you can get behind. The interviewer will see you’ve done your homework.

4. Why do you want this job?

Companies want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. If you don’t, that will shine through during the interview and you might want to prepare to look elsewhere.  Identify a couple of things that make the role a great fit for you and tie it back to the company’s mission.

5. Why should we hire you?

This interview question might be intimidating for some, but be prepared to answer it. This is your underhand soft pitch you’ve been waiting for, you should practice this to hit it out of the park. Its your elevator speech at its best. Don’t only tell them that you can do the work, tell them you deliver results and how your skills are inline with the job. Tell them how you will fit in with the team and their company culture. Help them envision you working among their team.

6. What are your greatest strengths?

Give an accurate representation of yourself and don’t tell them what you think they want to hear. “I’m a hard worker” isn’t good enough. Consider your people skills or how you collaborate with others to build teams. You could even follow up with an example of how you’ve used these skills in the past.

7. What do you consider to be your weaknesses?

Again, give an honest response. Never answer with “I work too hard” or “I take on too much,” these are dated responses and the interviewers don’t want to hear them. Find something you can hang your hat on and then let them know that you “know” about this and you’ve taken steps to be better about it. 

8. What is your greatest professional achievement?

Who better to hire than someone who can show a track record of delivering results. Use the STAR method for this one. Describe the Situation and the Task you had to do to provide the interviewer the context, then talk about the Actions you took and most importantly the Result, or impact, of those actions.

9. Tell me about how you’ve dealt with a challenging situation with another person at work and how you dealt with it.

At some point in time, you will have to deal with someone you don’t agree with, or someone who is not performing to standards or breaking the rules. The interviewer wants to see how you deal with these sorts of situations. Put some thought into this and have an answer. Craft your answer with the STAR method mentioned above. Bottom line, they want to see that you handled, and resolved the situation professionally.

10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Be honest about your future goals, but consider the hiring managers expectations. They want to know if you’ve set realistic expectations for your career, if you have ambition, and if the position aligns with your goals and growth. Think about this role and if aligns with your ambitions. It’s OK if you’re not sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you on this journey.

These questions are just a few to get you started. But however long your final list of interview responses is, make sure you practice your responses out loud. It will help you “hear” yourself and help you make any corrections to prior to the interview. Good luck.  

5 Things To Do During Your Job Search

We all know that applying for jobs can be an arduous task, one that requires both patience and discipline. It can take a lot longer than many people expect. Some say that you can expect to wait one month per ten thousand dollars salary. For example, if you are looking for a $60,000 per year career, you can expect your job search to take 6 months. Not realizing this, some job-seekers quit too soon when looking for work.

There are things you can do to give yourself a leg up while waiting for your phone to ring:

1.   Seek Local Resources

Not surprisingly, most cities and counties across the U.S. have local government and privately-run job programs. Visit your local government employment agency to see what programs they offer. There are other civilian organizations such as Goodwill that have job programs as well. Each metro area around the country will have different organizations and types of employers they work with so stop into your local Goodwill Jobs office, or other organization and see what they have to offer.

There are also staffing agencies that companies hire to find skilled workers such as you. Staffing agencies usually don’t cost you anything, the employer pays the fees after you’re hired. Do a web search for staffing agencies and check them out.

If you are in immediate need for work you can seek out a “temp agency.” There are thousands throughout the United States that pair individuals with the immediate needs of local companies.

2.   Set A Schedule

It’s important for your well-being to find time to do other things in your day aside from your job search. Set a schedule for time you’ll do web searches and resume rewrites, visiting local agencies, physical fitness, learning new skills, etc… If you’re not careful, you’ll end up spending 8-10 hours each day on job boards. You’ll get frustrated and desperate, and some folks start to fall into unhealthy habits. It’s important to have balance so you can ensure you find a company that fulfills your sense of purpose as well as your bank account.

3.   Map Out Your Career

It’s been said that goal-setting has been the hallmark of every successful person. Each knew how to set short-term goals and establish success, to ultimately attain their long-term goals. Ask yourself these questions: “Where do I see myself in one month? Six months? A year? Five years? and so on. This mental exercise can give you perspective as to what kind of work you are considering. Try writing your goals on paper. Seeing it in writing can also help give you clarity.

If you haven’t determined a specific career area you want to go into, don’t fret; many veterans have a difficult time doing this. To help you figure this out you can assess your skills and determine what you’re good at. Then, contemplate if you would be happy doing this for a living. You can start this process with the Veterans ASCEND skills translation to get this thought process moving along. Knowing what you don’t enjoy or don’t want to do can be just as important as knowing what you want to do.

4.   Networking & LinkedIn

Unlike its competitors, LinkedIn is “the” social media platform for professional job seekers and business owners. Everyone from your local McDonald’s cook to the CEO of Boeing uses LinkedIn – you should too!

Here are some tips to enhance your LinkedIn profile:

  • Use a professional headshot – not a vacation photo or selfie
  • Change your profile description to reflect your professional experience and use keywords that companies might be looking for (e.g., “certified IT expert”)
  • Write articles to share your experience on topics related to the job you are seeking. For instance, if you’re looking to get into an IT position, write about cyber security issues
  • Share content from related connections. Content authors will see when their content is shared from their profile. This exposure could lead someone to find you on LinkedIn, and in turn, lead to a career!

Networking in person, not just the internet, is very important as well. Be on the lookout for opportunities to network with people in your area. It can be daunting to go to these events and walk up to people and introduce yourself, but these events open doors. Ask someone in the Rotary Club about coming to a meeting, or if they know of any upcoming networking events. Make sure you have a personal networking card (i.e. business card), which includes your LinkedIn URL, to give the people you meet. This will help you build your network.  

5.   Attain / Improve Your Skillset

Simply put, the more skills you have, the more valuable you are to an employer. Expanding your skillset not only makes you more valuable to potential employers, but it also increases your job security once hired. Additionally, even though you are job-seeking now, you may choose to leave your future position for another one down the road. The more skills you have, the more marketable you become.

For instance, let’s say you have experience in the medical field. You may also have a passion for computers or software but didn’t go to school for it. By obtaining an IT certification, you can combine your medical experience and IT skills thus making you more valuable to potential employers.

Conclusion

Whether your only experience is in the military, or you’ve been at a company for decades, finding a new career isn’t easy. Being discovered by a hiring manager will take time, but as we mentioned, there are things you can do to improve your chances. Veterans ASCEND is doing our part to connect you with employers who want to find and hire you. Creating your profile and keeping it updated helps us match you with employers around the country looking for someone with your skills and experience. Learn more by visiting our website:  https://www.Veterans.VeteransASCEND.com

Finding Your Dream Career

As the veteran community grows online, thousands of employers have begun to shift their focus to hiring prior service members. In fact, there are a number of employers throughout the United States that have taken steps to hire veterans based on their MOS, and for good reason:

When searching for a job, it can be difficult to find something that matches your skills and training. How do you know what skills you need to find a fulfilling career and a great employer?

Know Your Basic Strengths

The first thing you should think about is what experience you have in all areas of your life. This not only includes your military training, but all of the auxiliary experiences you’ve amassed before and after your service.

When you were in the military, there were basic skills that every employer looks for that you may not have thought of:

  • Administrative tasks (government forms, etc.)
  • Attention to detail
  • Timeliness
  • Management & leadership
  • Organization
  • Customer Service
  • Teamwork
  • Logistics
  • Public Relations
  • Standards Enforcement

There were many skills that you were required to have and standards that ensured you maintained unit-readiness at all times.

Translate Your Unique Skills

When you sign up for a Veterans ASCEND skills-matching profile, we match employers with your skills. However, you may also search for employment outside of our system, and that’s completely understandable. So, how do you leverage your MOS in such a way that helps you find a fulfilling career?

There are over 1,000 MOS codes across our military and Coast Guard. It can be a bit difficult to understand how your job during your tour of duty might translate into a civilian career, especially if it was extremely specialized (i.e., you worked as a drone operator overseas).

A great way to “convert” your MOS into civilian terminology and applicability is to think about what companies might be using similar systems, technology, and standard operating procedures used in your MOS. Using the drone operator example above, flying a drone into enemy airspace can easily be a translatable skill for surveying aerial zones for different industries such as real estate, auditing crops for farmland, assessing environmental disaster damages, architecture, commercial videography, and much more.

Find Your New Mission

It may very well be that your MOS was a combat-related role, or something that doesn’t easily translate into a civilian career. Many veterans struggle with this, and if you do, you’re certainly not alone.

When searching for a fulfilling career – not necessarily a job just that just pays your monthly expenses – it can be difficult. A “fulfilling” career, for veterans at least, is something that replaces the purpose and drive given to you during your time of service. Many veterans find that they no longer have a mission once they leave the military, and this can cause many to struggle with their transitions.

However, knowing what you love to do is a great start to beginning your journey to a successful, fulfilling career as a military veteran employee. Once you know what you love to do – and how it can give you a new “mission” – will help you find a job that helps others and give you a sense of purpose once again.

It gave you experience across multiple industries.

Many times, employers hire an employee that appears to have experience for the position they were hired for, but that individual was likely hired out of a need for someone to quickly fill the position. The negative aspect of hiring quickly over quality is that the job isn’t performed at the level that it needs to be, and as a result, the employee, the team and the company suffers.

Your MOS in a particular field means that you’ve been trained by specialized professionals, and you were educated with discipline and precision to ensure every aspect of your job was done correctly. Keep in mind that although your MOS may not be directly relatable to a private sector job, it is useful in ways that you didn’t think of before (e.g., “Field 09” Native Language Speaker, Army MOS might be applicable in a unique way to benefit a company as an in-house sales liaison to foreign customers).

Your MOS is only one part of your military experience, however. Just like every other veteran, you’ve been trained to properly fill out paperwork with attention to detail (excellent for administration, customer service, and accounting positions). You were also once required to keep up with physical fitness standards based on your branch of service. You are not afraid of hard work to get the job done.

In short, consider all aspects of your military experience and skills associated with your primary MOS. Don’t underestimate the value you bring to a company and the career path you can follow!

How Your MOS Can Help You Find A Career

As the veteran community grows online, thousands of employers have begun to shift their focus to hiring prior service members. In fact, there are a number of employers throughout the United States that have taken steps to hire veterans based on their MOS, and for good reason:

It gave you experience across multiple industries.

Many times, employers hire an employee that appears to have experience for the position they were hired for, but that individual was likely hired out of a need for someone to quickly fill the position. The negative aspect of hiring quickly over quality is that the job isn’t performed at the level that it needs to be, and as a result, the employee, the team and the company suffers.

Your MOS in a particular field means that you’ve been trained by specialized professionals, and you were educated with discipline and precision to ensure every aspect of your job was done correctly. Keep in mind that although your MOS may not be directly relatable to a private sector job, it is useful in ways that you didn’t think of before (e.g., “Field 09” Native Language Speaker, Army MOS might be applicable in a unique way to benefit a company as an in-house sales liaison to foreign customers).

Your MOS is only one part of your military experience, however. Just like every other veteran, you’ve been trained to properly fill out paperwork with attention to detail (excellent for administration, customer service, and accounting positions). You were also once required to keep up with physical fitness standards based on your branch of service. You are not afraid of hard work to get the job done.

In short, consider all aspects of your military experience and skills associated with your primary MOS. Don’t underestimate the value you bring to a company and the career path you can follow!