Top 10 Interview Tips for Service Leavers and Veterans

Transition into a career after military service with confidence, preparedness, and a solid interview technique.

Top 10 Interview Tips for Service Leavers and Veterans

Starting a new career? That's intimidating for anyone, but especially tough for veterans and service leavers.

According to a 2022 study on veteran career transitions, those who’ve served face certain extra challenges when leaving the military behind for civilian jobs.

"The military possesses a unique culture with its own rules, languages, values, and norms that all shape the way members of a defence force behave," the study reports. To adapt to their civilian careers, veterans need to push past their comfort zones and learn how to thrive in a different workforce culture altogether.

Universal Recruitment and Interim Solutions (URIS) helps veterans and service leavers find work that makes the most of the knowledge, skills, and expertise they gained in the military. Ex-forces personnel make great hires for commercial employers! Step one: smashing the interview.

Here are our top ten tips for post-military interview success:

1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare…

Fail to prepare, and prepare to fail. Your time in service has already taught you the importance of preparation. Knowing the 5Ws (who, what, when, etc) is an easy first interview prep step.

Don't underestimate the power of Google! Read up on the company you're interviewing for, the specific work they do, and the industry standards for things like salary and qualifications. Keeping those facts and stats under your belt will boost your confidence- even if they never come up in the interview itself.

2. Understand the Style of the Interview

Think of the interview style as your terms of engagement. It's essential to understand how the interview itself will be formatted so you can arrive ready.

Will it be an unstructured 'get to know you' conversation? A competency based skills test? If you don't know, ask. Getting clarification beforehand if you need it (via email or whichever communication chain the employer initiated) will also show that you're proactive.

Top 10 Interview Tips for Service Leavers and Veterans

3. Understand Who Will Conduct the Interview

Proper preparation includes researching the people who may be interviewing you. Take advantage of the employee bios on company websites and social media platforms like LinkedIn.

This research can give you official confirmation of their job title so you avoid mis-identifying them in the interview itself, plus insights into their professional background. Maybe you even have contacts or interests in common! It’ll never hurt to check.

4. Arrive Early

Even for virtual interviews, arrive early. Think of it like your very first deadline.

Your arrival is your first impression- showing up 5-10 minutes early shows interviewers that you're a reliable, accountable person with strong time management skills. Getting there in the nick of time or even late proves the opposite.

5. Dress to Impress

In person and virtually, what you wear matters. It's also one thing about your interview experience that you can sort ahead of time, so make your clothing decisions early and ensure they tick the boxes of 'professional' and 'respectful.'

After years in uniform, you may feel lost when it comes to civilian workplace wear. While different roles call for different levels of formality, interviewees rarely go wrong in a neat collared shirt and blazer. Our team recommends you avoid choosing ‘loud’ clothing, distinctive fragrances, military insignia or sunglasses (yes, it has been done before!).

6. Don’t Assume Military Knowledge

“Say, if you're an officer…that means you're in charge of quite a big team,” says one participant in the aforementioned veteran transition study. “Translating that into normal speech is quite hard…it's easy to say a title in the military and everyone's like, ‘yep, know what you do.’”

Things like rank and regiment that have obvious meanings to you don’t always make sense to civilian employers. In your interview and even in your resume, try to avoid assuming they understand even the most basic military facts.

Top 10 Interview Tips for Service Leavers and Veterans

7. Don’t Use Military Acronyms/Abbreviations

Your average civvy interviewer doesn’t understand TLAs. Tell them you were a Rad OP in a CLP with a great OC and CO in your CoC and you may as well be speaking a foreign language.

Beyond the military, none of these acronyms or abbreviations are common knowledge. Using them with civilian interviewers can make you seem like you aren’t well suited to life outside the service.

8. Prepare Vignettes

Thinking back on your military career, what were some standout moments? When were you challenged? When did you overcome an obstacle and learn an important lesson?

Choose a short anecdote or vignette that highlights your experience and skills, and be sure to explain both its context and its outcome. Bringing these stories to an interview will help you answer a wide range of questions in memorable ways.

RELATED: Universal Defence Insights: Resilience is the New Black

9. Look Interviewers in the Eye

Eye contact is an easy way to show interviewers your value. It communicates confidence, competence and credibility. It’s also the number one way to appear trustworthy when meeting new people, according to research from Tufts University.

Think this rule doesn’t apply for video interviews? Think again. A recent joint study from the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Stirling found “memory and impression” to be massively affected by eye contact in video calls.

Participants who look directly into the camera while speaking (at least 30% of the time) were the most successful in this study. On the other hand, those who were not looking into (or at least very near to) the camera gave the impression of “gaze aversion” and performed worse.

Top 10 Interview Tips for Service Leavers and Veterans

10. Prepare Your Own Questions

‘Do you have any questions for us?’ is a very common way for employers to wrap up an interview. It presents an opportunity for you to highlight your skills one last time, and to prove you are a prepared and enthusiastic candidate.

Your initial background research is a great place to find material for your own questions. Consider asking the employer about how their organisation is approaching a certain industry trend you’ve read about, or ask for more details about the role at hand. What skills or traits do they think are most important to have in this role? What challenges do they think someone in this role will face? Ask anything that shows that you value their opinions and appreciate their expertise.

Bonus:  Prepare, prepare, prepare…again.

You know the practical purpose of being prepared, but did you know that preparation is also psychological? Getting relevant information at the ready and addressing all of the above details will give you peace of mind as the time approaches.

Remember the 7 Ps: Prior planning and preparation prevents a p**s poor performance. Set aside some time to review your research right before your interview begins. Knowing you’ve done all you can will help you approach the interview with complete confidence in yourself which you should have!

Even by reading this article, you’ve taken initiative and prepared yourself for career success.

To learn more about how URIS connects veterans and service leavers to relevant, competitive commercial industry employers, explore our testimonials or visit our sister site, Universal Defence and Security Solutions.

RELATED: Webinar: How can Veterans Transfer Their Skillset Into A Second Career?

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