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Interview Preparation

w4This Interview Preparation Guide is provided simply as a guide. Examples that are used within this document are not to be used in your interview unless they fit your experience. We would, however, encourage you to be as original as you can in your interview.



Pointers to get you started


Qualifying Questions, all other areas being equal:
(What an interviewer may use to close the door before it is even open)
Geographic Preference:
Remain open to relocation in the future, company may pass on you if they perceive your geo focus may restrict your ability to grow and take on more responsibility, possibly at other locations
Availability to Start Work:
Are you ready to start, or do you need to take a bike tour around Europe, or take a few weeks off for vacation before starting?
Salary Requirements:
Stress that your goal is the opportunity, not the highest offer possible. Make clear that you understand that the total compensation/ benefits package needs to be evaluated, not just initial base salary.
Interest in the Field/Industry/Company:
The company will test your interest in them. Prove why you are focused on their field/industry/company.
Example - Why sales/manufacturing?  Why pharmaceutical?  Why our company?
What causes candidates to be pursued by Companies?
  • Positive, High Energy , and Enthusiasm
  • Sensitivity, Caring Leader, Team Oriented
  • Great Listener
  • Goal Oriented
  • Self-Motivated, Driven, "Makes-It-Happen"
  • Proactive, Responsible
  • Competitive
  • Curious
  • Persistent, Tenacious
  • Focused

What causes candidates to NOT be pursued?

  • Rigid, Authoritarian, Position Power
  • WIIFM - "What's In It For Me" attitude
  • Negative Twist (especially on why leaving military)
  • Agenda - too money, promotion, reserves, masters degree focused
  • Chooses Examples not specific enough
  • Chooses Examples that don't answer question
  • No Examples from personal experience at all
  • Lacks Confidence, Rambles
  • Not Concise, Not Succinct
  • Low Energy


Preparing yourself for the interview


  • See the interviewer as your customer
  • See yourself as friendly, informal, and comfortable
  • See yourself warming up quickly (quick initial rapport) with interviewer
  • See yourself focused on the interviewer's opportunity
The Interview as your Customer
Listen, Help, Problem Solve
Be Concise, Talk Less, BLUF - Bottom Line Up Front
Address THEIR Needs, Not YOUR Agenda
Attitude of Joining and Being a Part of Their Team Already
Desire to Contribute, Serve, and Grow
Expect and Be prepared for Questions on:
Shift WorkShift work is temporary; you will not spend your entire career on the later shifts. Be positive about their opportunity.
SalaryAgain, be focused on opportunity, not the salary. If issue is pushed, remain open and positive. Be cautious of "Agenda."
Masters Degree/Reserves or National GuardDo not bring these issues up in initial interview stages. If asked, be positive and focused on their needs and opportunity. Be cautious of "Agenda."
Five Year PlanShow desire to grow with them and to contribute in areas of greater responsibility. District, regional, Plant Manager career track is reasonable (not VP,CEO). Be cautious of "Agenda."
How well have you performed? Know why you have been successfulKnow your Evaluations and have some bullets. Bring up your own thought about ARROWs as well.
What was your GPA?If over 3.0, just tell it. If below 3.0, don't be defensive. Be positive and that in hindsight you realize the importance of good grades, would now put more focus there, and it is not indicative of your intelligence. Then tell about an academic success since then.
Examples of dealing with difficult people or situationsAlways be positive, demonstrate ability to overcome institutional or human based obstacles to Make-It-Happen
How would you handle a union worker?Be positive. Do not bring in personal preference (for or against unions). You have experience dealing with rules and regulations in dealing with workers and your leadership style won't change in a union or non-union environment.
Have you worked with females?Your leadership style won't change in relation to men or women workers.
Who else are you interviewing with?Remain focused on their opportunity.


Your Quiver of Arrows


The most important part of preparing for an interview is self-insight. Knowing yourself and communicating it to an interviewer is the most important aspect of the interview. The key is to come up with specific examples from your background that demonstrate the skills you have gained through business and/or military experience.
You want to develop specific examples that demonstrate areas such as these:
  • Team Building
  • Conflict Resolution (between self and peer, people you supervise)
  • Overall leadership
  • Individual Counseling/Motivation
  • Ability to Persuade
  • Goal Setting and Achieving
  • Time Management (Long-Term, Short-Term, How do you plan your day)
  • Make-It-Happen Attitude
  • Etc.
Once you have identified some specific examples of accomplishments in these areas, you want to put them in an easy to remember and effective way to communicate format. The format we like to use is the ARROW format to build stories for use in interviews.


Who Who are the key players in this example?


Objective What is the objective/obstacle we had to achieve/overcome?


Result What is the specific and quantifiable result?


Relevance Why is this example relevant to the interviewer's needs?


Actions What were the actions taken to achieve the results?


Let's Play 20 Questions


Remember, every question is an opportunity to:
Listen, Help, Problem Solve
Be Concise, Talk Less, BLUF - Bottom Line Up Front
Address THEIR Needs, Not YOUR Agenda
Attitude of Joining and Being a Part of Their Team Already
Desire to Contribute, Serve, and Grow
20 Questions and common strategies:
  1. Your Goals in High School, College, the Military - What were they, and what are they now?
    • Show "Direction" in your choices and goals
    • Why your college, Why your Major, Why your GPA, Why part-time work, Why activities, Why enter/leave Military?
    • Show you are goal/accomplishment oriented
  2. How well have you prepared yourself for your career transition?
    • Demonstrate initiative, curiosity, imagination, you keep an open mind, and you are focused on the opportunity to transition
    • Last book/magazine you read; counsel you have sought
  3. Tell me about yourself (3-5 minutes)
    • Tell who you are with achievements, not just the jobs you've held
    • Answers the why(s) and how(s) of goals and accomplishments
    • Focus on needs/interests of the interviewer
    • Why should this company hire you
    • Answer why you are in THIS interview so interviewer doesn't feel they are being "shopped."
  4. Why are you leaving the Military?
    • Use this question to show you are "running toward" their opportunity, and not "running away" from the military
    • Positively explain why you joined military, your growth and contribution
    • Sincerely answer why/how a dynamic business career has become your career objective, and answer why you are in THIS interview
  5. What is/How would you describe your leadership style?
    • Pick a specific team example
    • Include the involvement of others
    • Listening, Problem Solving, Results Oriented
    • Establish trust through communication, demonstrate sincere desire for individual input
    • Leads by example, hands-on, goal-oriented, and fair
    • Coach/team captain vs. "Babysitter"
  6. Counseling Example?
    • Stories of developing people that are specific and positive one-on-one w/ E-5 and above (use names)
    • Demonstrate active listening, sensitivity, and seeking first to understand
    • Enable the other person to take ownership of identifying the problem and solution; include the result and what it is attributed to
  7. What is a key team-building accomplishment
    • Paints a vivid picture of an applicable (to the interviewer's needs) situation that focuses on people vs. the process/military, and clearly shows own role in example (include what you attribute to your success)
    • Establishes common goals with seniors, peers, juniors with open and honest communication
  8. Tell me about a conflict you faced with a 1) peer 2) Jr. leader 3) supervisor?
    • Seek first to understand, show sensitivity, and seek win-win solution
    • Demonstrate excellent problem-solving skills
    • Paint a clear picture, use names, show results
  9. Tell me about your best/worst Junior Leader
    • Do not be judgmental, do not use labels (dirtbag, lazy, etc.)
    • Demonstrate own role (coach/team captain) in striving to produce a positive result
    • Show desire, commitment, and a real love for training and development to the betterment of people
  10. Tell me about a disappointment, setback, or failure?
    • Use question to demonstrate self-insight with an emphasis on lesson learned
    • Include successes that stem from lessons learned
  11. Why Sales?
    • In a sales interview, treat this as the most important question asked
    • Highlight sales as the best arena for a competitive, goal-oriented winner (like you) who values building strong relationships with customers
    • Focus on sales as THE career field of choice
    • Understand how key the sales PERSON is in the product-Price-Person triangle
    • Understand how vital the role that sales plays in every aspect of business
  12.  What 5 Qualities/Adjectives do you think best describe you?
    • Insightful, well thought out, and directed towards the interviewer's needs
    • Be prepared to provide short examples for each
    • Strong ones for operations: team-player, dynamic, goal-oriented, listener
    • Strong ones for sales: competitive, relationship builder, listener
  13. How many hours per week do you think it takes to be successful?
    • Focus on career vs. job and on internalizing and accomplishing the goals and objectives of the company vs. the hours of work necessary
    • Demonstrate a positive, CAN-DO attitude
    • 50-60 hours are not uncommon as you launch a new career
  14. Ability to persuade example?
    • Specific example that seeks 1st to understand/focus on the customer's needs
    • Focus on people and not the process or the military
    • Identifies the objective, the obstacle, the cause and affect, and the result
    • Ties to business application
    • Demonstrate sensitivity, drive, tenacity and winning
  15. Do you consider yourself competitive?
    • Have numerous examples from military, schools, sports, etc.
    • Positive, tenacious, goal-oriented, and high achiever with a passion to win in business and any activity
    • Customer oriented team player and motivator
  16. What is a weakness or area you'd like to improve?
    • Demonstrate self-insight ("an unexamined life…"), don't pick a book or lame answer, and don't give one that is a reason NOT to hire
    • Stress lessons learned, ongoing initiatives/improvements, and results
  17. How will geography (where you want to live) factor in to your career?
    • Don't initiate answer with your preference, emphasize the opportunity vs. location (don't let them think only reason you are interviewing with them is their location)
    • Demonstrate business savvy/understanding of need to relocate and grow with company and not completely focused on "settling down"
  18. What are your salary requirements?
    • Use question to demonstrate realistic business expectations with awareness of general range for the position, and emphasis on performance-based reward
    • Do not think that company MUST match/exceed current military compensation
    • Demonstrate a desire for future potential vs. immediate pay
    • Consider all aspects of compensation - medical, company vehicle (sales), 401K, bonuses, stock options, etc.
  19. How do you plan your Schedule?
    • Focus on weekly goals that tie into longer-term goals, then breaks down weekly goals into a daily schedule
    • Has specific examples of job accomplishments where this approach paid off
  20. When is the soonest you can start working?
    • Demonstrate optimism and desire to start as soon as possible with forthrightness and enthusiasm
    • Do not "pad" the start date with lots of personal "stuff" (ride bike through Europe, take a month off to fix up house, etc.) or pessimistic possibilities
    • Understands and desires to meet company's view point and needs


Interview Mechanics


This section will help with your presentation skills, first with Phone interviews then with Face-to-Face interviews.
Phone Interview tips:
  • Choose a secluded and quiet area to take the phone call
  • Have a pen, pad of paper, copy of your resume, and your questions for the interviewer
  • Stand up and project your voice, energy, and enthusiasm over the phone
  • Build a quick rapport
  • Use verbal feedback techniques
  • Did I answer your question? Did I explain any military terms/words for you? Etc.
  • Smile - they can sense it on the other end of the phone call
Face-to-Face Interview Tips:
  • First-impression
  • Attire (conservative look), overall appearance, smile, firm and dry handshake, do not grab the interviewer's seat
  • Non-verbal communication is over 70% of overall communication
  • Comfortable (not relaxed) body language is important - eye contact, use of hands, take control of your environment (move chairs/tables for leg room, etc.), no gum or soda cans/water bottles
  • Be Appreciative of their time and willingness to meet with you and discuss their opportunity
  • Assume interviewer is not sure you are interested - prove to them you are
  • Develop a conversation and informal atmosphere
  • Address interviewer by first name (minimal use of sir/ma'am), comfortable and interactive, this is not a formal military briefing, engage in light conversation
  • Be comfortable (not relaxed) with intensity, energy, enthusiasm, and a passion to win in business
  • Bring the means to take notes, but don't bog yourself down with a large briefcase
  • Interviewer will only have your resume (they won't have your evals, transcripts, etc.)
  • Use the interview to your Best Advantage, but no hidden Agendas - they'll sense it
Your Turn to Ask Questions:
  • Each of your questions should cause the interviewer to want to hire you
  • Have focused questions based on research and listening
  • Avoid WIIFM "what's in it for me" questions (benefits, pay, masters, etc.)
  • Try to avoid "dump" and canned questions, such as:
    • What kind of training program do you have?
    • Why did you join this company?
    • What's the next step?
  • Ask from perspective of already being on their team:
  • What are the challenges I may face in the first 90 days?
  • What would my customers expect of me?
The 5 P's of asking questions of the interviewer:
PeopleWho are the support people on the team, What is the team I would be a part of , What kind of customers would I have?
Product/ServiceWhat is the most popular product?
ProcessWhat is the manufacturing, distribution, business, sales process?
PerformanceWhat would my performance be based on?
PositionWhat other aspects of the job can you tell me about?


Closing the Interview:

  • ABC - Always Be Closing, don't wait until end of interview to tell the interviewer you are interested, do it throughout the interview by putting yourself into the "shoes" of the position
  • It's an attitude, it's connecting, focusing, and proves you are excited
  • In an operations/management interview, simply reiterate interest in the position, company, career and desire to move forward in the interview process. Many operations interviewers prefer this to the true ''close'' of a sales interview.
  • In a sales interview, be more forward/aggressive than you naturally would be in the field (out among customers), demonstrate your ability to ''ask for the order." You MUST ask a question in a sales close, because you are asking for a commitment.
  • When can I start (smile)?
  • What do I need to do next to join your team?
  • Do you have any concerns about my fitness for your team?
  • "What's the next step?" is overused and undereffective. Use your imagination; be creative!
  • Be Appreciative of their time and questions.