With Unemployment High for Returning Vets, Nine Tips for Acing the Job Interview

Posted October 18, 2012 by
Jim Camp

Jim Camp, Vietnam vet, and President and CEO of The Camp Negotiation Institute

There’s bad news and good news for post 9/11 returning veterans, known as the Gulf War Era II vets. The government’s October 2012 employment figures show that the unemployment rate for Gulf War Era II vets is 9.7%; but for the youngest vets, age 20-24, it’s a whopping 14.5% (compared to 12.1% for nonveterans), and for vets age 25-29, it’s 11.5% (compared to 8.7% for nonveterans).

In a 2012 Society for Human Resource Management poll of 359 HR professionals, 50% of the respondents said that one of the biggest challenges in hiring veterans is “translating military skills to civilian job experience.”

But here’s the good news. Returning vets have the very skills US businesses want — discipline, leadership, resiliency, teamwork, loyalty, accountability, and self-motivation, to name just a few. What they lack — and aren’t learning well enough in the VA’s various transition programs, are techniques for selling themselves to prospective employers, and showing these employers that hiring them will be to their advantage. Translation: They need to learn some basic negotiation skills.

Learning professional negotiating strategies can help returning vet job seekers nail the interview, get the call-back, and land the job. Having the right attitude and system in the negotiation (the job interview) helps the vet portray himself accurately on the phone and in person with a prospective employer, translate his raw skills and talents into desirable business assets, and negotiate a fair but generous salary and benefits package for himself.

Avoid the top mistakes returning vets make. They may feel as if they are at a disadvantage. They go into the interview feeling nervous about rejection, ashamed of their spotty job experience, or perhaps feeling needy and too anxious to please. If you let such emotions and attitudes overtake you, you’ll be unable to think about the challenges facing this company and less likely to articulate why they need you and should hire you.

Here are nine tried-and-true tips to acing the job interview.

1. Do impeccable research on the company and position before the interview. Read recent business articles, visit the company’s website, and study press releases and annual reports. Write down everything about this company so you’ll feel well prepared.

2. Don’t be needy. Neediness kills your advantage in a job interview. You do not NEED this job. You need water, food, and air. Neediness can reveal itself as excitement, hope, overconfidence, discouragement, and many other emotions. Learn to clear your mind of assumptions, fears, and expectations so you’ll be emotionally neutral and can maintain an open mind.

3. Don’t try to impress them with your dress, attitude, or speech. It will backfire. Be honest, direct, and authentic. Look decent and be comfortable in your own skin.

4. Find out what your interviewer wants by asking questions. Your aim is to discover the company’s problems, issues, and needs so you can position yourself as the solution. Example: “What are the biggest challenges facing your company?”

5. Ask “what, how, and why” questions to help YOU direct the dialogue. These get your interviewer spilling the beans, and they won’t be able to answer with a simple one-word answer. More information about them is more ammo for your side. Example: “How do you see this position developing and changing over the next three years?”

6. Get them revealing what a “good fit” means to them. Your objective is to find out how you might uniquely enhance this company. Example: “How would you describe your employees and the culture of this organization?”

7. Don’t volunteer too much information. You might think your previous working environment is relevant, or that your family life is important, or that your hobbies are character revealing. But telling too much gives your interviewer fuel to make assumptions and draw conclusions about you.

8. Focus only on what you can control. The only thing you can control in the interview is your behavior and your responses. Focus on listening carefully–taking notes if necessary–and on controlling your behavior and words. Speak slowly in a low-pitched voice.

9. Present yourself as the solution. Answer questions in such a way that you are always keeping your employer’s requirements and goals in mind, not yours. Your answers should reflect how you fit in with this employer’s aims and enhance the employer’s objectives. Remember: you’ve got the very skills your employer is looking for. Talk about your qualities as assets, and always position yourself as the solution to your employer’s problems.

Jim Camp, a Vietnam vet, is president and CEO of The Camp Negotiation Institute, which has more than 400 students from 24 countries enrolled in its credentialed Team Member courses. He has a special passion for helping veterans become certified negotiators. His two bestselling books, Start with No and NO: The Only Negotiating System You Need for Work or Home, have been translated into 12 languages. His newest offering is the audio program, “Power of No.” Learn more at http://www.startwithno.com./

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