My First Job Interview!

I haven’t been blogging as much, but that’s because I’ve been so busy INTERVIEWING!  So happy to be taking this next step in my transition.

I’ve actually had about a dozen interviews thus far, all coordinated by my recruiting firm, and I’ve actually been pretty successful.  I was extremely nervous going into it (okay, I may have been shaking!) but I learned a lot about the process.  I’m now working through follow-ups, which is just as daunting but even more exciting.

I’m not an expert by any means, but here are a few of the things I’ve learned/realized during this process that may help you as you make your transition to Corporate America:

My Interview Tips:

  • Dress to Impress.  I really think wearing my suits and looking the part of a professional was an important step, not just to impress the interviewer, but to put myself into the right mindset.
  • Nail the introduction.  Try to learn the interviewer’s first name before you head in, and use it (but don’t overuse it!) throughout the interview.  And introduce yourself right off the bat, with a good handshake and your first AND last names.
  • Smile and stay energetic.  Just do it.  Seriously, otherwise you look disinterested and bored.
  • “Answer the question, and shut up.”  This is actual advice I received from a very successful careerwoman!  Answer the question, Bottom Line Up Front, then go into a concise explanation of what you did to achieve that.
  • Read your interviewer and LISTEN.  Look at their body language.  It will tell you whether you are on the right track, boring them, not letting them interject/talking too much, and more.
  • Prepare questions.  Some interviewers asked me if I had questions, right off the bat!  Don’t ask questions about benefits and other subjects irrelevant to an initial interview.  Ask them questions about the specific job you’re applying for, and ask quality questions.  This was a HUGE trend in all of my interviews.
  • Don’t forget the finish!  When your time is up, don’t just walk out.  Thank them for meeting you, tell them how interested you are, and leave an impression.  Don’t take off, no matter how you felt you did during the interview!

Success Story: Troy

I met Troy towards the end of his time in the military; he’d been working with a recruiting firm for about 10 months prior to his transition.  What struck me about Troy was his energetic personality; unlike many military officers I’d met, he oozed charisma and confidence.  I envied his ability to know exactly what he wanted to do!  He started early and found success in the short amount of time I was able to observe his transition.

“I wanted to get it right the first time, job-wise,” Troy said, “Any recruiting company can get [JMOs] a job because we are in demand, but what sometimes happens is you are placed in a job that you don’t like, leave it after a year, and then are back on the market.”

Troy ended up choosing a different firm than I did (we both agreed they were our two favorites) and liked the training and preparation.  He felt the recruiter put a lot of effort into him, though he felt the reading lists were all pretty similar amongst firms.

The most valuable part of the experience was the resume assistance.

“It was my first time doing a resume,” Troy said, “I needed help getting it down to one page, grouping things, and only listing the most prevalent and quantifiable items.”

Troy also participated in mock interviews.

“I am very appreciative of the time they invested in me and educating me on the process,” Troy said, “At the conference, I was presented with 11 companies with opportunities across the U.S.  There were a couple of companies in locations I couldn’t see myself living, but there were 7 that I singled out as my top choices.  I received follow-up interview offers from all of them, but in the end chose to visit three.”

Troy has been working as a civilian for about 5 months now, and really likes how his life has changed.  He credits the recruiting firm for his successful transition.

“They did a great job of bringing in quality companies that I could [see myself] growing in.”

Troy’s Tips for Success

  1. If you want to use a recruiting firm, shop around.  Troy decided that there were two firms he preferred, both of which had exclusivity agreements.  He chose one over the other because he felt like it was a better ‘fit’.  You should feel comfortable; they need to work for YOU!  Troy just needed someone to tell him what to do, so he could get it done!
  2. Choose the right job, something you’ll want to stick with!  “As an officer coming out of the military, you should seek a job where you can stay at least 4-6 years and reach that next level of management in a company.  You’ll then have some legitimate civilian experience and achieved pay increases and promotions more than once.”
  3. Be energetic.  “The initial interview is about likeability.  The follow-up is where the company will see if you are a good fit for them.  Treat every opportunity as if it is your “#1″ and close your interviews well.”

Success Story: Mark

I met Mark during my second deployment to Iraq.  We both were Army brats whose fathers left active service during the Clinton-era cuts, watching them complete their military careers in the Army Reserves while starting civilian jobs.  Mark, however, was not a traditional active duty Army officer like me.

Mark joined the Army Reserves as an Automated Logistics Specialist, attending both Basic Training and AIT.  He then attended college and completed Army ROTC, earning a commission in the National Guard.  A shortage of active duty officers allowed him to be placed on active duty orders, bringing him to join my unit in time to deploy to Iraq.

During his time as a logistics planner for our Brigade Combat Team, Mark remained on the fence about whether he wanted to remain on Active Duty or to leave upon completion of his contract.  He had close friends and mentors in the unit, and learned a lot about contracts, vendors, and business.

“More importantly,” he emphasizes, “[it] allowed me to support soldiers within our Brigade and see a direct, positive effect on them.”

Mark remembers eating at the DFAC during the deployment with a friend, discussing plans for mid-tour leave, or R&R.  They happened to be sitting beside some of the other Brigade Staff , including our notoriously emotionless Brigade Executive Officer.

“The Brigade XO turned to us and asked us where we were going for leave,” Mark said, “We told him, ‘Australia, Sir.  We’re going to see a lot of the cities, and we’re going to go cage diving with great white sharks.'”

The Brigade XO’s eyes lit up and he actually smiled.

“That’s great!” he said, “You know I always wanted to be a marine biologist and travel the world.”

Mark recalls the man’s eyes quickly dimming, his smile disappearing, as he ended, “And then I got wrapped up in the Army.”

“I knew from that moment,” Mark said, “I was getting out.”

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JMO Recruiting Firms

One of the biggest debates I have with my peers transitioning from the Army to Corporate America is whether or not using a recruiting firm is the way to go.  For me, as a business newbie, having a recruiting firm help me was a no-brainer.  But then again, location is a non-issue for me; I’m all about finding a job that I want, after spending years being placed/selected for jobs by the Army.  I really credit my recruiting company with helping me feel more organized and prepared; I am currently working on my resume and interview prep for a career conference in just a couple of months.  I’m excited, and having constant contact with the company makes me feel like I’m not in the search alone; they WANT me to succeed.

Recruiting firms aren’t for everyone.  I have peers who have acted as free agents and landed great jobs, working with ACAP, attending career fairs (if you’re a Service Academy grad, check out the Service Academy Career Conferences) and putting themselves out there on LinkedIn and individual applications.  Some of them felt like the recruiting firms treated them like just another ‘piece of meat’, especially since they receive a commission equivalent to a certain percentage of your first year’s salary; they don’t get paid until you get hired.  Other friends had specific geographic areas they wanted to relocate to, so recruiting firms would narrow their field too much for them to feel comfortable.  Some didn’t see the companies they wanted to work for at the conferences, and sought them out on their own.  The exclusivity agreements turn a lot of people off; it can feel like putting your eggs in one basket, if you don’t have other backup plans if the recruiting firm doesn’t work out.

That said, having an aggressive recruiting company working for you can be beneficial.  They want to get you the highest salary, so they work to make you the best candidate for their companies.  They walk you through it.  You may be required to promise exclusivity through the end of their career conference, or be limited by the companies/locations they have available.  But you have someone working with you every step of the way, and you aren’t forced to take a job you don’t want; you’re free at the end of that career conference.

I’ve heard good and bad things about every single recruiting firm.  Some from people who actually tried to work with them, others from people who just distrust recruiting firms in general.  And that’s to be expected, because every job hunt is a unique monster.  But here’s what I have learned, from word-of-mouth and Internet research.

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My Story

I feel I owe my story, because I’m asking some of my friends and peers to share theirs.  I’ve chosen to remain anonymous, and I’ll be doing the same for the people and companies I blog about here.  I think that the information is still important, but it’s better to give everyone some privacy.

I was an Army brat, growing up in some amazing places like Europe and South Korea.  My Dad was a military officer, who later transitioned to a career in finance.  I attended the same college he did, choosing a military service academy.  I was attracted to the combination of prestige, education, and military service.  I loved the challenge.  I would then spend the next five years after graduation serving as an officer in the United States Army, including two deployments overseas to Iraq.  I was fortunate to work with great units, leaders, and mentors.

The decision to leave the military was a tough one.  (And I believe it is for most people!)  I didn’t enter my service believing I would leave; instead, I left myself open to either possibility.  In the end, I knew I’d accomplished my goals in the military.  I had an interest in business; I even took the GMAT twice to prepare myself for business school!  As I researched different opportunities, established myself on LinkedIn, and talked to my peers going through similar transitions, I decided to work with a professional recruiter.  I chose a well-recommended recruiter that specialized in military officers transitioning to Corporate America, had a rigorous professional development program, and was a good match for my career goals.   I’m excited about my career conference with them in just a couple of months, and I plan to keep you posted throughout the process!

My ultimate goal is to find a good job in business, working for a company I like and believe in. I want to enjoy my work, which I believe is a goal/dream that everyone has!  Completing my MBA is still a top goal and priority of mine, but I haven’t decided yet how I want to do it.  I’m a work in progress.

What’s your story?