Job Interview Tips for Veterans

Transitioning from the military to civilian life can be tough, especially when it comes to acing job interviews. Here are some helpful tips for veterans.


Job interviews can be daunting for anyone, but for veterans transitioning into civilian life, they can be particularly challenging. The skills and experiences gained in the military may not always translate directly to civilian jobs, and the interview process itself can be unfamiliar territory.

Linking in with a veteran-specific career service like the RSL Veterans’ Employment Program can help you to prepare and feel more confident. They’ll look at your specific career history and the types of jobs you’d like to apply for, and coach you accordingly.

With some preparation and a few key strategies, veterans can excel in job interviews and secure the civilian career they desire. In this article, we’ll provide some helpful tips for veterans to ace their job interviews.


Translate military skills and experiences into civilian terms


One of the biggest hurdles veterans face in job interviews is communicating their skills and experiences in civilian terms. Military jargon and acronyms may be well-understood in the military context, but they can be confusing or even meaningless to civilian employers. Therefore, it’s essential to translate your military experiences and achievements into language that civilian employers can understand.

To do this, start by researching the specific job or industry you’re applying for. What skills and qualifications are they looking for? Then, think about how your military experiences and achievements demonstrate those skills or qualifications. For example, if you’re applying for a management position, highlight your experience leading teams, delegating tasks, and developing strategies. Use concrete examples and specific details to illustrate your points.

Want to learn more about translating your military skills and experiences for the civilian workforce? We dive more deeply into that topic in this article.


Prepare for common interview questions


While every job interview is different, there are some common questions that you can expect to be asked. Preparing your responses in advance can help you feel more confident and articulate during the interview.

Here are some examples of common interview questions and how to approach them:


“Tell me about yourself.”

This question is often used to start an interview and provides an opportunity for you to introduce yourself and highlight your strengths. Focus on your relevant experiences and skills, and how they relate to the job you’re applying for.


“Why do you want this job?”

This question is about your motivation and fit for the position. Highlight how your skills and experiences align with the job requirements, and what specifically interests you about the role or the company.


“What are your greatest strengths?”

This question allows you to showcase your skills and accomplishments. Choose strengths that are relevant to the job, and provide specific examples of how you’ve demonstrated those strengths in the past.


“What are your weaknesses?”

This question can be tricky, but it’s important to answer honestly while also showing that you’re proactive about self-improvement. Choose a weakness that’s not essential for the job, and explain how you’ve worked to overcome it.

Read more about common interview questions and how to answer them in this article from our friends at RSL ACT.


Practice your interview skills


Like any skill, interviewing takes practice to master. Practice your interview skills by doing mock interviews with friends, family, or career counsellors like those who provide support at the RSL Veterans’ Employment Program. You can also record yourself practicing answers to common interview questions and review the footage to see how you can improve.

During your mock interviews, pay attention to your body language, tone of voice, and eye contact. Practice making a good first impression by dressing appropriately, arriving on time, and being friendly and courteous to everyone you meet.


Research the company and industry


Employers want to know that you’re interested in their company and industry, and not just applying to any job that comes your way. Research the company and industry in advance so that you can demonstrate your knowledge during the interview. Look for recent news articles, company reports, and social media posts to get a sense of the company’s mission, values, and culture.


Highlight your teamwork and leadership skills


Military service often requires teamwork and leadership skills, which are highly valued in many civilian jobs. Be sure to highlight your experience leading teams, collaborating with others, and resolving conflicts. Use specific examples to demonstrate your abilities in these areas.

Read more about why veterans make great employees here.


Address any gaps in employment or education


If you have gaps in your employment or education history, be prepared to address them during the interview. It’s important to be honest about these gaps and explain what you were doing during that time. If you were serving in the military, be sure to highlight the skills and experiences you gained during that time.


Be prepared to talk about your military service


Employers may be curious about your military service and how it relates to the job you’re applying for. Be prepared to talk about your military experience and how it has prepared you for civilian work. Emphasise the skills and values you learned during your service, such as teamwork, leadership, and adaptability.


Ask thoughtful questions


At the end of the interview, the interviewer will usually ask if you have any questions. This is your opportunity to show your interest in the job and learn more about the company. Prepare some thoughtful questions in advance, such as:

  • Can you tell me more about the company culture?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the company right now?
  • How does this role fit into the overall company strategy?
  • What are the opportunities for growth and advancement in this role?

Asking these types of questions can help you stand out as a thoughtful and engaged candidate.


The RSL Veterans’ Employment Program can help


Job interviews can be challenging for veterans transitioning into civilian life. However, with some preparation and a few key strategies, veterans can excel in job interviews and secure the civilian career they desire.

If you’d like some professional guidance when it comes to preparing for job interviews (or any other aspect of job hunting in the civilian workforce), reach out to the RSL Veterans’ Employment Program. It’s personalised, friendly and free.