Your first interview went so well that the hiring manager has called you in for a second (or third) interview. Well done, you! So how do you prepare for follow-up interviews when you are in the time crunch of military transition?
You need just four magic words. Why? Because by the second or third interview, hiring managers already have asked the top 10 interview questions or more than 100 possible interview questions. The hiring manager is now looking for four words to describe your professional reputation to your potential employer in a way that moves you forward. How do you describe yourself without blowing the interview at the last minute?
One of my senior military clients ran into this in an interview recently. After a day of discussion, the interviewer asked him to bring to mind four people who knew him well -- a teacher, a spouse, a boss, a subordinate. Then he was to think of four adjectives those people would use to describe him. Just four adjectives.
Sounds easy, right? You try it. Right now, come up with four adjectives that describe you and your professional reputation. Go ahead. I’ll give you a minute.
Everybody Works But John Paul Jones
Did you come up with something like a hard-working, dedicated leader who thrives under pressure? Or did you describe yourself as a responsible, detail-oriented, team player with excellent communication skills? Those are great descriptive words. They are not the words the interviewer wants from you. The research shows employers expect veterans to be hard-working, dedicated, responsible, detail-oriented, leaders and team players with very good haircuts and shiny shoes.
In the second interview, the hiring manager wants something more. They will ask questions designed to illustrate what it is that makes you different and what it is like to work with you specifically. They only are looking for four adjectives, four traits, four little words that deeply describe you. What’s so hard about that?
Your Professional Reputation
It’s hard because the hiring manager really is asking for your professional reputation. It is a flop-sweat inducing struggle because no one really knows their own reputation. It’s like trying to describe what you look like without ever seeing your face in a mirror.
This means that your interview answers are often all over the place. The interviewer cannot get a good sense of you as a worker, so they pass you up and go to a civilian. As Military.com’s transition master coach, I see this when young enlisted, junior officers, mid-career pros, senior leaders and spouses come up with some good descriptive words, then dismiss their best traits as if everyone had them. It’s like you are blind to your best self.
Easiest Way Ever to Ace Your Second Interview
What if you had an easy way to find out your professional reputation so that all your behavioral questions would build a solid picture of you? Your interview prep would set you up for life. So I came up with an exercise that takes about fifteen minutes to complete and you do not have to talk to a soul. You can download the worksheet here.
The Four-Word Interview Exercise
1. Bring to mind five people -- a parent or teacher, a spouse or partner, a boss who liked you, a friend at work and a subordinate.
2. Email them. Say something like: I’m doing this exercise for my Veteran Employment Project, and I’m supposed to ask people who know me really well to give me four adjectives that describe me at work. You don’t need to think about this for a long time; just answer from your gut. Thanks for helping me.
3. Collect the words on paper. It’s important to write them down, or you won’t be able to remember them during the interview.
4. What themes are emerging? Are people using different words to describe the same kind of thing? In the example below, you will see that when I did the exercise, people used "energy," "charismatic," "bright," and "energetic" to mean the same thing--that I bring a positive energy to work.
5. Choose your four adjectives from this list that you will emphasize in your second interview. As an added bonus, write down a story that illustrates each adjective and a number that quantifies the result. Then when the employer asks a question during your second interview that starts with “Tell me about a time …,” you can bring one of these four words to mind with the accompanying story and the stellar results you got when you used this skill.
Here is an example of the completed exercise:
The best thing about this exercise is how it will give you the right words for the right answer on the second interview when employers want to get to know you better. You will find that everyone is happy to do this exercise with you -- even when it feels a little weird to ask.
The words they send back will all be complimentary -- the kind of things employers love to hear. The people who know you well already like you, and they want to help you find a job. Use this exercise as an easy way to get you started on acing that second interview today.
Find out the secrets to getting a civilian hiring manager to see your true value. We teach you proven career-level strategies to help you obtain your next, high-impact job. Our next transition master class is How to Get a Government Job on Aug. 31. Sign up today.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com’s transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.