Job Search Advice – Ten Ways to Impress an Employer


Ten Ways to Impress an Employer  |

By John Lundberg  |  director of events at RecruitMilitary and a former gunnery sergeant in the United States Marine Corps  |

Published in the May/June 2011 issue of print Search & Employ®  |

You have only one shot at making a first impression. Make it count! Use this checklist before you write a cover letter, go to an interview, or walk up to a booth at an Opportunity Expo.

10. Know what the company’s products and/or services are.

Make sure you are well acquainted with the company’s offerings so that you don’t get caught in an embarrassing moment. Never ask an interviewer, “So can you tell me what your company does?” In most cases, visiting the company’s website for 20 minutes or so will give you enough information about the products and/or services. If the company is huge, with several divisions, drill down to the pages of the division of interest, and spend most of your time there.

9. Know the company’s competitors.

But how do you find the competitors? If you know what the company does, just pull up your favorite search engine, type in the kind of business, then type the word “companies”.

Here’s an example: Suppose you wanted to go to work for an oilfield services company. You would pull up the engine and type in “oilfield services companies.” I tried that, and lo and behold, there appeared a Wikipedia article listing more than 100 companies. I found that I could navigate from the list to individual companies’ websites.

But 100+ companies are a lot to study. So I went back to the top page of my initial search results. There, I saw links for Schlumberger, Halliburton Company, and Baker Hughes. I can assure you that, if you were interested in working in the oilfield services business and could talk knowledgeably about those three companies, you would be just fine.

8. Relate your military experience to the job you want.

Discuss your military experiences that are related to the job you want—but touch lightly, or not at all, on your other military experiences. Suppose, for example, you had led a large unit at a military distribution center, and you were interviewing for a sales position. In this case, you would want to emphasize experiences that demonstrated your organizational and interpersonal skills. On the other hand, if you were interviewing for a job in distribution/logistics, you would want to emphasize your knowledge of how supply chains operate.

7. Make every interview a positive experience for both yourself and the interviewer.

These are not the times for you to complain about your last boss or to discuss problems you may have at home. Be positive and upbeat, remember to smile, and enjoy the interview. An enjoyable interview is a memorable interview, and you will want to be remembered.

6. Don’t use Mil-speak

If you use military acronyms when the interviewer is not former military, you might as well be speaking a foreign language. But what should you do if the interviewer brings up a particular military program that you know about? Show your knowledge, but do not assume that the interviewer will understand the associated acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon.

But what if the interviewer is former military? You will still need to show that you can explain your military experiences without using Mil-speak. Showing this skill may help you get a follow-up interview with someone who does not understand the lingo.

5. Don’t overestimate the civilian equivalents of your military titles

It may be tempting to equate senior leadership roles in the military with senior leadership positions in Corporate America—positions such as plant manager and sales manager. But you should be very careful about doing that.

Certain skills associated with senior military leadership are of great value in a corporation—for example, understanding how to work within an organizational structure, the interpersonal skills associated with command, strategic decision-making, delegation and reporting, etc. You should convince the interviewer that you have such skills. However, because there are essential differences between the military and corporate worlds, you should be prepared to discuss how you would learn to apply those skills—while serving in a post that would prepare you for senior leadership.

4. Show up on time for every interview!

If you are not familiar with the area where an interview will take place, do a recon the night before. Check with local people—the desk clerk, if you are staying at a hotel—to see what traffic patterns usually are like during your scheduled interview time. It is better to be early and spend some time sitting in the parking lot than to show up late and nervous or upset.

3. Keep your answers short and to the point.

The best-known question for opening an interview is “Tell me about yourself.” Answering that question is a great way to break the ice, and you should use your answer to make several key points that will put yourself above the competition. However, your answer should not exceed two minutes. If the interviewer wants to know more, he or she will ask for it.

To prepare for the question, you should write out and memorize a two-minute presentation. You do not need to say it exactly the same every time—you will want it to seem spontaneous at each interview.

2. Dress properly for the event.

Business casual is the norm for most business situations, but it is better to overdress than to underdress for an interview. A well-pressed suit, shirt/blouse, and tie/scarf are always acceptable unless your interviewer has instructed you differently. Why would the interviewer do that? Perhaps he or she would want to take you on a plant tour, or perhaps just want you to dress in a manner consistent with the company’s culture. If you are unsure about how to dress, just ask.

1. Start an interview with a smile and a good, firm handshake.

The smile and handshake will get the interview going on a positive note. Throughout the interview, smile when appropriate to show that you are relaxed and enjoying your time with the interviewer. Always make sure that you have good posture throughout the interview. Close the interview as you began it, with a smile and firm handshake—and thank the interviewer for his/her time.

John Lundberg is Director, Accounts and Outbound Sales at RecruitMilitary and a former Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps.

About the Author

This article was written by Jay Myers