The Interview Coach: Interview Day Preparation

March 30, 2012 |

Job interview expert Carole Martin has been a prime contributor to our Veteran Jobs blog, and now she’s offering her advice to veterans and servicemembers who have questions, general or specific, about tackling the civilian job interview process. Send Carole your questions at, and moving forward, we’ll feature her answers in this blog.


How should I handle interview day and how do I approach the executive or interviewer?


First, arrive at the interview 10-15 minutes early (always a good idea – NEVER LATE!).

Seven Steps Toward Making a Good Impression

1. Appearance counts. When you look good, you feel good. Make sure you look groomed and neat. Check odors (good and bad). Too much cologne or perfume can be a real turn-off.

2. Your clothes and accessories should be conservative and neutral. Your clothes are your packaging and should not take attention away from you as the product.

3. Non-verbal communication sometimes conveys a stronger message than verbal communication. Sit or stand up straight (like your mother always told you).

4. Eye contact and smiles can indicate a confident and upbeat attitude. This is a good opportunity to demonstrate your social and interpersonal skills.

5. The handshake sends a strong tactile message. Your grip should be firm (show some sign of life – even men with women) – but not bone-crushing.

6. Your voice and the volume of your speech convey a strong impression.
Whether it is a phone interview or a face-to-face interview, it is important that you speak with enthusiasm and energy.

7. Your vocabulary reveals your communication skills and ability to interface with people, especially people you’ve not met before.

When you get off on the right foot, the interview will flow easily. This is one impression you cannot leave to chance.

According to studies done over the years, people evaluate one another using the three “V’s” –

55% Visual (Your appearance)
38% Vocal (Your voice)
7% Verbal (What you say)

Good luck with your interview!
Carole Martin, The Interview Coach

The Interview Coach, Carole Martin, is a celebrated author, job coach, and speaker on the subject of interviewing and recruiting. She is also a contributing writer at and featured on talk radio. Carole is using her proven methods for coaching job seekers on competitive interviewing skills in technical and non-technical industries. You can download her free worksheet for determining your Values Exercise at the Interview Coach website. Follow The Interview Coach on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to learn about current workshops and seminars Carole is offering.

About Ho Lin

Ho Lin is an editor at His interests include naval history, the New York football Giants, and loud rock music.


  1. chris schwab says:

    I`m a 59 tr old vietnam(infantry) vet,1971-74. most folks know the things you suggest in an interview. I have to admit tho`..most veteran `friendly` employers,along with most non-vet,be it the general public, could really careless about the men and women who have served their `country`,including poloticians…we are not that naive..all i can say is,when it comes to a job interview,use basic,common instinct..not hard to figure..

  2. Gale Walker says:

    Information that we can use, nothing like good grooming, manners and honesty1

    • SFC Klein says:

      I have to agree with you. Most interviewers have never been in the military and could careless that you did to give them the freedom they have. After serving 30 years it doesn't matter if it was 30 days. Even with the VA you are competing with current employees that want to transfer, so where is the benifit of veterans preference,,,,No where. I have applied to more than 30 VA and other government jobs and have only had 3 interviews in 4 years. I have been a LPN (Low Paid Nurse) for over 35 years. I have applied even to basic medical clerical positions that I am well qualified for but never even get an interview. So forget about getting a Vererans Preference in todays economy.

      • Victor says:

        You should check your resume. It may contain too much information or is missing a critical piece. The resume "gets" you the interview.

      • DanL says:

        My experience with my wife's federal agency is thaat they make a concerted effort NOT to hire veterans. DHHS even has director level meetings to advise the regional directors how to avoid hiring vets. This in an agency with its own "uniformed service officers". It was bad in the previous administration and has gotten far worse under this one.

  3. Robert says:

    I am a disabled Vet. It seems that the hope and change in getting re-hired is all about being terminated at your old job to be re-hired at a new job with 65% of your old pay, and having to travel twice the distance for your new work, with gas at almost three times as much as when you were terminated..

    • Hector says:

      I feel your pain Robert am to a retired vet, hard to find jobs after been terminated. I was working for 5 straigh years went I retired but after losing that contract is hard to find a decent job or keep one for that matter. They need more jobs for vets that are real no the cosmetic stuff you get from DOL.

    • Richard says:

      Yea Robert I am a disabled Vet also. I have been out of work since 2010 and it will be very difficult to make the transition to the new job with very little income. Most of the jobs expect that you provide your own way to work, and if you mention that it will difficult, they don't want to hire you. It is kind of like being an ex convict down on your luck, and no one wanting to help you with your basic needs until you get settled into the job. Educators in business fields teach about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the bottom of his pyramid is the basic needs that have to be met before anyone can work. That includes food, clothing, shelter, comfort, and self preservation, not to mention transportation. Go figure. Good luck to you Brother Vet.

  4. Nanjing03 says:

    I am a Navy submarine service vet of the Cold War with later civilian Defense Department service in the Iraq War. Prior to my DoD position, I had to leave a good position as an administrator with a state correctional agency due to needed shoulder surgery through the VA. Since we are considered law enforcement in our state, I could not return until medically cleared even though I was an administrator. After 18 months of physical therapy and healing, I took up a position with DoD because our nation was at war. I left DoD after three years of service, including 7 months in Iraq, to finish college. Now I am trying to return to an equal or lesser position in my old state agency. I am a hit at interviews and I score far above the position requirements due to fifteen previous years of excellent evals and extensive experience. To date, though — no hits on a job. I'm in perfect physical condition, medically cleared to work through VA, intelligent, quick and likeable. I dress well, display excellent communications skills, interview really well, and after each interview, I leave confident that I have the job. However, I am also 54 years old. I can't help wonder if age is playing into this.

    • TinkTalk says:

      I agree with nanjing03. I worked for a VA clinic for two years as a work study, while I completed my degree in Business Administration. I was almost assured that I would have no problem getting a job there once I graduated. I graduated last year and have applied at least four times, only to have one application forwarded to the hiring authority for a job they ultimately cancelled. Yet, every time I go to the clinic, I always see new (younger) faces! So what gives? I was good enough to work there as a work study (minimum wage pay) but not as a professional with a degree?! Oh yes, I meet all the requirements for special hire as well.

    • John Michael Calitri says:

      Nanging03: Have you ever thought about starting your own business. The military has a way of taking the entrepreneur spirit out of you. You start thinking that you need someone to tell you how to think and act and give you an automatic raise and promotion ever few years. Entrepreneurial thinking is discouraged in the military but it is expected in today’s business & industry careers. So network with other military job seekers and form your own company. There are millions of service jobs that need to be filled. There are many jobs that Vetrepreneur’s are filling by networking and using skills they learned in the military. Our country
      needs the skills of veterans. JMC

  5. Robin says:

    Guys..come on..we all know it’s rough out there, but you have to go forward from here.we are going through the worse economical crisis since the Great Depression.I was a reservist and a duo status government employee.I’ve recently became unemployed after working steady for 15 years. Im older and I’m scared.hope you guys find work very soon. I’m single and No unemployment either. I have to keep a positive attitude.

  6. SFC Klein says:

    I AGREE WITH YOU. I am a 30 yr vet. that has applied to more than 30 VA and gov. jobs in the last 3 years have had 3 interviews. Vet. reference whats that?? Useless. Good luck to current returning vets
    You have to compete with other current employees that want to transfer. I have even applied to basic medical clerical positions without an interview. I have been an Army trained LPN (Low Paid Nurse) for over 35 years and still can't even get an interview for this position. I don't give much credit for a job that gives a veterans preferance especially the government. Hope someone in government will actually read this.

  7. Victor says:

    I am retiring after 23 years of service, with a BSOE and MBA. After reading blogs and I have put out resumes with only minimum paying jobs answering. None of the government or federal jobs has called back. I am very nervous about retiring. Should I stay or should I go?

    • Victor says:

      Wow! If you have the option….STAY! Let the dust settle on the job market and be happy to have a steady paycheck with benefits (until Washington takes them too).

    • DanL says:

      Stay. At least until we get a change in Administration. Maybe a change at the top will result in a better economy. Maybe!

  8. Kyajai USAF Girl says:

    Just retired after 26 yrs MBA and DBA. Just spent 10 months in a gov posn was terminated for cause. I was told I had excessive medical issues I really wish we as vets had some kind of security as vets returning to civilian employment but the reality is we do not. We are at the mercy of employers just like everyone else. No matter the sacrifice no matter the experience or education we are treated as the outsider we have to stand together.

    • Alphaman says:

      My situation is similar… Retired after 22 years in the Air Force. Worked at the Sheriff Dept for 6 months and was asked to resigned due to excessive medical issues that would had put the Dept in jeopardy for a liability suit if I was to be taken down by an inmate and got injured. I advised the company of my disabilities prior to being hired. Was not even considered for a desk job even though I led PT sessions and was in better physical condition than half the Dept… What a Vet to do??? Resigned and been over a year seeking employment.

  9. A U.S.N. says:

    I feel these Vet's pain about the job postings, check this out when I fill out an application I get this mombo jumbo that I am not qualified or do not meet their job requirements. This a fancy way of saying that I am to old for the job. Yes I to am retired from the military but without any fancy documentation like for instance a bachelors form a proven college we are just a Vet. without possibilities of getting hired by these companies, and yes we are at their mercy.

  10. Gilbert says:

    I started as a printer in the Army producing psyop leaflets for Vietnam. After 35 years as a printer I was laid off work. Could not find work so I decided to re-invent my self in computer drafting. I thought for sure I would find work in my new field, but after 7 interviews which I thought I ace I am still unemployed with student loans now due. I wonder if my age has to do with anything …59.

  11. OldFedVet1941 says:

    Yeah! How's that for your hope and change! The New Boss is like the
    old Boss! And to think I voted for that Clown! I learn quickly!
    Never Again!

  12. Nanjing03 says:

    Well, I thought that it was just me, but after reading about all the talented and determined fellow vets out there that can't find a full time job, I am confident that the current recession (perhaps that's too light a term) is the real problem. Maybe the government will stop calling it a "slow recovery" and call it for what it is. Maybe I should have not gone back to finish college after surgery that led to my having to step down from my past career in the first place. I noticed that employers manage to get around government hiring programs for veterans by simply upping the “other” requirements. If you meet the education requirements, then they up the experience requirements at that level or the next lowest level — not just government jobs, but private sector as well. I know I can’t get around my age of 54 years, so I am banking on my presentation and interview skills, excellent health, education, references, and past performance scores to possibly get me around all of that — we'll just have to see. In the meantime, I am among the 30-40% of "under-employed" Americans working 2-3 part time/temporary jobs at a mere fraction in earnings of my last full time position. Again, I'm not complaining, but I am worried about the financial well being of my family, and the well being of this country.

  13. Shelly says:

    yeah, it makes you wonder if they really consider the veteran preference points. I served 11 years in the Army reserves and my husband served 18 years with the active Army. I'm currently working as a registered dietitian. I have 6 yrs experience as a community dietitian and 6 yrs clinical experience. If I have to say so myself, my resume is most impressive. I've never had a problem landing the interview or the job until I started applying with the VA. I applied for their dietitian intern program and was never accepted. I also applied 2 different times for RD positions. Twice I had phone interviews, but never called in for a face interview. I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. I always feel pretty confident after these interviews. WHAT EXACTLY ARE THEY LOOKING FOR?

    • Nanjing03 says:

      Good question. I hear that VA and other government agencies have so-called programs in place to get veterans employed in their agencies, but I don't see it happening. I "heard" that veterans are competing with other government preference candidates like Welfare To Work, AmeriCorps, and such. My state once had a pretty good policy steering veterans into decent state jobs and I was a recipient of that program. In turn, I promoted through the ranks from state correctional officer, caseworker, academy trainer, and a position in senior staff administration. I only left to recover from surgery, work a federal position which included service in Iraq, and finish college upon my return. I am trying to get back with my old state agency now. Of course, I keep looking elsewhere in and out of all levels of government and in the private sector. A full time private sector position might be better. My loyalty goes to the guy or gal who hires me. Until then, thank God for my part time and temporary jobs — even at 1/3 the pay with no benefits, and the VA to cover our (my wife is a vet too) medical needs.

      • MsWright says:

        More often than I wish it were so, federal (and private agencies) have to post the position, but they already have a candidate in mind. It's not that you aren't qualified per se, but the choice was made before the job was posted. That isn't necessarily encouraging, but I work with people who applied for a federal position for 6 years before they were hired.

  14. phil says:

    There does not seem to be any effort to hire vets in the VA, which is a tragedy..I was a social worker for 20 years with the VA and I counted on one hand each time the number of social workers who were vets. One time I looked around the room and counted 52 social workers… me, the chief of SW were the only veterans. I was the only combat vet.

  15. DanL says:

    Look at civilian companies that are vet friendly. Sprint Nextel is an excellent example. Very active veteran recruiting program with its own department in HR. The CEO is an Army brat and very supportive of vets in the company.

  16. David says:

    Here's my simple little complaint… I have an A.A., an A.S., and a B.A. degree. Of course, I'm a military veteran. I have basically been unemployed for 16 months since I graduated from a state university. I lost my wife, my home, and I am stuck living at my mother's home making $200 a month. Absolutely no company or person will hire me. I've been told time after time that I'm not qualified for stupid positions like working as a receiver/stoker at Lowes. I've wasted a few thousand dollars driving all around the worthless broke state I reside in taking exam after exam only to be put on eligibility lists. I wish I could go back into the military. I think I may give up and decide to eat a bullet. Forget life!

    • MsWright says:

      You are sure going through some mountain sized changes, David. Don't forget that God is bigger than those mountains. You got knocked down–hard–but your circumstances don't have the final word. How about this. If all you can find is an entry level job, apply for it, leave your education off your application so you won't be over-qualified, and save enough to move to another state.

    • Nanjing03 says:

      Don't give up David. You've been through a ton and we all have our big test in life — you're going through yours now. This recession has kicked us all in the butt but guys like you will come out of it. Just stay the course, be brave and cry out to God to stand with you in this struggle. Somebody somewhere will reach out to you just like you will some day reach out to them. Rich

  17. H, Moore says:

    trust God… Give more of yourself to helping other and see move of God upon your life. These test was meant to make us stronger not to destroy us. Please know that God wish is for us all to make it to heaven. Ending ones life is never the solution because in that act it cause everyone we loved to be in pain and to blame themselves. It could even create a copycat like act stating this is how we deal with difficulties.

  18. Robert C says:

    Ladies & Gentlemen, I so feel for the returning Vet. These economic times make it hard for the current returning Vets to find a job. However, try being a 59-year-old Viet Nam & Desert Storm Vet. In my case education does not matter, experience does not matter, a proven track record and job successes, do not matter, jobs with a Vet preference do not matter…..age matters! If you believe that service to your country for 24 years means anything to anyone other than another Vet, you are sadly mistaken. Us "old Guys" just have to suck it up and try to move forward. We carry a lot of weight on Election Day so let's band together and get some commitment and changes for us Vets.

  19. H, Moore says:

    I agree vote for president Obama…

    A Iraq veteran 2007. He has gotten Osama, end the war in Iraq and down sizing the Afghanistan war which is a quirmire the deaths of these war are not respected by our society. That is sad.

    My heart grieves for the families that are forgotten except for memorial day and veteran day.

  20. SSam says:

    I guess landing a job is a combination of factors, one i think is location and networking. I'm in the DC, MAryland and Virginia and have had great luck. A soon to be vet after 26 years in the AF and with a combination of degrees, licenses, expierence and networking i have had several telephone interviews (with good results). I did go for one interveiw with a well know company for hiring vets and within a week I had a job offer! I feel translating my military expierences into civilian speak is key and so is networking is key, ie get on Linkin,
    Now the on the government side i kind of gave up after appling for mulitple jobs with multiple agencies and always getting a nice email saying I am qualified for th p osition but application not forwarded to the hiring authority. And i know the government is still looking for its civilain employees to take early retirement so i think government hiring vets is going to be challengin I can't figure it out…