10 “To-Do” Rules To Use in a Job Interview

July 19, 2012 |

Am I Dreaming – or am I back in the military? If these rules sound familiar it may be because these are the same standards as the military.

1. Look Sharp! - Before the interview select a couple of interview outfits. Depending on the industry, and position, get out your best duds and check them over for spots and wrinkles. Even if it is a casual environment you don’t want to look like you slept in your clothes. Above all, dress for confidence – if you feel good, others will respond to you accordingly.

2. Show up on time - Never, never, be late to an interview. Allow extra time to arrive early in the vicinity, allowing for things like “getting lost.”. Enter the building 10 or 15 minutes before the interview.

3. Be Prepared – Carry a folder that contains extra copies of your resume, a copy of your references, and paper to take notes. It is also a good idea to have some prepared questions that you want to ask, when appropriate.

4. Look Alert – A firm handshake and plenty of eye contact from the beginning, is important to demonstrate confidence. Speak distinctly, in a confident voice, even though you may feel shaky. People respond to energy – bring some with you.

5. Listen, Listen, Listen – One of the most under-utilized skills used in an interview is listening. Make sure you are not only listening but reading between the lines as well. Sometimes what is not said is just as important as what is  said.

6. Answer the Question Asked – Candidates are so eager to give an answer that they don’t think about whether their answer fits the question. Make sure you understand what is asked. Ask for clarification if you are not sure.

7. Give Specific Examples – One good specific example of your background is worth fifty vague stories. Prepare your stories ahead of the interview. Give examples that will highlight your successes and uniqueness. Your past behavior is an indicator of your future performance.

8. Ask Questions – Be prepared to ask questions. Most people don’t ask questions and miss the opportunity to find out valuable information. Your questions are an indicator of your interest in the company or job.

9. Follow up – Whether it’s through email or regular mail, the follow-up is one more chance to remind the interviewer of all the valuable traits you bring to the job/company – your added value.

10. Do Your Research – Researching, the company before the interview, and learning as much as possible about the services, the products, the customers and the competition will give you an edge understanding the problems. The more you know
about the company and what they stand for, the better chance you have of selling yourself to them.

It is important to appear confident and cool for the interview. One way to do that is to be prepared to the best of your ability. There is no way of predicting what the interview holds in store, but being “put together” will make you feel less anxious and prepared to present yourself and beat out the competition.

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 interviewquestions@interviewcoach.com, and moving forward, we’ll feature her answers in this blog.

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 Monster.com 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 Carole Martin

The Interview Coach, Carole Martin, is a celebrated author, job coach, and speaker on the subject of interviewing and recruiting. A contributing writer at Monster.com 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. Learn more about her Federal Agency Interview Coaching and Coaching for Business Interviews at www.interviewcoach.com.
I've updated my website and products - more for your money, new free bonuses and Skype Interview Coaching. www.interviewcoach.com
Interview Fitness Training ebook and audio are on sale NOW! 50% off www.interviewfitnesstraining.com


  1. Marc Couchey says:

    Thanks for the reminders. I'll be conducting a few interviews in the near future. This is a good check list to follow.

  2. Phil Linebaugh says:

    As an employer and hiring manager, I couldn't agree more with what was said in this article. Just this week I had 2 candidates come in for 1 open position. One had done the homework and prepared for the interview. One had done nothing and looked the same way. Who got the job, the first candidate did. I really didn't hear anything after I saw the appearance and asked the question, " what do you know about our company" and got the answer, "we'll not much".

  3. spud says:

    I've done everything this article states, and still I've had HR pukes and other interviewers treat me like dirt from the moment I walked in. They know they're in control and can make you dance and beg for scraps. Some day I'll just give them the finger on my way out.

    • Beeb There says:

      From what you posted here I would suggest you need an attitude adjustment. If you interview anything like your post you will come across very negatively. Sure the HR people are in control. Get with the program. That is the way it is. Some might pick up a negative attitude and specifically ask questions to see if you do have a negative attitude. If I were you I would do some practice interviews with someone that can help you work through what I think could be an attitude issue and help you to interview better.

      • papajoe says:

        I suggest spud contact the local one-stop and ask to speak to the veteran representatives in the office, DVOPs and LVERs. They should be able to help him with mock interviews or refer him to an interview workshop.

    • connie says:

      well spud… If your attitude in person is as abrasive as it is appearing to be in your writing, I can see the possible problem here. Start with not using a nickname. Don't have a funny or playful email address that you use professionally. Sometimes, they may be put off by the email used on your resume. Have a personal email, and a professional email. If you can only keep up with one, then error on the side of giving up the playful, personal email, and keeping the first.last name strategy. Once you get the job and get to know the other personnel, then the real spud can slowly emerge. Let them first see the serious Spud, that knows when to separate work from play, and will be a terrific new addition to the team!__c

    • Guest says:

      With your attitude, I can see why you were passed over. A. The hiring screeners are not "HR Pukes". To imply that they are less than qualified reflects poor judgement on your part. B. "they treat me like dirt" – do you have an attitude or are condescending when you arrive? Typically, etiquette would suggest most interviewers would use common courtesy and welcome you since they are being generous with their time. They have other jobs to do in addition to greeting your sorry ass. C. "they make you beg for scraps" – sounds like you are either less than qualified or feel that whatever position you have applied for is "beneath you". Get real, try to analyze what actual skills and measurable value you can deliver, and take a good look out into the economy; you have to start some where. Finally, giving them the finger only solidifies their decision to not hire you and worse yet, it reflects poorly on whichever military service you once represented. Remember, they do not look at you as Joe Applicant, they look at you as Joe Applicant, Former Military. Do us all a favor and check your attitude at the door.

    • Jeffrey says:


    • Robert says:

      I agree with slid for most part…After getting laid off 3 times since retirement three years ago I have went through a good number of interviews. Most places ask a million questions and few have anything to do with the position….it gets old real quick. By the way, Cooks is the worst. Been through 3 different interviews there and the people in HR conducting the interviews have little knowledge of the positions they are interviewing for.

  4. Mike Plourde says:

    Thanks for the advice, especially the one about eagerness to answer questions without thinking. I find myself doing that.

    Here in Nevada, there’s an air of arrogance you can physically feel from employers, when you enter the interview room. They know unemployment is over 13% and they figure they can be as rude to you as they want, because there’s 200 people standing behind you for the position.

    Here’s an example:

    A corporate HR person picked up my resume on the internet and we did a phone interview. He was satisfied and set up a personal interview with the district manager I would be working for. The day before the interview, this HR person sends me an e-mail reminding me how to dress, act and be sure not to take my communication device into the room (or turn it off). I’m 57. I was mildly insulted that this “kid” thought he should tell me these common sense items. This is not my first rodeo.

    So, I go to the interview and the district manager was the person who should have received the “common sense” e-mail. He rarely looked up at me as he was too occupied with his I-Pad to even remember why I was there. The next day I get an e-mail telling me the district manager decided I would not be a good fit for his team.

    Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. It permeates this job market out here in Las Vegas. Although not every interviewer is as arrogant as this district manager was, the attitude is the same (and these are Fortune 500 size companies).

    Thanks for the opportunity to (vent) comment.

    • Dave says:

      I do not know what position you may have been applying for, but what you had happen to you might have been an interview style…might have even been done to test your reaction to it. I'm older than you, but know the "kid" thing can be a real or maybe a perception of what you are up against. The person giving the interview is in the driver's seat (sometimes unfortunately) so you need to go with the flow. I have interviewed hundreds of people and very rarely would I use a pressure or ignore you style. However, it is a way to test your reaction to that type of treatment. Sometimes the first interviewer will spot something about you that might be a "problem", but the rest of the interview you were on target. The second interview (or hiring manager) would have talked to the first interviewer and decided to test you further on that issue. Maybe that is why you are getting this type of interview. You might want to try to put the interviewer more at ease or do practice interviews with a job placement trainer so you are more at ease Good luck!!

    • Lee Anne says:

      I agree, I see this HR attitude as age discrimination. I remember sitting in on interviews with my boss (who was 20 years younger than me) where after the person left would make comments about their age. I think there is often a bias against the military as well.

    • Lyn says:

      I too have gone to an interview and was actually asked for a Federal ID and a State ID. I had my VA picture ID for federal and my driver's license for State. The HR person went into a tizzy because they did not know how to handle a VA picture ID. That was an actual clearance ID. They said I needed to bring back a passport. I was polite and realized they must have just got out of highschool. But I am some what concerned with who is running these fortune 500 companies. Maybe I was that silly when I was that age? Personally, if it was me, I would have questioned what to accept as federal ID before starting the interviews. Remember as an HR person I should know how to do my job too.

    • Gary says:

      You're 57 – that ended the inteview right on the spot. Had nothing to do with your qualifications or presentation. I'm 63 and they won't even look me in the eye.

    • Some of what you say has some merit. Too many HR representative "forget" the part about "human" in human resources. When they get 20 applications for one position and the hiring manager has told them "give me the top three" that "forces" them to become somewhat mercenary. I have seen where some businesses hire the first qualified candidate they get…and other go into agonizing processes that take months. As hard as it might be …be as upbeat and professional as you can …to all (including HR). Its a good habit anyway but you will maximize your chances. Displaying a negative demeanor will give the HR screeners (the ones you refer to as "pukes" a reason to eliminate you from consideration. And…it only takes one success.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    Yes, they can be rude and indignant, if they want to be. It's an empoyer market. However, after doing your homework on the company and if it is a company worth working for, then you need to remember, that person will not be your boss and get over the poor bedside manor he exibited. If you feel he represents that company's philosophy, then maybe that company is not worthy of your talents and move on. Try to be like the good salesperson and don't take it personally. You would probably be too good for them anyway.

  6. Lyn says:

    I agree on the age discriminiation. I can see as soon as I enter the room that they are disappointed I am not 20 years younger. I am some what concerned how they think I achieved all that experience and did not add a few years. Was there no clue when I put 20 years experience. that would make me at least 40 plus.

  7. Lynn says:

    I have gone to testing for a large corporation and having worked for the coporation knwo the score on the testing. I do know that when someone was not to be hired due to age (of course we did ot age discriminate) they were directed to a certain computer. This person was set to fail before they even begun. I know one computer that was being used actually had keys that did not move because they were stuck due to someone spilling sugared coffee on them. Once the test was started you could not stop it and that was your final chance. Since Ihad worked for the company as was a union memeber this was taken care of but my concern was how many people were not hired and well qualified. Also how many people were not the most qualified but since their equipment worked they pbarely passed and made the job. I found usually those people were weeded out with the next 6 months. But they were hired because their friend was in the HR department and had a pay check for 6 months. I think a large corporation should not hire just because they have been recommended by a friend. Seems that starts a chain of problems in the end. Use to be it was a great way to get good employees but not any more.

  8. JLB says:

    Lynn, I agree.

  9. Dave says:

    When working for the City of Norfolk, VA, HR DEPT I was insulted to learn the bias against former service members in every city department. I recall a Marine that applied for a job. He came direct from the White House staff, yet the best I could do was persuade Public Works staff was that yes, he was probably "trainable". Like most civilians, they only knew what they saw in the movies, and even doubted my Vietnam service. One would think that Norfolk, a "Navy" town by any standard, would be more inclined to understand what talents service members had, but this was not the case.

    • Gary says:

      Dave, you missed the days of the "sailors and dogs stay off the grass" signs in the yards in Norfolk. Yes, I saw them with my own eyes and experienced the attitude of the city when in port. While it was during Viet Nam, attitudes like that take a long time to disappear!

  10. CPTCumorah says:

    I had trouble in every school job since retirement from military (and 2 wars). A warrior has defended their right to practice foolishness an inaccuracy of "political correctness" but the experience you carry makes you an enemy antagonist not the actual DIVERSITY they need. The public schools are very far removed from reality of rest of the world. When you have picked up body parts on the battlefield or held a wounded buddy as he dies, or a woman who has been raped, it is hard to accept teachers who think even a child's picture of a pistol, or a stick, or the word "pretty" makes a student violent or sexually abusive….yet teachers and administrators get away with it and nobody notices about their distortions (and persecution) they call "education."

  11. Belle says:

    All of my job interviews for civilian jobs began by my looking around the office and picking out a picture or decorative item that caught my eye and began my conversation/interview with a 15 to 20 minute discussion (pics of kids and especially pets are a great way to break the ice). The last 5 minutes discussed what I thought I was worth (pay). I always got hired. I never worried about the above referenced list (except I always had plenty of resumes). I think that future bosses and HR are looking for personable people to get along with. You have to be able to get along with people you are going to be around all day. And it also gives the potental employee (me/you) an idea of who you will be working with.