The ability to effectively communicate how one’s skills, experiences and leadership qualities best meet the needs of an organization during a job interview is a result of preparation and practice. That’s according to a panel of Naval Air System Command (NAVAIR) senior hiring managers during an Oct. 3 workshop entitled, “Acing the Interview: Practical Steps to Getting the Job You Want.”
The four-hour event, which featured mock interviews and a question and answer session, targeted junior military and civilian NAVAIR Sustainment Group employees. Product Support Management/Integration Department Technical Director Rick Walton organized the event. He said the workshop was held to help employees understand what to expect in an interview, how to best respond to questions and ways to improve their likelihood of being hired.
“We wanted to provide a forum where they could hear the perspectives of several different hiring managers firsthand,” he explained. “The workshop was also an opportunity to get feedback on their mock interview performance as well as learn from their peers.”
Walton and seven panelists—Assistant Program Executive Office-Sustainment (A-PEO-S) Lead for Weapons Drew Rutherford; Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) Division Head for Strike Weapons Denise Gontarek; NAWCAD Division Manager Matt Brennan; Logistics Management Integration Department, NAWCAD Patuxent River Site Lead Bill Humphrey; A-PEO-S Lead for Unmanned Weapons Bill Matzen; A-PEO-S Lead for Common Systems Jim Francisco; and Production Support Manager for U.S. Marine Corps Light/Attack Helicopter Program (PMA-276) Carrie LaMere—shared their advice with more than 30 junior military and civilians based on their professional and personal experiences.
One of the first steps to prepare for an interview, Walton advised, is for candidates to compose a one-to-two minute introduction of themselves. They should then research the position, think of possible interview questions and practice answering them under a time constraint.
“Scripting your narrative helps overcome nervousness,” LaMere said. “You’ll have a limited time to answer multiple questions. It’s also a good way to envision how you’ll compose yourself in the interview.”
Humphrey said candidates must strive to distinguish themselves above all other applicants in their responses. “Your answers should be specific to your experiences,” he explained. “Communicate how it ties to the job you are interviewing for at that time.”
A candidate’s responses should not solely be a list of tactical activities of previous positions, but how they relate to the challenges of the new position, according to Brennan. “It’s not only about what you have done, but the results and how they were achieved,” he said. “Describe how you overcame obstacles and exceeded the expectation for the tasks you were responsible for.”
“A good answer is based on what you’ve done,” Gontarek added. “A better answer tells a narrative of how you interpreted a problem and how you approached and implemented the solution.”
This approach requires thought, organization and practice before the application process, said Matzen. “You should know what value you will bring to the organization before the day of the interview,” he advised. “Each candidate is given the interview questions 15 minutes prior to going before the panel. Decide how you are going to answer them and formulate a game plan. Success is all about preparation.”
“Your responses should change from past tense—what you did—to future tense—how it relates to the work you will do,” LaMere added. “Keep in mind the intent of question. The answer to a leadership question will be different than an answer to a technical one.”
Panel members also recommended candidates strengthen their position by emphasizing their Journey Leadership Development Program/Naval Acquisition Development Program experiences and consulting with their mentors.
“Mentors are valuable resources,” Matzen said. “Leverage their knowledge and expertise. Get feedback from them on your strengths and weakness. Acting on their guidance can set you apart from the other candidates.”
Panel members encouraged workshop participants to continue to seek opportunities to advance their careers until they find success. “Both the interviewers and the candidates are pursuing a similar goal: finding the best fit for the job,” Walton said. “The result benefits you, the organization and the Navy.”