Interview tips to help veterans enter the IT workforce

For veterans, the skills and experience gained in the military uniquely prepare them for a rewarding civilian career. But as it is most job-seekers, the interview process can be a challenge. With these seven tips, you'll be well-prepared to nail your in-person interview.

Tech Interview tips for veterans

Tech Interview tips for veterans

The military provides great job skills, leadership, collaboration experience and, training, positioning lots of veterans to land jobs in civilian life. But for many, navigating the interview process can be nerve-wracking. Here are five tips for nailing that in-person interview and making a successful transition from the military workplace to a civilian one.

Understand the job

Understand the job

Study the employer's job description, similar positions at their competitors' sites, and general job descriptions in your chosen field so that you have a full understanding of the tasks you'll be asked to perform, the outcomes that will result, and where they fit into the bigger strategic picture of what the employer is trying to do, according to Jennifer Renee Pluta, assistant director of veteran and military families for MBA@Syracuse.

2 know yourself

Know yourself

Be prepared to discuss your skills, traits, knowledge areas and experiences and how they align with the job's qualifications and duties, especially those that are military-related, Pluta says. "An employer may not see how or why your military experience aligns with the job or role. It is up to you to make those connections, and show how you can provide unique value and experience, in the interview," Pluta says.

Know the company and industry

Know the company and industry

Research employers and talk to others in your networks -- both military and civilian -- about the work environment, the employer's work culture and values. "This can be done via the employer's website, through LinkedIn, through researching industry websites, and also through career resources at your closest college or university," says Pluta. You can also try sites like Glassdoor and Indeed to find out what it's like to work with specific employers. A newer option is CareerLabs, which offers many more filters for job seekers, including options for companies actively looking to hire veterans, for example, or specific work-life balance and culture variables.

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4 prepare questions

Prepare questions in advance

Remember, interviews are a two-way street. While you'll certainly expect to answer many questions about yourself, your skills and experience, and your military service, make sure you have plenty of questions for the recruiter, hiring manager or HR professional, too, Pluta says. "You're expected to ask questions; you are also interviewing the company to ascertain if it is a good fit for you. Employers love candidates with insightful, purposeful questions that will illustrate how prepared you are and how well you've done your homework, she says.

Highlight unique qualifications

Highlight unique qualifications

Military service can be a huge boon for job seekers, especially in the IT industry, where experience with cutting-edge technology and leadership and collaboration skills are highly valued. Were you in command of a team? Did you work with others on special projects and missions? Do you have medical training? How about specialized IT skills? High-level security clearance? Many of these can give you an edge over others competing for the same job, and are extremely valuable to employers in a tough job market. Make sure you're highlighting these unique attributes in an interview.

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Practice makes perfect

Practice makes perfect

Practice your interviewing skills and solicit feedback from family, friends or fellow soldiers -- anyone who's willing to help, says Pluta. "Do not assume that just because you achieved a certain rank or level of military expertise you're guaranteed a job offer; if you are not prepared it will show in the interview. Therefore, practice, practice, practice -- it is never too early to prepare," she says.

Connect with veterans' organizations

Connect with veterans' organizations

Many non-profit organizations exist to help returning veterans land civilian jobs, like Hire Our Heroes and Combat Veterans to Careers. There are also numerous companies and organizations with veteran-specific initiatives that are looking to train and/or hire veterans; SANS VetSuccess immersion academy program offers cybersecurity training, for example, while Lockheed Martin and Verizon are just two firms actively seeking the specialized knowledge and leadership skills veterans possess.

[ Related Story: Air Force Veteran to IT: 'Live Your Dreams' ]