When preparing for an interview it can be extremely helpful to anticipate the questions you are likely to receive and to prepare your responses to those questions, so you have the opportunity to show yourself in the best light possible. For most jobs, there are certain common questions that you could expect to be asked and we’ve covered some of these previously.
One line of questioning that, perhaps surprisingly, often catches job seekers off guard relates to their resume and goes something like this: “I see on your resume that you…could you tell me more about that?” or “You have some interesting volunteer activities on your resume; could you tell me more about them?” Basically, the interviewer is looking at your resume (the one that you wrote, remember?) and picking out individual elements to ask you for more detail on.
The problem? Maybe you wrote your resume, or emailed it in, some time ago and your memory is a little fuzzy. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t be. When you’re on site for an interview you need to be sharp and having a very keenly honed sense of what you’ve said about yourself in your resume is critical.
A Filing System to Jog Your Memory
Now, if as is often recommended as a best practice, you’ve hand-crafted individual resumes when applying to individual jobs, keeping track of all of the many variations of resumes you may have floating out there can be challenging. Here’s a tip. Set up a document folder titled “Resumes” and in it save a copy of each resume you submit titled with the name of the company and position: “XYZ Company—Senior Manager,” “ABC Company—Sales and Development Specialist.” Then, when one of these companies contacts you for an interview you can quickly access the resume you sent and brush up on all of the elements it contains.
Just the (Relevant) Facts
You likely have a long list of activities, interests, experiences and educational and training events that you could include in your resume, but you should take steps to ensure that you select the most pertinent for the job you’ve applied to so that you can concisely put your best foot forward.
But don’t just provide a bulleted list. Include specific examples—quantitative examples whenever possible—so that you can illustrate results that you’ve achieved. These are likely to be the areas of interest picked up on by job interviewers, allowing you to expand on the experience, and results, during your interview.
Translate Military Experience to Corporate Relevance
You likely have some important experiences from your military career to highlight on your resume, and in your job interview, but you’ll want to make sure you’re able to translate military experience into relatable information about how that experience will benefit you—and your potential employer—in the job you’re applying for. So, when an interviewer says, “Tell me about (insert military experience)…” you’ll be able to translate that experience into language that resonates with the interviewer.
In a Sodexo blog post, employee and former member of the Army, Chris Button, offers some advice: “Think about things you did, and convert it into civilian terms. Instead of saying, ‘I was a demolitions expert handling C-4,’ try something like, ‘I was responsible for safely and effectively handling and employing high explosives which required a high attention to detail, a delicate touch, and some solid mathematical problem-solving skills.'” Some additional examples from Button:
“I led a 12-person team that coordinated efforts with others to achieve a goal.”
“I improved our efficiency rating by 23% in this area”
“We achieved a 100% success rate on the firing line.”
Your goal with all of your responses is to clearly convey how every element of your resume can be translated into a potential benefit that you can offer this company.
Here are some additional tips:
Review your resume before going to the interview to ensure that you’re as sharp as possible and intimately familiar with everything you’ve included. Practice responding to the question of “tell me more about…” for each item on your resume so that you have examples firmly in mind.
Bring a hard copy of your resume with you to the job interview and highlight any specific points that you’d like to highlight. This will allow you to refer to the resume when you’re asked those “tell me more…” questions and will be a good memory job at the point in the interview when the interviewer says: “Is there anything else you would like us to know?”
Include items on your resume that will serve as potential answers or points of reference to the commonly asked questions you’ve anticipated. Then, when asked, you can refer to your resume: “That’s a great question! In fact, while in my position at ABC Company, that’s exactly…” or “An important aspect of my military career was…on my resume you’ll see…”
It might seem a bit odd that we’re recommended that you “study your resume” prior to every job interview, but that’s precisely what you should do. Taking the time to review—and rehearse—will help to ensure that you can answer quickly, and with relevant detail, when an interviewer says: “Tell me about this item on your resume…”
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