Each veteran has their own reasons for leaving the military. The decision to leave the military, whether after one tour, ten years, or a full career is often a difficult one. The reasons behind such a difficult decision can sometimes be intensely personal. As a result, some veterans stumble when asked the common interview question “Why did you leave the military?” By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can craft an answer that you can deliver comfortably while remaining true to yourself.
1. Don’t Take it Personally
You may feel like the interviewer is questioning your patriotism or sense of duty with this question. This is not the case. The question of why you left your last job is very common in interviews across all career fields. The interviewer would most likely ask a similar question to any applicant regardless of whether they were a veteran. If you take this question as a personal affront and get upset, you are sure to tank the interview.
2. Don’t Be Negative
Regardless of how you may feel about your time in the service, do not present it in a negative light during the interview. The interview is not the time to discuss that one of your supervisors was a jerk, or that military life was not quite how the recruiter presented it. If you speak poorly of prior jobs and prior bosses, why would a new boss expect you to treat her differently?
3. Don’t Over-Share
The decision to leave the military may have been a gut wrenching decision for you. Veterans are motivated by duty and patriotism and leaving the service can feel a bit like you have abandoned those important ideals. The details and emotions of this decision are again something to keep out of the interview. Keep it professional.
How you should answer the question “Why did you leave the Military?”
To answer the question well, focus on the positive. You set out to serve your country, you did so with honor, and you are now ready to move on to the next phase in your life. Here is an example answer. You’ll want to craft your own, but this can be a guide.
“When I joined the military, I was eager to do my part to serve my country. I’ve fulfilled that duty honorably. I enjoyed my time in the service. I met a lot of great people and learned a tremendous amount about how to lead, work with a team, and get things done. I wouldn’t trade my time in the service for anything, but I’m ready to move on to the next phase in my life. I’m eager to apply all that I have learned in future challenges as a civilian.”
That answer is positive, concise, and highlights all you gained from the service and how you can bring that to your new job. What company wouldn’t want an employee like that?
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