Your Job and Career Seach Resource

For Smarter Job Search

Linked In Facebook Twitter

A Job Interview Cheat Sheet for Your Transition to the Civilian Job World

By Patra Frame

As you prepare to find a new opportunity, research target organizations that interest you.

Because you want to discover if the employer is a good match for you, have questions that are important to you ready to ask.

Most employers interpret a candidate's lack of questions as a lack of interest. If you aren't interested in them, they are not interested in you. End of opportunity!

Obviously, some questions you ask will depend on the level or type of position and the phase in the hiring process. Use the Cheat Sheet as a starting point. 

Modify the Cheat Sheet as necessary and appropriate for you.

Find Your Next Job Here
job title, keywords
city, state, zip
jobs by job search

Job Interview Cheat Sheet Contents

Here are some of the questions you can ask yourself and interviewers to learn both the organization’s approach to your field and your interest level. 

See how the answers you recieve compare with the results of your own research about the organization.

You will want to research most to help in deciding to target a specific organization. Also ask questions while you are networking.

When you get to the interview stage, ask a number of specific questions of each interviewer. The more you ask, the better you will be able to assess the reality versus the "sales pitch." That assessment is especially critical for military folks who want to successfully transition to the civilian job world.

Do NOT be afraid to ask questions!

This process helps you assess the opportunity and how much it matches your goals and needs. And many hiring managers will assess you on the quality of your questions. "How much vacation will I get" is a negative. "What are the critical few goals for the first three months" is a positive. 

[Related: How to Answer: Do You Have Any Questions and Job Interview Success: Asking the Right Questions.

Having no questions at all is often interpreted as a lack of interest.

This is by no means an exhaustive list! But it should give you a good start on creating your own.

Let the "cheat sheet" help you think about the basic information you need so that you can make a good choice.

Job Interview Cheat Sheet

These are "top-level" questions applicable to any organization and job. Don’t forget to add questions specific to your personal and professional goals!

A. The Organization:

  • What is the strategy?
  • Is there a strategic plan? How is it used?
  • Who is involved in strategic planning?
  • What is the vision? Mission?
  • How is the vision manifested in the organization?
  • What is the culture currently? Is the culture seen as positive?
  • Are there culture change issues or plans?
  • Who are the major competitors?
  • What is this organization’s market share in comparison?
  • Are trends increasing competition or not?
  • What are the critical business issues facing the organization?

B. Executive View of the Function:

  • What is the function's role within the organization?
  • What are the current critical issues?
  • What are longer-term critical issues?
  • How do these relate to the primary business issues?
  • Is the top person in the function a member of the executive staff?
  • What role, if any, does the top person have with the BOD?
  • What does each executive interviewed see as the role of the function?
  • What experience does the person have with your potential role?
  • What are the "critical few" objectives for the next 6 months? 12 months?

C. Immediate Manager’s Views:

  • What is the function's role within the organization?
  • Is it seen as effective as is?
  • Are there plans that will change the role in the next year?
  • How is the function currently organized? Is it effective?
  • How are current staff members seen within the organization?
  • Who are peers to this position? Subordinates?
  • What aspects are currently outsourced?
  • Why those functions?
  • What are the "critical few" objectives for this position in next 6 months? Year?
  • What are the key projects related to:
    • Critical business issues
    • Strategic plan
    • Operations/business plan
    • Internal initiatives
  • What results are expected in the first year?
  • What resources are available?
  • What is the budget?
  • How will performance be measured?
  • Timetable?
  • What is the current level of turnover in the company? In the function?
  • Why is the position open? How long has it been open?
  • Are there internal candidates?
  • Previous incumbent’s successes?

Assessing and Maintaining Your Interview Cheat Sheet

As you gain experience in the interview process, modify and update your Cheat Sheet as needed:

ADD those qualities that are important to you and match your goals and values. Consider your needs versus wants such as specific programs, professional growth, ability to mentor others, a short commute or whatever.

SUBTRACT the questions which are not important for your level or goals.

And compare the answers you get in interviews to those you get from your network and in your research of the organization’s public information. Too often the "talk" is not the "walk."

Bottom Line

This cheat sheet is a starting point.  Don't be afraid to bring in into an interview with you or to make notes about the answers you recieve. Some interviewers gauge interest by the questions asked and the notes taken.

About the author...

Patra Frame has extensive experience in human capital management and career issues in large and small corporations. She is an Air Force vet and charter member of The Women In Military Service for America Memorial.  Patra speaks and writes regularly on job search and career issues through her company Strategies for Human Resources (SHRInsight) and where she blogs advice for veterans and other job seekers. Watch Patra's job search tips videos on YouTube, and follow her on Twitter @2Patra and on Google+.

Over 50? Want work?
Real employers who value your experience are looking for you here.

Find Jobs in all states
Jobs across the state - not available elsewhere on the Web. Only here.

Need additional staff?
Post your jobs on Indeed.
Search Indeed resumes.

Veterans' Job Search Home:

Preparing for Transition:

Choosing Your Civilian Career:

Implementing Your Civilian Job Search:

Veteran's Job Search Tools:

The Job Search Process:

Veteran's Career Options:

More Resources for Veterans' Job Search:

Veterans' Job Search Experts: