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They liked your resume. You got the interview. You’re golden, right? No need to prepare or rehearse. After all, you tell yourself, you’re better when you just “wing it.”

What a mistake.

A job interview is a serious step in consideration for an open position. This may turn out to be your dream job, a position that launches the rest of your career in more meaningful and rewarding ways. Why leave something this important to chance and rely on your ability to be spontaneous?

Instead, use this checklist to ensure you’re ready, prepared, organized and still genuine in the job interview:

1. Am I clear on the requirements of the job? Spend time really understanding what the job is (and isn’t) and what it entails. Avoid projecting what you believe it is, based on job title or what you may have heard, and dive into what someone doing that job at that company does all day.

2. Am I clear on how my experience, skills, competencies and talents align with the necessary and preferred requirements of the job? Align your military work with the work of this job, in civilian terms, so you can speak to them confidently.

3. Have I researched the interviewer(s), the company and the team online (their website, LinkedIn, anywhere else)?

4. Have I practiced my opening statement? Remembering that how I introduce myself sets the stage for a good interview, am I organized, enthusiastic and clear in how I share a bit about myself? Practicing how I’ll answer the “Tell me about yourself” question will ensure I won’t make mistakes.

5. Have I organized my examples and experiences in ways that are easy to recall and then share? When asked behavioral interview questions, can I quickly bring up the right response in the right way?

6. If someone helped me with my resume, can I speak to all my experiences? If the language has changed too much from military to civilian, am I able to speak clearly to what I did in the military?

7. Am I relaxed and composed? If I feel anxious, distracted or upset, can I do some deep breathing or calming exercises to be sure I represent myself well?

8. Have I gone over lists of sample interview questions? Do I feel confident in my replies? If I’ve been challenged with a response in another interview in the past, do I have a better answer for that question now?

9. If this is a video interview, have I:

10. If this is a phone interview, am I someplace quiet and free from distractions? Am I using a headset or earbuds so my hands are free to take notes?

11. If this is an in-person interview, have I:

12. Do I have questions ready to ask them? Even if they answer some of my questions during the conversation, do I have others I can expand on?

13. Have I practiced all my anticipated responses with a friend or colleague? What feedback or guidance did they offer?

14. Can I put a small note next to my camera (video interview) to remind myself to smile and show myself as approachable and professional?

15. Have I organized my follow-up so it’s ready to go? Do I have the names of the people I met with so I can either send a handwritten, thank-you note or an email expressing interest, appreciation and asking any follow-up questions? If I was asked to provide more information, what’s my plan to accomplish that?

A job interview is an important step in building your career. Taking charge of how you’ll show up in an interview ensures you’ll come across as confident, organized and polished.

The author of “Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty” (2020) and “Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition” (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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