51 Behavioral Interview Questions & Answers To Master

By Hannah Morgan | Career Sherpa - Reprinted with permission

Interviews are less stressful if you have some idea of what questions you'll be asked. Since behavioral interview questions have become quite popular over the years, you can expect some to be thrown your way. Read this guide to learn more about behavioral interview questions, get a list of the most common questions employers ask, and see some sample behavioral interview questions and answers to help you visualize the process. Plus get actionable tips on how to prepare and respond when you're asked to give examples of how you handle situations at work. What Are Behavioral Interview Questions? When a recruiter or hiring manager asks questions during a job interview, it's likely they will ask you to tell them about a time when you...... Read more

Project Sanctuary helps military families heal

By VAntagePoint Contributor | VAntage Point Contributor © 2021, Reprinted with permission

Project Sanctuary hosts Veteran and active duty families through six-day therapeutic retreats at locations across the United States. While at retreats, families participate in sessions directed at improving relationships, financial literacy and mental health. Recreational activities are strategically designed to improve family cohesiveness by providing opportunities that create bonding, improved communication and trust. The key elements of these retreats allow for connections between Veterans and other Veterans, families with other families, and Project Sanctuary staff and volunteers with participants. Most importantly, retreats bring a renewed sense of closeness and connection within the family unit.... Read more

How To Write A Letter Of Interest + Effective Samples

By Hannah Morgan | Career Sherpa - Reprinted with permission

What do you do when there's a company you'd love to work for but they don't have any openings available? You could wait until one is posted and then be one of over 250 candidates that apply. Or you could proactively reach out and pitch yourself. Pitching yourself may feel outside of your comfort zone, but I'm going to lay it all out here and teach you how to write a letter of interest that will get you noticed. What Is A Letter Of Interest? A letter of interest is written by a job seeker when they are interested in working for a company that does not appear to have any job opportunities listed. Rather than simply sending your resume into their applicant tracking system and hoping the company will search for someone with your...... Read more

This Mental Health Month, explore advice from Veterans to Veterans

By VAntagePoint Contributor | VAntage Point Contributor © 2021, Reprinted with permission

When facing a big, intimidating project, sometimes it's easier to break it down into smaller tasks. Especially when those tasks build on each other until the goal is achieved. That approach can also work for improving your mental health. That's why for Mental Health Month, VA is encouraging Veterans to take One Step Today from a list of 10 ideas — for Veterans, from Veterans — that have helped many others improve their well-being. The list includes activities that can help Veterans move toward a better future — starting today. Among the suggestions are exploring creativity, learning to forgive, and opening up about how you're feeling. No matter how big or small, One Step Today can lead to meaningful, long-term change.... Read more

Applying to Positions with Clearance

By Thomas Braden | U.S. Navy Vet and Author of A Veteran's Guide to Transition: Active Duty to Government Service

Considerations and steps of application process to a position with security clearance or access requirements... Read more

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AUTOMOTIVE TECHNICIAN - Seattle Land Rover Jaguar - Lynnwood - WA
  • A Veteran's Guide to Transition: Active Duty to Government Service

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September 23, 2021 - Washington, DC Metro area 9 AM - 12 PM EST

Save the date to meet in person with many top companies and government agencies in the Washington, DC Metro area (location TBD) at the September 23 Military-Friendly Job Fair. This is an excellent opportunity to interview with employers face-to-face. Physical security precautions will be taken, and all CDC recommended safety guidelines will be in place. Be sure to apply for positions in advance and be prepared to tell the company recruiters how your skills and experience fit their staffing needs. For more information and to register, visit: CorporateGray.com/jobfairs/437.

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September 24, 2021 - Online 11 AM - 2 PM EST

Save the date to meet with many top companies and government agencies online at the September 24 Virtual Military-Friendly Job Fair. Take advantage of this excellent opportunity to interview with top employers via text chats and video. Apply for positions in advance and be prepared to tell the company recruiters how your skills and experience fit their staffing needs. For more information and to register, visit: CorporateGray.com/jobfairs/434.

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51 Behavioral Interview Questions & Answers To Master

By Hannah Morgan | Career Sherpa - Reprinted with permission

Interviews are less stressful if you have some idea of what questions you'll be asked. Since behavioral interview questions have become quite popular over the years, you can expect some to be thrown your way.

Read this guide to learn more about behavioral interview questions, get a list of the most common questions employers ask, and see some sample behavioral interview questions and answers to help you visualize the process. Plus get actionable tips on how to prepare and respond when you're asked to give examples of how you handle situations at work.

 

What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?

When a recruiter or hiring manager asks questions during a job interview, it's likely they will ask you to tell them about a time when you...

These types of questions are referred to as behavioral interview questions because they help the interviewer understand and evaluate your behavior, as well as your skills.

Imagine trying to evaluate someone's skills without actually seeing the work being performed. That's the challenge recruiters face when selecting candidates for a job. The next best thing is to ask you to describe how you've solved a problem.

Behavioral questions are designed to help interviewers learn how you would respond to a specific situation and how you solve problems to achieve successful results.

Behavioral interview questions require the candidate to explain how you resolved an issue, solved a problem or fixed something. Embedded within each answer are the human drivers or qualities that show why you took the actions you did. It's like a small peek into what motivates you.

Here's what you know:

You and your co-workers approached tasks differently. Imagine you were both interviewing for the same job. Your titles and work would look the same, but how you performed the job would come across differently during the job interview. Those are the subtle differences interviewers hope to discover from asking behavior interview questions. And your unique style of getting work done is exactly what you want to emphasize during the interview. Clearly and concisely.

Behavioral interview answers are the proof or evidence of your soft skills as well as your ability to do the job.

Start today by recalling situations that show future employers you have what they are looking for, especially specific examples that highlight: productivity, leadership, teamwork, initiative, planning, flexibility/adaptability and interpersonal skills.

When practicing how to answer behavioral interview questions, you don't need to prepare thousands of possible responses. Instead, think about the skills and behaviors your future employer needs. Some of the skills and behaviors are fairly common and would apply to almost any position with any company. Just look at the job description to see which skills are being requested.

Here are common categories you can prepare for during your upcoming interview:

  • Career/Experience
  • Motivation/Self Awareness
  • Conflict/Stress
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability/Flexibility
  • Problem Solving/Decision Making
  • Planning/Organizing
  • Leadership/Teamwork
  • Presentation/Communication
  • Follow Through

Common Behavioral Interview Questions

There are certain types of questions you can anticipate and prepare for. This list of 50 common behavioral interview questions is broken down by what skills or qualities the interviewer is evaluating.

The types of questions you are asked will vary by your role and level of seniority. In other words, if the job doesn't require you to deliver presentations, you probably won't be asked to talk about a time you had to deliver a presentation to a group.

During a one-hour interview, you can probably expect to be asked approximately 10-20 questions, many will be behavioral interview questions.

Career/Work History
  1. Can you describe for me one of your most important accomplishments?
  2. Describe for me one of the biggest disappointments in your work history.
  3. What special aspects of your education or training have prepared you for this job?
  4. What specific things in your past experience that affected your present career objectives?
  5. How do you go about making an important decision affecting your career?
  6. Give an example of how you used what you learned from the last professional development course you took.
Motivation/Self Awareness
  1. Tell me about a difficult obstacle you have had to overcome.
  2. Give me an example of a time you took initiative or took the role as a self-starter.
  3. Provide an example of what gave you the greatest satisfaction at work?
  4. Give an example of a time something frustrated you at work and how you handled it.
  5. Describe your most significant failure in the last 2 years.
  6. Give me an example of an experience on the job that you felt was satisfying.
  7. Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
  8. Tell me about a time you have been told, or discovered yourself, a problem in your job performance, and what have you done?
Conflict/Stress
  1. Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
  2. Give me an example of the most difficult conflict situation in which you were involved?
  3. Tell me about a time you disagreed with a supervisor.
  4. Tell me about a time you had to stand up for your beliefs.
  5. Tell me about a time you disagreed with your manager's leadership style or team culture.
  6. Tell me about a time when you were in conflict with a peer and how the situation was resolved.
  7. Tell me about a time you wish you'd handled a situation with a coworker differently.
  8. Tell me about a time you encountered pressure on the job and how you handled it.
  9. Give me an example of the problems you encountered in doing your last job? Which ones frustrate you the most?
Adaptability/Flexibility
  1. Tell me about a time you had to learn something quickly.
  2. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond your regular job responsibilities in order to get a job done.
  3. Tell me about the adjustments you had to make to your schedule working virtually.
  4. Give me an example of how you communicate with your manager and co-workers in a remote setting.
Problem Solving/Decision Making
  1. Give me an example of the most difficult decision you made in the past year.
  2. The last time you did not know what decision to make, what did you do?
  3. Tell me about a time when you had to analyze information and make a recommendation.
  4. Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  5. Give an example of when you took full responsibility for solving a problem only to find out that you really should have included others in the process.
Planning/Organizing
  1. Tell me about a time when you were faced with conflicting priorities.
  2. Give an example of something you've recently scheduled.
  3. Tell me about how you met your objectives this year.
Leadership/Teamwork
  1. Tell me about a time when you motivated others.
  2. Can you give me an example of your ability to manage or supervise others?
  3. Tell me about a time when you had to get your team together to establish a common approach to a problem.
  4. Tell me about a time when needed to get your team to accept your ideas or department goals.
  5. How would you describe your basic leadership style? Give specific examples of how you practice this.
  6. Tell me about a tie when you led a group who doesn't report to you, but from whom you have to get work.
Creativity
  1. In your work experience, what have you done that you consider truly creative?
  2. Can you think of a problem you have encountered when the old solutions didn't work and when you came up with new solutions?
  3. What kind of problems have people recently called on you to solve? Tell me what you devised?
Presentation/Communication
  1. Tell me about a time you had to give a presentation? How did you prepare?
  2. Give me an example of a time when you had to explain a complex idea or topic to people with less subject knowledge.
  3. Tell me about the most recent writing project you've worked on.
  4. Tell me about a time you had to build rapport with a coworker or client whose personality was different than yours?
Follow Through
  1. Give me an example of a time when you had to make sure that due dates were met for work that you delegated?
  2. Tell me about a time when you gathered feedback from a customer after you completed a project/task or made a delivery?
  3. Tell me about one of the methods you've used to follow up on your projects, tasks, assignments.

Sample Questions And Answers

To help you formulate your own responses, here are some sample behavioral interview questions and answers. You will notice that these sample answers follow a similar format. One of the best ways to structure your answers to behavioral interview questions is using the STAR format.

Use STAR to organize the information you include in your answer. This ensures you include just the important information the interviewer needs to hear. It also requires you to remember and discuss a specific situation, task, action, and result in your answer.

Here's more detail on what to include in each element:

  • Situation: Describe the situation. Use who, what, where, when, why and how to help you structure the information. Describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. This situation can be from a previous job, a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
  • Task: What goal were you working toward? What were you being asked to do?
  • Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on YOU. What specific steps did you take and what was your particular contribution? Use the word "I," not "we" when describing actions.
  • Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and don't be shy about taking credit for the outcome. Be sure to mention measurable or quantifiable results. Was there an increase in performance, efficiency, profitability or impact?

Keep your answer concise and on track by including all elements in your answer using the STAR format. Be as specific as possible without rambling or including too much information.

Never use a generic answer like "I always appreciate different viewpoints from my own. When someone expresses a different opinion, I listen carefully to what the person says and utilize that feedback." While this answer is technically good, it lacks the details and specifics. An interviewer would find it hard to evaluate your skills or believe you had experience handling the situation.

Can you describe for me one of your most important accomplishments?

This behavioral interview question is your opportunity to share one of the top achievements in your career. When selecting your accomplishment, be sure it is relevant to the job you are interviewing for.

Answer: When I was leading the engineering team at XYZ company, we needed to redesign a component to increase output on a printer. I gathered a team made up of sales reps, manufacturing, marketing and engineering to identify what a successful outcome would look like.

After months of meetings spent evaluating costs and timelines, we developed a component that increased the printer's quality and quantity of printed materials. This new component was used in every new machine produced and increased sales by 25% globally.

Tell me about a difficult obstacle you have had to overcome.

The interviewer wants to know how you handle pressure, challenges, adversity and tenacity. Focus you answer on the steps you took to overcome the obstacle.

Answer: While working on a time-sensitive client project, I found the printer was jammed. I first reloaded the paper bins and followed the printer's error instructions and within minutes the printer was back online.

Not only was my report in the queue but so were several other jobs. The final client report was proofed and delivered ahead of schedule. I also delivered the other print jobs to their owners to keep their workflow on track.

Tell me about a time you disagreed with a supervisor or co-worker.

This behavioral interview question evaluates how you view your relationships at work and how you handle conflict. It also shows how you communicate during uncomfortable and uncertain situations. Keep your opinions and emotions out of your answer and state the facts.

Answer: My previous manager had specific ideas about what she wanted in our social media marketing campaigns. She wanted to use text dense graphics. As the lead designer, I believed that a simple call to action was more convincing.

After much discussion, we compromised, and ran each campaign for one week. We then collected the insights related to customer engagement. It turns out that my campaigns performed better so from that point forward, she allowed me to manage our social media independently.

Tell me about how you met your objectives this year?

Your ability to set goals and prioritize actions to meet the objectives for your own personal development shows how you structure time and manage priorities. It also evaluates your thought process and motivation.

Answer: In my role as event planner, I was accountable for coordinating events for current and potential customers. As you can imagine, this was quite challenging last year.

After meeting with my manager, we decided to take a brief pause in offering events. I developed a roadmap for monthly meetings with current customers on Zoom which was distributed through emails twice a month. I also collaborated with sales to create a four-part masterclass on selling for potential customers. Our monthly customer meetings averaged 10-30 customers per call and the masterclass enrollment was 100.

Tell me about a time when needed to get your team to accept your ideas or department goals.

No matter what role you hold in a company, you need to be able to "sell" your ideas to the team, your manager or a customer. Persuasion and communication are important skills.

Answer: We were rolling out a new workshop and needed the team to support it and encourage students to attend it. We knew that adding another thing to students' schedules would be looked at as unnecessary.

My manager and I planned a launch meeting and built an agenda for maximum interactivity. The idea was to have our team actually experience what the workshop would be like. After experiencing the benefits and outcomes of the workshop, our team was enthusiastic about recommending it to students and provided first-hand testimonials.

Tell me about a time you had to build rapport with a coworker or client whose personality was different than yours?

This behavioral interview question evaluates your interpersonal skills. The interviewer wants to understand what steps you take to bridge differing opinions or work styles.

Answer: While working on a website redesign project, I had to collaborate with team members from across the country and even in different countries. When we launched the project, the first few minutes of each meeting, I did a mini team building exercise where we'd work on solving a light hearted problem together. Once that was completed, each member would deliver their 2 minute update.

What I found was that the exercises helped establish trust among the team and a shared sense of accountability. This made it easier to deliver tough messages or to ask people to work more quickly.

Tell me about a complicated problem you have had to deal with.

The interviewer wants to understand how you go about solving complicated problems. In other words, how you identified or gained more understanding of that problem and what steps you took to resolve it.

Answer: Our customer service team was receiving an increased number of complaints about items arriving late. I reviewed our delivery schedule then met with the staff involved in the customer delivery process. What we discovered was that the delay was with our shipping provider. In speaking with the vendor, we came to the realization that there was nothing we could do to reduce shipping times.

I contacted two other vendors and asked for a quote and delivery estimates. After several weeks of negotiations, I finally recommended we change vendors which would guarantee delivery within 3 days. But this would also cost 3% more. We ultimately increased our pricing but also issued a guaranteed delivery date and all customer delivery complaints have stopped.

Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond your regular job responsibilities in order to get a job done.

The answer to this behavioral interview question will show your motivation, drive and initiative.

Answer: Outside of my regular responsibilities, I took the initiative to coordinate monthly lunch and learn meetings to increase our marketing team's knowledge of important digital marketing trends.

I invited each team member to submit a list of topics they were interested in and topics they would be interested in presenting. The monthly meetings are well-attended and have helped our team initiate new ideas, increasing our digital content output by 40%.

What was your most difficult decision in the past year?

This question is actually several questions — what do you perceive as difficult, what made it difficult and how did you handle it. It's evaluating how you handle the decision making process. Answer in a way that doesn't make you look like the victim in the situation and by no means should you criticize or disparage others.

Answer: The decision to lay employees is always difficult — personally and professionally. We had just lost three major clients and I had no choice but to let go of two employees who managed those accounts.

It was truly a financial decision based on budget reductions, but I still felt horrible for my employees. I delivered the news to these employees as empathetically as I could and made sure they all fully understood the details of their severance packages. In the end, they all walked away knowing that the decision was purely business-related.

Tell me about a time when you were faced with conflicting priorities.

Your time management and decision making skills are being evaluated by this question. Make sure you focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Don't go into the negative details.

Answer: My team and I were facing a deadline and my manager was out of the office. Our client was expecting a project to be delivered by 5:00 PM, and I could tell we weren't going to make the deadline without making some changes.

I re-organized my own tasks so I could dedicate my entire day to focusing on this project. I took the lead and delegated tasks to the five team members in a way that would utilize everyone's strengths best. By pitching in and reallocating work, we delivered the work to the client on-time. I also emailed our manager to let her know we had met the deadline.

How To Prepare

While you can't know for sure which behavioral interview questions you'll be asked during an interview, you can prepare and practice your answers to commonly asked questions.

When you have carefully selected relevant stories you want to share in an interview you'll enter the interview feeling more confident and prepared. Plus, you'll provide proof you possess the experience the employer is looking for.

Review the job posting carefully

You'll want to know which stories to include during each interview. To do this, analyze the posting. Look at each requirement and ask yourself "have I ever done this or something like this?" This review will help you identify the most relevant stories so your answer will include the skills and qualities the employer is looking for.

Use the STAR format

STAR stands for situation, task, actions and result. When formatting your answers to behavioral interview questions, every answer you provide should include all four of these elements. STAR also ensures the interviewer gets the important information they are looking for from your response. The most important sections of your answer are the actions you took and the results.

Identify the top 3-5 most relevant stories

While you may be asked to tell more than 5 stories, you should absolutely identify what you think are the most relevant, relatable stories based on the job posting and what you know about the company.

Don't memorize your answers

You don't want your answer to sound robotic so don't memorize your answer word for word. Instead, try remembering your answer as bullet points so your answer flows more naturally. Be sure to know what key skills or action verbs you'll use while telling your story.

Practice out loud

Writing out your answers just isn't the same as saying them out out loud. It's important to practice your answers to make sure you'll remember the flow to your answer. You want to practice it enough so it sounds natural.

Record your answers

Take your practice to the next level by recording your answers and then listen to how they sound. Just grab your phone or use your computer to record your answers and evaluate the strength of your answers.

Time yourself

We know that attention spans are short. This is true during interviews too. To help you deliver just the right amount of information, try and keep your answer around one minute. This means if you can't complete your answer in under five minutes, you'll need to cut information out. Trust me, it probably isn't all that important to the interviewer. But if they want to know more details, guess what? They'll ask a followup question.

Smile, relax and let your personality shine

Part of what makes you unique is your personality. Don't be afraid to let it come out in your answers. And a smile is just icing on the cake. Research has shown that people who smile come across as more likable. And relax. The interview is just a conversation.

Not everyone's a pro at interviewing

Keep in mind, there are many recruiters and hiring managers who have never been trained how to interview. No matter how experienced or trained they are (or aren't) you don't want that to impede the information you need to convey. You can always insert one of your stories to supplement your answer (even if you weren't asked to cite an example).

Give it your all

During an interview, you have the opportunity to convince the interviewer that your experience and skills are what the employer needs for the role, so take every opportunity to make sure the interviewer knows the full extent of what makes you a good fit for the role.

Keep your answers positive

Always remember to keep your answers positive. Never blame co-workers or your manager or position them as doing something wrong. Additionally, don't provide information about your mistakes or weaknesses that would cause the interviewer to question your abilities.

Additional Reminders About Behavioral Interviews

Be sure each story has a beginning, middle, and an end, i.e., be ready to describe the situation, including the task at hand, your action, and the outcome or result.

Always make sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you (even if the result itself was not favorable).

Be honest. Don't embellish or omit any part of the story. The interviewer will find out if your story is built on a weak foundation.

Be specific. Don't generalize about several events; give a detailed accounting of one event.

Vary your examples; don't take them all from just one area of your life.

Conclusion

Behavioral interview questions shouldn't catch you by surprise. If you anticipate them and take time to plan your answers to "tell me about a time when" questions, you'll come across as qualified, capable and compatible. Your answers, in the form of STAR stories are what make you memorable.

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Project Sanctuary helps military families heal

By VAntagePoint Contributor | VAntage Point Contributor © 2021, Reprinted with permission

Project Sanctuary hosts Veteran and active duty families through six-day therapeutic retreats at locations across the United States. While at retreats, families participate in sessions directed at improving relationships, financial literacy and mental health.

Recreational activities are strategically designed to improve family cohesiveness by providing opportunities that create bonding, improved communication and trust. The key elements of these retreats allow for connections between Veterans and other Veterans, families with other families, and Project Sanctuary staff and volunteers with participants. Most importantly, retreats bring a renewed sense of closeness and connection within the family unit.

"As a single mother/veteran, this program provided continued support in a time when a female vet may feel alone. Thanks to the retreat we attended, my children and I spent more time talking and communicating about topics we never otherwise talk about and opened the door to two-way communication moving forward"
Brenda, 2020 Retreat Participant
Family support

Comprehensive family support services and case management are immediately available to families who apply for programming and support. In addition, if a family attends a retreat, Project Sanctuary dedicates at least two years of follow-up services post retreat which includes direct services and referrals to appropriate resources.

"We were struggling with the effects of PTSD, but we were merely surviving, not managing. We've improved with other programs but we specifically chose Project Sanctuary because they were the only program that could help us with communicating with our children. There are a lot of programs that help veterans but Project Sanctuary is the only one we have found that allowed us to include the children in the experience and help them also understand what is going on"
Veteran Family, September 2020 Retreat
Destination resource weekends

Destination Resource Weekends are offered three to four times a year at strategic locations across the country. These one-of-a-kind resource weekends are not your typical "fair" but instead focus on each couple's unique and personalized needs for active duty and Veteran singles or couples to build their network of support. Life goal-setting exercises kick off the weekend to help identify what each participant needs to move forward in life and thrive. Families then connect with resource partners in the areas of financial planning, psychological well-being, employment, recreation and more to set a path for success.

Volunteers/ambassadors

Project Sanctuary "Caring in Action" Volunteers and Ambassadors are also a key part of the organization giving back to Veterans and their families with the gift of time. More than 10,000 hours were contributed just last year.

Learn more

To find out more about Project Sanctuary, apply for a Therapeutic Retreat, Family Support, Destination Resource Weekend or Volunteer, visit projectsanctuary.us or email Info@projectsanctuary.us

Project Sanctuary is a 501 c(3) national nonprofit headquartered in Granby, Colorado, believing that when one person serves, the whole family serves. Founded in 2007 by Heather Ehle, RN, Project Sanctuary is based on the principle that when one person serves, the whole family serves, and understanding the best way to "support the troops" was to create an organization supporting the entire family.

Currently serving, Veteran families, single parents, caregivers, couples and all families are welcome to apply.

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How To Write A Letter Of Interest + Effective Samples

By Hannah Morgan | Career Sherpa - Reprinted with permission

What do you do when there's a company you'd love to work for but they don't have any openings available?

You could wait until one is posted and then be one of over 250 candidates that apply. Or you could proactively reach out and pitch yourself.

Pitching yourself may feel outside of your comfort zone, but I'm going to lay it all out here and teach you how to write a letter of interest that will get you noticed.

 

What Is A Letter Of Interest?

A letter of interest is written by a job seeker when they are interested in working for a company that does not appear to have any job opportunities listed.

Rather than simply sending your resume into their applicant tracking system and hoping the company will search for someone with your qualifications, you can take initiative and email a letter of interest that will entice someone to consider hiring you today.

For example, let's say you've heard great things about a company and really want to work there. After reviewing jobs listed on their website's career page you don't see any openings. What do you do?

Instead of waiting for the right job to be posted, why not write a letter of interest? In your letter you would explain why you are interested in the company and why you think they should hire you (or at least call you for a conversation).

By writing a letter of interest, also known as an interest letter or a prospecting letter, you bring attention to your qualifications, hoping that the person you send it to will be interested in learning more about you.

Will a letter of interest work? It is my belief that good managers are always looking for their next great hire. This could be you.

Does this sound bold? Risky? Out of your comfort zone? Then this is exactly why you should try this approach. Waiting around for a job to be posted may result in you missing out on an opportunity.

Since you aren't responding to a posted job opening, the person receiving your interest letter isn't overwhelmed by managing hundreds of resumes, inquiries and interviews.

Taking this bold move helps you get noticed. It's also something most job seekers will never do which gives you an advantage. Taking this initiative shows your spunk and an increased level of interest in working for a company. Both of these are qualities hiring managers appreciate.

A letter of interest can be sent at any time, there does not need to be an opening or posted job opportunity.

It may sound similar to a cover letter and it does follow a similar layout and formula, however, there isn't a posted job so you don't know the exact requirements the decision maker is looking for. You'll have to use your research to identify the skills you believe they would be most interested in. You can also include transferable skills you know are needed.

Here's what you need to know about writing a letter of interest.

How To Write A Letter Of Interest

There's no need to wait for a job to be advertised. It's possible that one of the companies you are interested in needs you right now, but hasn't posted a job yet.

The key to writing a strong and compelling letter of interest is to show the company how they will benefit from adding you to their team. This means you need to understand what the company needs and to do that you'll need to conduct research.

If you aren't willing to do this type of digging, there are also many others who won't do it either. Even fewer will take the time to write a letter of interest. That's the benefit of writing one.

This is what you'll need to do in order to write a letter of interest.

Research The Company

I'm a big advocate of research. The more you know about a company, the more compelling your letter of interest is going to be. That's why it's worth your time and effort to learn as much as you can about the company. So here's what to do.

Go to the company's website, LinkedIn page and run a general internet search to see what news and information is available about the company. Look for information such as:

  • Has the company been in the news recently?
  • What are the company's mission and values
  • Who are their top competitors?
  • Are there any reviews from employees about working for this company?
  • What are the challenges their industry faces right now?
  • What's the company culture like?
  • Who makes the hiring decisions for the area you are interested in?
Read Press Releases

What is happening at the company? Are they expanding, shrinking, or merging? Have they just released a new product or service? Are they letting go of office space? As you learn about what's happening in the company, think about how your previous experience in any of those areas can benefit the company.

Monitor Their Social Media

By checking out their social media channels you may learn about events they are hosting, news they are sharing about the company, or see videos and/or photos of employees. This may also give you a feel for the company's culture and values.

Track Competitors' Activities

When you research the company's competitors, you may notice trends. These trends are also likely to happen within the company you are targeting. Knowing about the competition helps you predict what may be coming next or what changes need to be made.

Talk To Employees (Current and Past)

Before putting your energy into writing a letter of interest, make sure you want to work there. The best way to uncover this information is by speaking with current and former employees. Ask them what they like about working there and what they don't like.

As a last resort, you could look at the company's reviews on Glassdoor. But that often doesn't provide the same quality of information.

In your conversations you may also learn about technology they use, goals for growth or plans for change. All of this could be useful when writing your letter of interest.

Address The Letter To The Right Decision Maker

The right decision maker is the person inside the company with the authority to hire you. That's not Human Resources or a recruiter, unless you want to work in those departments. It could be the person who heads up the department you want to work in or it could be a senior officer in the company. Use LinkedIn or the company website to identify the name and title of the person you would report into.

When writing your letter of interest, you must address it to a specific person so it reaches the right person and shows you've done your research.

Finding the name of the right person is also important because you will probably email your letter of interest.

Write A Great Subject Line

Sending your letter of interest as an email is the fastest and most efficient way to deliver it. When sending any email, it's critical to use a subject line that gets the manager's attention. Imagine how many emails someone gets at work during the day — hundreds, if not thousands. It's the subject line that will compel the reader to open your message.

Be Concise And Professional

People are busy and don't read every email. That's why it's important that your interest letter be short, professional and to the point. You want it to catch their attention, not necessarily answer every question they may have. Here are some reminders:

  • Use formal business language.
  • Write shorter paragraphs and consider using bullets instead of sentences.
  • Always double and triple check your work for spelling and grammatical errors.
Ask For A Conversation

At the end of your letter, you will ask the reader to accept your invitation for a phone call. Just to be clear, this call is an information gathering conversation, not a job interview. The purpose of your call is to learn more about the inner workings of the department, to ask about the skills and knowledge they value, and to ask what their future hiring plans are.

The decision maker inside the company is also interested in learning more about your background and skills to assess whether there is a potential fit within his or her team.

Always Follow Up

In order for that conversation to happen, you must ask for one. You will also want to follow up at least a couple of times after you send the letter to see if they had a chance to read it and ask if they would be available for a brief conversation.

Don't Include A Resume

Instead of attaching your resume, a better option is to include a link to your LinkedIn profile which provides a thorough overview of your experience and all your achievements. Since there isn't a job available, it would be difficult for you to customize your resume to address the unique requirements of the job.

If you attach a link to your LinkedIn profile, you can see if the hiring manager or someone from the company has looked at your profile.

Now that you understand some of the basics of the letter, let's look at how to format your letter of interest.

Formatting Your Letter

Your letter of interest is considered business correspondence, it's not a casual text message. You want to use appropriate formatting and wording to get the reader's attention fast and show your professionalism.

While we call this a letter, it's more likely that you would send it as an email. The content of your letter becomes the body of the email.

Of course you could still mail your letter and due to the low volume of mail, your letter may have a greater chance of getting noticed than your email message.

People are too busy to open attachments. Don't include your letter of interest as an attachment to your email. Instead, include your letter in the body of your email.

Use this format to address your letter of interest.

When Writing A Physical Letter

If you were actually to mail a letter, then use a formal business letter format. Here's what the top of the letter would look like:

Header (formatted like the header of your resume):

Your Name
Your Address
City, ST Zip
Phone number
Email
LinkedIn URL

Date




Mr./Ms. First Name Last Name of recipient
Job Title
Company Name
Company Mailing Address
City, ST Zip

If you are emailing your letter, you do not need to include all this information. However, you will need the person's email address.

You can use one of these free tools to look up an email address with a high degree of certainty.

When Writing An Email

When emailing the hiring decision maker, craft an interesting subject line. Something other than "I want to work for your company."

Here are some examples of subject lines you can adapt:

  • Subject: Do you need your next project manager to use Agile methodology?
  • Subject: Is analyzing customer data something you need help with?
  • Subject: Why wait to streamline your operations?

Then start your email using a formal introduction:

Dear Mr./Ms Last Name:

Opening Paragraph — Hook Them

In your first paragraph, you have seconds to capture the reader's attention. There are several ways to do this. You could:

  • Include the reason you are interested in the company and want to work there
  • Mention a fact about the company and why that's important to you
  • Highlight an accomplishment you know would benefit them

If you choose to explain why you are interested in working for the company, make it specific. You could mention that you've seen news about their growth, that they won an award for being a desirable place to work, you are a fan of their product or service, or you have friends who love working there.

Another option is to align your personal interests or values with those of the company you are writing. Mission-based companies appreciate people whose values align with their own. So if you have a passion for social justice, rescuing animals or something that aligns with the company, be sure to mention that.

The third option is to address how you will benefit the company. List one of your accomplishments in one of these areas that aligns with what the company may need:

  • Save or make more money
  • Expand the business
  • Increase the customer base
  • Solve a problem
  • Improve processes, systems or operations (or the way things are being done)
  • Respond to a problem in the community
  • Capitalize on, or respond to, a trend

Next, since there isn't a job available, you want to let the reader know what roles you are best suited for. You need to provide some area of focus so they can initially categorize you. Don't expect the reader to be a career match-maker.

Qualifications Paragraph

Once you entice the reader by explaining why you are interested in their company, your next paragraph explains how your experience, education and skills will make you a strong potential match, help fill gaps or in some other way benefit the company. This paragraph can be a bulleted list or short sentences.

Since this is a short letter, you only have time to mention qualifications that are directly relevant and important to the company.

Use accomplishments that spell out what you did and the quantifiable outcomes. For example:

  • By analyzing customer data, improved ROI by 25%
  • Reduced collection period from 65 days to 34 days
  • Developed new industry relationships and closed 110% of sales quota

Remember, your ultimate goal is to convince the reader to agree to a conversation with you, or perhaps even pick up the phone and call you.

Closing Paragraph

In this final paragraph, you want to let the reader know what to do or what will happen next. If you are determined to get a response, then the best course of action is to state that you will be following up with them. But always include your contact information at the bottom of your email, just in case.

Samples And Templates

Starting from scratch can be difficult, so the letter of interest samples below will give you some ideas on how to structure your own letter.

Sample 1

Dear Mr. Jones:

I read an article recently in Marketing Magazine Online about Acme's innovative approach to digital marketing. You were quoted as saying "We are dedicated to building relationships with our customers, not just taking their money." This is so refreshing to hear and compelled me to reach out.

I am a Content Planner and Analyst and have over five years of experience analyzing the ROI of our digital marketing efforts. Through my analysis, we were able to improve ROI by 25%, a notable achievement in this area. A key component of my analysis involved looking at the long-term and recurring engagements of customers. My deep understanding in this area is something I think you and Acme would be interested in as it's the core of building relationships.

If you think my expertise in analyzing engagement, customer relationship building and ROI would be a benefit to Acme, I'd be open to having a conversation. My contact information is below, however, I'll follow up next week to see if there's interest.

Sincerely,

Sally McIntosh
585.555.1212
smcintosh@ymail.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/sallymcintosh/

Sample 2

Dear Ms. Smith:

My former co-worker, Sam Peterson, suggested that I write to you to discuss your accounting department needs and priorities. He speaks highly of ABC Company and your recent industry recognition in Accounting Today, backs this up.

In my most recent role as junior accountant, I oversaw the month-end reporting, accounts payable team and receivables team. I have worked within several different SAP systems and regularly use advanced Excel functionality. Many of the procedural changes I helped implement resulted in a reduced collection period from 65 days to 34 days and overall improved the ease of use and access to reporting.

I'd welcome the opportunity to talk with you about your accounting department needs and will follow up next week to see if you have time for a brief call. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

James Duncan
(585) 555-1212
james.duncan@ymail.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesduncancpa/

Sample 3

Dear Ms. Bowers:

I've been using XYZ's software since it launched in 2010. As an avid user, I can think of nothing better than to be on the inside of a company I so strongly believe in. I've scoured your site and follow your company on social media in hopes of finding an opening in data analysis. Since I haven't seen anything recently, I wanted to reach out and introduce myself.

As a data analyst with BB Bank, I've been focused on building their customer dashboard and translating the millions of data points into information that is easy to monitor. I've used tools like R, SQL and Tableau to manage and present data. I also worked with the project team that launched our new online banking app to ensure the data remained secure.

I'd love to discuss XYZ's data analysis needs and how I may be able to help. Would you be open to meeting with me at your convenience? I'll follow up next week to see if there's time in your schedule. Thank you in advance.

Sincerely,

Marshall Bennett
(585) 555-1212
marshallbennett@ymail.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/mbennett/

Sample 4

This is technically something called an employment proposal, which is very similar to a letter of interest. However, here you are pitching yourself for a role inside a company where there aren't any openings. It may be a role they do not have yet, but based on your research, you think they need. The purpose of this employment proposal is to supply justification for the role, based on your research, and provide clear expectations of what you will do.

Here's an example of an employment proposal written for a customer relations advocate.

Dear Dr. Jones:

RATIONALE: Increase your profits by improving the rate of customers who keep their appointments by having a staff person who will primarily serve the following functions:

  • Create a customer information database and maintain updated records;
  • Contact customers prior to scheduled appointments;
  • Keep customers informed of special sales and events and keep an up-to-date file on each customer and
  • Serve as a customer advocate by inviting feedback about ways to improve and/or expand services.

WHO: I am a self-starter who recently completed a certificate program in clerical administration at XYZ School. I offer strong organizational skills, marketing and customer service experience with a highly cooperative and upbeat attitude.

HOW: I am available 20-30 hours per week, afternoons or evenings, depending on the needs of your business. To perform these duties I'll require access to your data-entry system and if you need me to be onsite, a designated space and phone.

CONDITIONS: I will provide these services for $20.00 an hour for the first three months. If after this period of time you find my work to be as profitable as expected, I will continue as a regular employee for $22.00 an hour.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this proposal. I will contact you again early next week to schedule an appointment at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Jane Plain
555-222-1212
jplain@zmail.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/janeplain/

Wrap Up

Writing a letter of interest is a way to proactively pursue or create opportunities that are not publicly posted. While it takes effort to craft an enticing letter, by doing so, you demonstrate your interest.

There will be those job seekers who merely post their resume and hope for a response, but that's not you. You're determined and a go-getter.

What do you have to lose?

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This Mental Health Month, explore advice from Veterans to Veterans

By VAntagePoint Contributor | VAntage Point Contributor © 2021, Reprinted with permission

When facing a big, intimidating project, sometimes it's easier to break it down into smaller tasks. Especially when those tasks build on each other until the goal is achieved. That approach can also work for improving your mental health.

That's why for Mental Health Month, VA is encouraging Veterans to take One Step Today from a list of 10 ideas — for Veterans, from Veterans — that have helped many others improve their well-being.

The list includes activities that can help Veterans move toward a better future — starting today. Among the suggestions are exploring creativity, learning to forgive, and opening up about how you're feeling.

No matter how big or small, One Step Today can lead to meaningful, long-term change.

Stories from Veterans who put ideas into action

Each of the 10 ideas highlights resources and information about a variety of concerns, from trouble sleeping and stress to other signs and symptoms of mental health challenges. They also feature inspiring stories from Veterans who put one or more of the ideas into action while benefiting from professional mental health care to improve their lives.

"When you have other Veterans who have been through the same things you've been through, and who have dealt with them in all different kinds of ways, it helps you in immeasurable ways," explains Daniel, a Marine Corps Veteran.

A better place to deal with mental health challenges

Every day provides a new opportunity for Veterans to enrich their lives while boosting their mood and self-esteem. Those results can put them in a better place to deal with mental health challenges — either on their own or with support from VA, their families and friends, members of the community and health care providers.

This May, VA encourages everyone to visit MakeTheConnection.net/MHM to hear advice from Veterans for Veterans and their loved ones about overcoming many common mental health challenges. By starting with just One Step Today, you can advance toward a healthier tomorrow.

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Applying to Positions with Clearance

By Thomas Braden | U.S. Navy Vet and Author of A Veteran's Guide to Transition: Active Duty to Government Service

Editor Notes

This article is written by Thomas Braden, the author of A Veteran's Guide to Transition: Active Duty to Government Service, available on Amazon: www.amazon.com/dp/B08Z83W9BK/

In the article author describes considerations and steps of application process to a position with security clearance or access requirements on USA Jobs. While the focus here is on government positions posted on USA Jobs, the considerations are also applicable to positions with clearance requirements posted by other organizations and on other job boards.

On Veteran's Job Center you can specify security clearance when you create a job seeker account and update it here

Taking the mystery out of USA Jobs' security clearance requirements

When you're applying for position on USA Jobs, you should find a job that meets your interests and takes advantage of your background, skills and abilities, first. If you're in doubt as to whether the position is a good-match for you, expand the Requirements section and preview online self-assessment or job questionnaire. If you're not honestly able to give yourself the highest category of response for most (if not all) questions, then, perhaps this job isn't a good match for you, at this time. So keep shopping and find a position where you can give yourself the highest scores and you feel like it's a "good fit."

Then, you should the focus on is the requirements for a Security Clearance. Why? Because the security clearance process is likely to be the longest and most time consuming part of your journey.

Security Clearance information is often listed several times throughout the Vacancy Announcement. Unfortunately, it is not standardized and is likely to be mentioned in:

  • the "Responsibilities" section;
  • the "Requirements" section; and
  • the "Background Checks and Security Clearance."

This last section is the most common format across all positions on USA Jobs. It will break it down for you, telling exactly what is required.

Security clearances come in several levels.

Background Check or Public Trust

The easiest/lowest level is a public record "background check" and it is not an actual clearance, as it doesn't provide access to classified information. This is called a "public trust," and might be utilized for positions that require base/building access, but do not require access to any classified information to perform their jobs. A good example might be the janitors or landscape gardeners on a secure base.

Access to Classified Information

If the position requires access to classified information, it will then state the level or type of clearance required. Normally you'll see this listed as Secret or Top-Secret, and this covers the vast majority of USG personnel who require access to classified information in the course of their daily tasks. If this is the level of clearance that your prospective position requires, you'll be asked to fill out an e-Qip form online listing all of your information. This process can be laborious and frustrating, as you'll be asked to either update it (since the date of your last clearance) or provide data going back for the last ten years. You'll need all prior address and reference points of contact so they can call/email and verify your history.

Sensitivity and Risk

The third and perhaps rarest form of a security clearance will be for those positions which discriminate based upon the position's responsibilities and duties:

  • Sensitivity equates with the position's potential impact on the national security of the United States;
  • Risk equates with the position's potential to damage the public's trust in the Federal Government.

As opposed to the landscape gardener in the previous example, these highly sensitive, high-risk positions might be responsible for negotiating treaties with foreign countries and would require access to information that is either sensitive, risky - or both.

USA Jobs explains all of their security clearance requirements, with additional detail, here and if you're certain to pursue positions which will require a security clearance, it may be worth checking out the latest information, guides and instructions specifically for the e-Qip, here

Is Security Clearance a Prerequisite?

The question you should be asking and combing the vacancy announcement to answer is:

Is the security clearance required as a prerequisite to apply? Or can I get it, IF they hire me?

Well, the answer is, "That depends." You'll need to read the vacancy announcement closely. As stated, previously, there is no standardized answer or language... you need to read it closely.

The best-case scenario, for both you and the hiring manager, is when you have a Secret clearance and the position requires a Secret clearance. Easy and done - be sure to call that out in both your resume and cover letter (and interview!). While they're unlikely to hire you merely because you have the required clearance, it may be a tie-breaker (as you're a proven entity) should another candidate not have it. (If you're interested in getting hired for your clearance, or in taking a contractor position which will allow you to maintain that clearance, please check out: www.clearedconnections.com for good options as well.)

The second-best possibility is when the security clearance requirement is listed as "must be eligible to attain." This means that IF you're selected for hiring, THEN they will assist you in obtaining the necessary level of security clearance required to fulfill the position. (Caution, while they're willing to invest in you to obtain the clearance, this may take up to a year. You're VERY unlikely to be hired - and paid - until its complete, so don't quit your day job!)

The third possibility is that the vacancy announcement states "must currently possess." In this case, if you don't currently have the required level of clearance, you may be found ineligible to even apply and be rejected outright by Human Resources. Does that mean that you shouldn't apply? I say No, make them do their job and sort you out... but don't be too annoyed if/when they do. Remember the exact wording in the vacancy announcement is what matters for your eligibility.

Why all of this is so important

Why is all of this so important to stress? Because, as stated earlier, the security clearance may be the longest part of your hiring process, and that's if/when everything goes smoothly and you're prepared to provide the USG with every bit of information and everything that you have done for the past ten years. A few show-stoppers worth mentioning:

  1. Drug testing. If you're pursuing a position that requires a security clearance of any level, you're going to be required to conduct a urinalysis prior to hiring and then be subject to random drug-testing throughout your tenure. (A side note here on the ubiquitous use of marijuana in America today. While some states have legalized it for recreational and/or medical use, the Federal Government has not. Similarly, investments in "pot stocks" may not help in adjudication of your case.)
  2. Domestic violence. Some positions may be subject to the Lautenberg Amendment/ Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968. If you have any previous record of domestic violence, this may impact your ability to obtain a security clearance.
  3. Foreign contacts. "A foreign national is defined as any person who is not a citizen or national of the U.S. You must indicate whether you have, or have had, close and/or continuing contact with a foreign national within the last seven years with whom you, or your spouse, or legally recognized civil union/domestic partner, or cohabitant are bound by affection, influence, common interests, and/or obligation." You will need to disclose any foreign contacts that meet this definition, as well as any foreign investments; again, this may affect your case.

None of this is meant as a deterrent in applying for secured positions. The better informed you are about the exact requirements and process - and how they match with your specific background and circumstances - the easier it will be for you to select and apply, only to those positions which are truly a "good fit," making your transition to the civil service as smooth as possible.

I cover this - and so much more - in greater depth and detail throughout my book, A Veteran's Guide to Transition: Active Duty to Government Service, now available on Amazon for less than the cost of a cup of coffee, I might add! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08Z83W9BK/

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