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How to get an interview?


Ralph Pugh The Colony, TX

I feel like I can do VERY well when it comes to the interview process, however I am having a hard time even getting to that point. One of my biggest questions is; How exactly do you explain to companies that you held a clearance while you served (TS-SCI, & Secret), but since you have been out for so long you obviously wouldn't still have an active one? After having served as an Aircraft Electrician on Reconnaissance and Nuclear Communication Aircraft in the Navy, then transitioning to the Army as an Intelligence Analyst, having then gotten a BS in Technology. Another question/concern is; When online applications ask the standard veteran / disability questions, do people answer those truthfully? Sometimes I feel like NOT answering that I have a disability would be the better option, but I want to be truthful. I am finding it very difficult to even be considered for positions which require a clearance, let alone positions which do not. I feel part of my problem may be with my resume and or HOW I answer the standard questions. Civilian world is just so confusing.

22 May 2017 23 replies Interviews



John Green Cary, NC

A resume gets you an interview, an interview gets you a job.

If you are not getting interviews, its because your resume does not directly address the needs of the market.

While your military job and background impress me because I worked on Reconnaissance aircraft when I was in USAF (RC-135, TR-1. U-2), you need to build your resume from the perspective of the market you are trying to address.

Soft skills like leadership, and the like, are not skills the market demands. Specialization in Cybersecurity or Artificial Intelligence are things in high demand right now.

Lapsed clearances are a barrier to re-entry into classified jobs, so I would point you in the direction of jobs that are not government related.

There are 24 million jobs being advertised today on various job boards. Fix your resume, and you will get interviews. Build your resume from the perspective of highly demanded specializations, as indicated by the premium annual pay rates identified in the Robert Half guides. If you don't have those specializations, get them. Its easy. Doing nothing will result in the same outcome as you have currently been experiencing.

22 May 2017 Helpful answer


Mike Cottell Glen Head, NY

Hi Ralph, I cannot answer all your questions, but consider this website as a start.

Your focus needs to be on showcasing your experience, accomplishments, your skills and the value that you can add to any organization. There are many excellent advisors on ACP that would be willing to help you with your resume if you ask.
Also, look under " Article" on ACP site to get good info on resumes, job search , cover letters etc.
Good Luck to you and thank you for your service
Best Regards, Mike

22 May 2017 Helpful answer


Bob Molluro Wilmington, DE

Ralph, I am going to answer from a civilians perspective. The best way to get an interview is to find someone who can bypass the normal process and set you up for the interview. This may sound quite challenging however in the long run it really pays off. You must network with people who get to know and respect you. At some point you ask them what would be the best way to get into company x or person y. The hits will be seldom but doing it this way gets your name out of the pile of the hundreds of resumes they have on their desk.
Second you made reference to answering questions truthfully. How happy would anyone be when they found out you purposely deceived them. You say you have a disability and yet you have a laundry list of accomplishments. Looks like the disabilities are not holding you back. I would be impressed with how you dealt with the adversities. Also you list a few areas that you are concerned with. My knee jerk reaction is you are majoring in minor things instead of focusing on areas that really matter. I have hired over 100 professionals and I can't remember one resume. When you interview do you have a track record of taking on tasks and delivering on them. When you don't deliver do you hold yourself accountable for the end result and don't point fingers at others or blame circumstances that are outside your control. Great people fail. They learn from their mistakes and try a different approach until they find a viable solution. These are the traits of a winner and the kind of person most companies want. The other factors are noise level.
One last comment on networking- a quick story. I have a son in law who was leading a European company in US sales. They closed US operations and he was out of a job. He did exactly what I suggested in networking. He connected with a guy who said i know a billionaire who could use a guy with your credentials. He got personally introduced , got hired and is now a principle in the business after three years and is well on his way to
$500 K per year. By the way this took him about five months before he made the perfect connection. By never losing faith in that he had the skills and experiences someone was looking for and was willing to preserve he has succeeded. Keep on truckin.

5 June 2017 Helpful answer


Lovisa Davison Lake Saint Louis, MO

Hello Ralph,

As I was reading through the responses I find that you have already been given a lot of the advice I was going to share. I think the biggest one though is to let someone who has never been in the military, preferably someone in the private sector with experience reviewing a lot of resumes (a hiring manager or an HR resource) review your resume and give you feedback. I have mentored veterans through ACP for a few years and one common issue is resumes full of terms that make zero sense for a civilian. And if you're a hiring manager going through lots of resumes... if one bores you, it's out. Also networking. Do you know someone working for a company you're interested in? Ask them to look out for jobs that might fit you! And when one opens up don't just ask them to refer you to HR ask them to contact the hiring manager and personally make sure he or she gets your resume and that personal reference. As a hiring manager myself I really like to hire within the company because then I can hire someone I know has good work ethics and can get the job done. If that's not possible anyone who has a personal reference from someone who's work ethics and judgment I trust really has an advantage over the complete strangers. Good luck on your job search!

5 June 2017 Helpful answer


David Akre New York, NY

Ralph - I've never gone through the HR/interview route when getting a job. Never. I've always found someone at the company I know or that knows someone and started that way. Network, network, network. Then if you fill a need and your resume shows that (two pages at the very most - try to keep it to one), and they like you, you'll get a job offer. Try Linkedin. Best of luck.

5 June 2017 Helpful answer


Daniel Brock Denton, TX

Hi Ralph,

I got out of the Navy about 3 years ago, and had the same exact problem with getting interviews. The fact of the matter is that you learn plenty of skills in the military, but a lot of them do not directly translate into civilian company needs. In fact, I ended up doing too many things (as an electronics technician) to where I weakened my brand by filling my resume with all of it. I would suggest making a resume that highlights a specific set of military skills that would be geared toward a career field that you would like to enter (I think you may already be doing that).

I did this to my resume, but still had trouble getting the job that I wanted (engineering), so I ended up going back to school for electrical engineering. I'm not saying you have to go to school since that isn't a viable option for everyone, but it can open many doors. I was able to get an internship with Texas Instruments while in school, and start full-time with them this month.

Also, once you apply for a job, go to LinkedIn and do this search "HR <insert name of company>". Directly message these people, and tell them you are a veteran with XYZ skills. Give them the "Why" of your motivation to work there. This is how I got my job at TI, and I am confident you can make it work for you too.

I am in the DFW area, so feel free to reach out to me if you want to chat. Good luck!

6 June 2017 Helpful answer


martin kelly Wilmington, DE

Good day Ralph and thank you!!

I may have missed these 2 being mentioned already in all the good advice you've been given, but think about:

"Informational interviewing" where you are asking a leader in whatever space you're interested in , for information, and advice - NOT a job. That way you can both learn and be better informed at the next interview and who knows, perhaps there's an unadvertised opening.

And that's point 2, don't only apply to postings, as you noted 100's of other are also doing.

Write to firms NOT posing; on the outside chance they have or will have an opening soon. That way you're not competing with "the hordes".

Best of luck


6 June 2017 Helpful answer


Teresa Greenwood Hartford, CT

HI Ralph,
You received some excellent feedback to get you on track. One more thought is, when you are ready, to try to set up an "informational ' interview with someone who has the job that you may want and is willing to talk with you and give you direct feedback on your resume and interview skills.
Best, Teri

5 June 2017 Helpful answer


Dave Falzareno San Antonio, TX

Ralph, Keep the resume and conversations free of acronyms (P-3 E-6 himars) and positive. You underwent background checks and obtained a security clearance. ( not that it is gone ). The other responders have not addressed the "disability question". My thought here is that you try not to disqualify yourself from round one. If you get to the face to face interview, the employer will see how limited you might be. Your abilities ( your smarts ) will outweigh any dis ability at that meeting. Your ability in the past to drive a big truck will not be needed in your next career, so you are right to leave it out. Also... Find some clubs or community events in your area that need volunteers / leadership and go network there. I do a San Antonio PGA event and it is a blast with 1500 volunteers. ( that is 1500 potential employers for you). If other volunteers see your hard work ethic and passion it may lead to them asking you the "what do you do for a living" question. Best of luck, Dave

3 June 2017 Helpful answer


James Spencer Dowell, IL

As I read the advice you are getting it would seem you are being directed by some very knowledgeable people. I would like to add one thought. When trying to secure interviews the resume is only one of the tools you need. The other one is networking. In this country over 80% of the open positions are filled by candidates with whom the manager is acquainted and the way you get acquainted is through networking. When a manager receives a resume with a name on it he/she recognizes they are prepared to receive it and the chances of it being read go up tremendously.

We are now fortunate. There are many great internet sites that offer sound instruction on how to network outside of social media and sites like LinkedIn offer opportunities for social networking focused to the people we need to contact.

If you network to find contacts inside the companies where you are applying and send that resume which I am sure will be well written to people who are prepared to receive it I am sure the number of interviews you have will greatly increase.

Jim Spencer, MS Career Services
S&P Consulting

25 May 2017 Helpful answer


Ralph Pugh The Colony, TX

Thank you so much Ms. Campanelli, I have sent you what I use as my "IT" resume, as well as my "everything" resume that I use to cut and paste my work experience for relative jobs. I think I understand the tactic of tailoring resumes and cover letters for specific jobs, and to work with bots, however I think my problem is in the execution, as you will see. Thank you so much ma'am.

22 May 2017 Helpful answer


Liz Campanelli East Brunswick, NJ

Hello Ralph--

Thank you for your service! If you have a resume, I'll be happy to review it and see if we can narrow down a career path for you. You are welcome to send me what you have in place and what direction you are interested in going. Companies have scanners now that focus on specific key words. Without those key words and a very tailored cover letter, those resumes can get 'trashed' via the system. Send me what you have and I'll take a look and see if we can't get you some attention.

Again, many thanks for all your efforts.


Liz Campanelli

22 May 2017 Helpful answer


Joe Pierce Jonesboro, AR

you need a good cover letter


D R Manassas, VA

Hi Ralph,

If you have a disability of 30% or more from the VA, then you qualify for a 10-point preference for civilian positions within the Federal Government. Ensure you check the box, submit your SF15, and letter of disability from the VA (you can obtain this by logging into your VA account). Further, federal contractors receive benefits for hiring veterans and veterans with disabilities, so I recommend that you note such when applying to them.

If you are looking for the easiest way to obtain either one, I'd recommend looking in the Washington D.C. area. Once you are in, you may be able to transfer to a different location within the U.S., or around the world.

Feel free to email me if you need assistance.

With all best wishes,



Darlene Casstevens Boonville, NC

Hi Ralph,
In order to get an interview, make sure you have checked out the company's website and know a little about the company. Then always attach a cover letter with the resume. The cover letter should show them you are interested in their company so you should know something about the company before writing the cover letter. Good luck!


Bridget Foster Atlanta, GA

Ralph hi. The company is only asking about veteran/diability because they receive a tax credit for hiring individuals who fall into these categories as well as others. it doesnt enter into a decision to hire or not hire. This is just factual data gathered by an outside third party. Good Luck!


Mike Grayson Mckinney, TX

Lots of good advice but here are some simple marketing steps that you may or may not have taken.

1. Identify your targets. Make a list of companies you want to work for. I know it's not rocket science but I'm surprised by how few do it.
2. Research your targets. Use Google, LinkedIn, etc - and don't forget to call them. Talk to ANYONE and collect information & names. Discover needs and find out exactly what they do.
3. Beef up your resume by incorporating terms THEY use to describe their business and processes where appropriate. This instantly improves communication.
4. Identify the players. People you turn up during your research. Keep a list and tell them what you want.
5. Send snail mail letters and thank you notes. With so much digital communication Forbes recently pointed out that this is now very effective.
6. Use to find out when professionals in the area are meeting. Check out groups like the Frisco Business Connections (1,338 members). Network at every opportunity.
7. Volunteer at church or for any of the area non-profits. This is a great way to meet people.

Regarding your question about whether you should answer the veteran/disability question on online applications. If you are forced to, I recommend doing it. Honesty is always the best policy - always!

Regarding your security clearance. I've hired hundreds of people working on classified programs. If I really liked someone I would figure out a way to make it work while their clearance was being processed. So, I wouldn't shut that door.

Finally, back to point #4. Do you know what you want? What do you want to do? You must be able to answer that question before you can let others know. When you know the answer - tell everyone. Focus.

Send me a link to your resume. I have a huge network.


Lex Levin Ellicott City, MD

Ralph, I'm currently working with several Navy vets at your level transitioning to civilian or Federal work. Send me your resume and I'll be happy to review and give you my feedback.


Jim Rohrbach Evanston, IL

Hi Ralph!

At the top of your resume do you have a Career Objective? In other words, one sentence that sums up the exact position you seek? Forward yours to me and I'll have a look -- Jim "Da Coach" Rohrbach:


Henry ("Dr. Hank") Stevens Fort Lauderdale, FL

In my humble opinion, as a Vocational Counselor and H-R Recruiter for MANY years, I see two subjects missing from the responses above (NOT criticism - just an observation).

First, you seem to be pursuing a civilian job that is an extension of your military EXPERIENCE. THAT is a tough row to hoe. I suggest you step back and more formally explore your TALENTS. Identifying and exploring careers that benefit from someone with your talents trumps experience every time. Here is where you can find a FREE assessment tool that will help guide you to a better understanding of your talents - and their application to civilian careers.

Then, and IF YOU WANT TO, share the results with me - I will be happy to share my thinking with you (also free). I will need the letters and numbers associated with each. Should look something like E-10 N-40 T-35 J-70.

Second, get the book WHAT COLOR IS YOUR PARACHUTE by Bolles. This is an excellent resource for sourcing your next job and resume writing. Again, IF YOU WANT TO, share your resume with me and I too will add my thinking/comments to the others'.

Lastly . . . . I always "stepped on the ropes" when it came to the prospect of employing a vet. I suspect there are many others, like me - ex-GI's who became recruiters. Seek them out - you will be pleasantly surprised how extensive our family is.


Beth Oneill Lombard, IL

Hi Ralph

Thank you for your service. clearly your issue is with the resume, as that is what gets the interview. I did some civilian work maintaining a security clearance. I merely stated "held security clearance." What is your disability, if you don't mind me asking. What job/career do you hope for. My email is if you would like me to critique. Be proud of all you have done. How long has your search been going on. Looking forward to hearing from you. Beth ONeill


Ralph Pugh The Colony, TX

Wow, so many amazing and wonderful comments and insights, I really appreciate them all, and I really appreciate those who have also contacted my directly, or offered assistance. I will address many of your comments as soon as possible, but I had to come and tell everyone thank you.


Ralph Pugh The Colony, TX

Mr. Green & Mr. Cottell,

Thank you for your quick response to my concerns. I really do believe my resume is a weak link. I have tried and tried to tailor it to different tasks, but I think the overall problem would be MY RESUME skills. Even in person I have the hardest time conveying my abilities and skills, or how those learned through the military can help me through the civilian sector.
(btw Mr. Green, I worked on most versions of the P-3 (typically the EP-3E but also the P-3A/B/C), and the E-6 Mercury all in the Navy. In the Army I was an Intelligence Analyst for a HIMARS Field Artillery Unit, before transitioning to an Infantry Brigade)

I see “soft skills” as filler for resumes that don’t have enough stuff, but the problem for me is the amount of items, or the relevance of said items. No one cares that I purified water through reverse osmosis, drove a 52ft box semi-truck, trained in CBR fallout and detection, aircraft weight & balance, aircraft launching, fueling, electronics, etc. And that’s just a glimpse, what I DO try to convey, is that I have learned to do many things, and have never had a problem learning it.
I also realize there are TONS of jobs being posted every day, but I don’t apply to TONS of jobs a day. I honestly try to find applications that fit what I have done, where I plan on going, or what I believe I can learn.
Thank you for the recommendation for my resume Mr. Cottell. I will continue my reading and learning, and hopefully will be paired up with a Mentor in DWF soon. Thank you both again!

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