Interviewing Veterans

Carrying out interviews can be a tough task for interviewers. For this reason, interviewers need to be competent in interviewing skills for making the ‘right selection’. Job Interview - Making Right Selection
Therefore comparatively, it might not be a huge challenge for the interviewers to interview candidates having little or mediocre experience in their respective domains. However, when it comes to interviewing a veteran or expert in a particular sphere, it requires proper homework to be done beforehand to determine the right direction for the interview. This can assist in putting forward relevant questions and consequently accurate judgment regarding the candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities can be made. Moreover, questions should be selected thoughtfully as there is a possibility that certain sets of questions might easily offend them.
My question is, if you were to interview an expert, how you would go about it? Furthermore, what homework/research would you carry out to ensure that the interview goes in the right direction which can enable you to form an opinion with more objectivity?


  • You need to listen to th plans and suggestions on how s/he is going to resolve the issues related to the expertise.
    HR should also get a professional as one of the interviewer, like we use an interpreter, to get an idea of the candidate’s viewpoint on related issues.

  • Amit Sharma

    Hi Salima,
    If you know that the person you are going to interview is an expert on the skills required, there is no point in asking questions to him on the subject matter, he knows it well enough to have been called as expert.
    What you need to check while interviewing such candidates
    1. Their personality
    2. Flexibility
    3. Team Leadership
    4. Analytical approach
    5. Thinking Style for out of the box or lateral thinking
    6. Abiliy to adapt to different situations and company policies.
    Hope this helps
    Amit Sharma
    Lets Connect

  • Salima,
    1) Prepare questions before the interview; write them down.
    * Conduct a pre-interview with the veteran or civilian, if possible.
    2) Interview in a quiet, well-lit room and avoid noise from:
    * Fluorescent lights
    * chiming clocks
    * heating and cooling systems
    * ringing telephones and televisions
    * other conversations
    3) Keep your questions short. Avoid complicated, multipart questions.
    4) Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Ask “how, when, and why” questions instead.
    5) Encourage the interviewee with nods of the head rather than audible responses such as “yes” or “uh huh” that will be recorded.
    6) Don’t begin the interview with questions about painful or controversial topics.
    7) Be patient and give the veteran time to reflect before going on to a new question. Many people take short reflective breaks in the course of answering one question.
    8) Use follow-up questions to elicit more details from the interviewee. Examples include: When did that happen? Did that happen to you? What did you think about that? What are the steps in doing that?
    9) Consider asking the interviewee to show you photographs, commendations, and personal letters as a way of enhancing the interview. Such documents often encourage memories and provoke interesting stories.
    10) Be yourself. Don’t pretend to know more about a subject than you do.

  • Karen Cornelius

    Hi Salima,
    As President of my consultancy I have interviewed many OD expert candidates for our own openings. Fortuitously, I am an expert myself, so that makes the task significantly easier.
    I am going to assume you are not hiring the expert in question to be the head of a new department/function — which has its own unique challenges and approaches.
    In the case of hiring an expert to fit into an existing department of an organisation, I think the recruiter or interviewer needs to thoroughly discuss the position requirements with the hiring executive/manager and the current incumbent — if he/she is available and leaving on good terms — rather relying on a position description prepared by HR. In terms of the technical requirements, it it is particularly important to target the kinds of background experience, knowledge and achievements you should be listening for, and enquiring into — or conversely, should be a red flag. If it is a highly specialised field, I would ask the hiring manager to provide and explain a ‘lexicon’ of terminology that will be helpful in both asking questions and understanding/interpreting the expert’s answers.
    However, my advice to interviewers is that if they encounter a candidate who uses a lot of technical jargon, they should challenge the candidate to explain what is important about what they do and their accomplishments in simple and clear language . My rule of thumb is if they can’t do this they do not understand their business as well as they think — a red flag!
    Also, as with any other position,desired or necessary personal traits and attributes should be defined with an agreement amongst everyone who will be involved in the selection process as to what these ‘look like’.
    Prior tothe initial interview process, if the initial interviewer is on his or her own and not using a panel, I think it is important to develop the interview questions and format in advance in hard copy — (with input from the hiring manager around exact wording of questions and the answers he or she would be looking for).As always, I advocate a behaviorally anchored interview protocol. There should be space for notes.. In the case of an expert, I would take copious notes of what he or she said, verbatim (e.g., Candidate said, ” my colleagues on project X were incompetent” not
    ‘candidate didn’t have high opinion of colleagues’. With good notes, it will be much easier to explain precisely to the hiring manager/HR partner how you arrived at your overall opinion, and with the direct data, the hiring manager may form a different view.
    If possible, I would recommend a panel interview that includes the hiring manager and HR partner.
    Other than what I’ve already suggested, I don’t think there is anything unique you need to do with an expert during the interview process.

  • Experts appreciate a chance to solve a problem. Carefully develop several problem challenges for the candidates and let them demonstrate their skills and expertise by providing a solution.
    By comparing the solutions from candidates problem exercises become better, you learn much about the individuals displaying their expertise and the selection process is made meaningful for both the applicant and the interviewer.
    Problems posed should be specific to the candidate field and involve the hiring manager.

  • Susan Shwartz PhD

    Interviewing veterans would be difficult. They are used to tremendous amounts of responsibility; their language of expertise needs to be translated; and you are dealing with definite, decisive personalities.
    Meet them with a firm handshake.
    Sit up straight.
    Ask them to explain what it is they do.
    Be absolutely honest with them.
    If you get perky or try to manipulate them, expect them not to react well.
    A good question is “how do you see your military background as having prepared you…” “what does your previous experience have in common with this opportunity…”
    They will probably interview -you-. They will be very courteous.
    They want a job. They have earned respect.

  • Vinod Mehra

    Hi Salima
    Every interview requires preparation and a set mix of standard questions to establish the candidates credentials and credibility.
    Having established the credentials of an expert I would base my decision on my second set of questions that is
    1) How he has contributed towards the growth of his current organisation and
    2) How he will utilise his expertise to add value to my organisation

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