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Crushing an interview 101


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Hey all, 

I know this question has been touched over the decades and before I get crucified on here, I did search through the forum a bit and found the same message of “be a good dude, be yourself, don’t be a douche... etc. 

I recently got offered an interview with a fighter squadron and also have a good shot with a heavy unit. Besides reading through the interview questions and having a good response for each question ahead of time—so you’re not sitting there in silence when the question “what’s your weakness or when did you mess up in life” is asked and reluctantly say I don’t know I’ve never thought of that and looking like an idiot and probably losing your spot right there. 
 

For someone who feels like he’s got one shot to leave it all out there, how does someone set him/herself apart? Besides the I love America, I have what it takes sort of answers that are probably recited at every board; is there a topic to be an expert on, or a certain personality trait that is desirable to hear someone has from a boards perspective and is indicative of breeding success. I understand it’s not “one thing” but the whole person concept. 
But as someone who tries hard and wants to make a good impression, how would you prepare if you had to go back in life?

Is there a type of person fighter/heavy squadrons are looking for or is it simply whether they think you’re sharp, won’t fail out of UPT, and seem fun to be around.

I appreciate any assistance.  

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I’ve not been directly in your shoes UPT board-wise, but I did do interview prep for the airlines, and I’m very glad I did. Sounds like bogidope is along the same lines. Many solid applicants (on paper) end up with sub par interview performance. The interview is what gets you the job in the end, so I think it’s worth spending some money to be as polished as possible. I will take the hockey player with a 3.0 GPA and solid interview over the engineer with a 4.0/99s across the board who had a meh interview. 

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8 hours ago, Dangerzone said:

Besides reading through the interview questions and having a good response for each question ahead of time

I was given some great advice regarding this approach.  I think it's important to be well-prepared but not come off as overly rehearsed/mechanical.  To that end, the advice given to me was: for each question you saw online or could think up, come up with 2-3 solid ideas to build a response out of.  These could be simple bullet point ideas that would allow you to organize your thoughts and have structure to your response, but would give you the freedom to build a conversation rather than sounding like it's scripted.  Plus, I've found that when I try to script responses out, stumbling on a small part of it can throw the whole thing off; instead, if you have a structure but the freedom to fill in the gaps, it can allow you to control the timing and read the room a bit more.  Ultimately though, you've got to make sure you're not trying to fit yourself into an image you think they want; that just never comes off as genuine, in my opinion.  Another bit of advice that went along with that was: show how you demonstrated a quality.  For example, rather than just saying "I'm hardworking and dedicated", give examples of how you demonstrated great work ethic and dedication to a task (e.g., through excelling in a challenging field of study, as evidenced by these grades or these awards or these projects that you led, etc.).

I never did the Bogidope interview prep course, but have heard really great things from some of the dudes on the circuit about this.  

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I feel that I was picked up because of my forthrightness in bringing up a negative stuff and how I overcame and learned from it. I think sometimes we are so worried of saying something a certain way or coming off as arrogant that we don't do a good job of conveying  how much we actually want and deserve the job. If you feel that you want and deserve the job I don't think it's out of line to say it. Just be ready to back up your reasoning. 

People want to work with people who are excited to be there.

 

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I wouldn't have gotten my UPT slot without bogidope application prep and interview prep. I've interviewed with boards three times (twice at my home unit) and got turned down and finally decided to give it a try.  I assumed I was pretty decent at interviewing until I went through the prep and realized I was absolutely wrong. Highly recommend.

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On 10/9/2020 at 4:47 PM, Ligma said:

I wouldn't have gotten my UPT slot without bogidope application prep and interview prep. I've interviewed with boards three times (twice at my home unit) and got turned down and finally decided to give it a try.  I assumed I was pretty decent at interviewing until I went through the prep and realized I was absolutely wrong. Highly recommend.

What did you realize you were doing wrong? Are there just soft skills that we all take for granted in the interview that we generally get wrong? I am trying to figure out whether or not it really is worth it to the prep versus just preparing myself using the questions that can be found on here.

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On ‎10‎/‎12‎/‎2020 at 3:17 AM, H_G said:

What did you realize you were doing wrong? Are there just soft skills that we all take for granted in the interview that we generally get wrong? I am trying to figure out whether or not it really is worth it to the prep versus just preparing myself using the questions that can be found on here.

I realized I've been doing everything wrong! From soft skills to answering questions. They are very personal, and they teach you how to create a killer "tell me about yourself" answer (because that question is almost guaranteed). They teach you how to answer questions to make yourself look like a future asset to the squadron. They teach you methods on answering the questions, and you have 2 video mock interviews which they tell you on what you need to improve on.

I was just like you, wondering dropping hundreds is worth it, because I was already broke from flight lessons. But it was my best investment ever. If you're not willing to give it your absolute everything to get a slot, especially during these extremely competitive times, you will regret it when it's too late.

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On 10/8/2020 at 3:38 PM, brabus said:

I’ve not been directly in your shoes UPT board-wise, but I did do interview prep for the airlines, and I’m very glad I did. Sounds like bogidope is along the same lines. Many solid applicants (on paper) end up with sub par interview performance. The interview is what gets you the job in the end, so I think it’s worth spending some money to be as polished as possible. I will take the hockey player with a 3.0 GPA and solid interview over the engineer with a 4.0/99s across the board who had a meh interview. 

+1000

Disclaimer: I did not get hired, so read this at your own risk. I can't help you with what to do, but I think I can help you and others with what not to do. 

I had a couple interviews with fighter boards, and I would consider myself (humbly) to be a pretty above average and well rounded applicant. And I failed miserably, for real likely the worst interview at the board. I failed because I was stubborn and could not detect/recognize what they were really looking for, and for some additional external reasons out of my control (life isn't fair, but you gotta keep picking yourself up). I came from a place where I had to punch for the high GPA and high academic scores while in college earning dual engineering majors. So that is what I did, at the expense of a lot of fun,  but in the end it earned me a job that allowed to pay for most of my civilian ratings. And it took a lot of effort and energy. I would go to interviews/visits and my academic achievement seemed to be unimportant to the board, and it made me really grumpy. Another similar applicant got feedback from his home unit (he was E at the unit), that he wasn't doing anything to really try and become a pilot when he had just finished his electrical engineering degree, and I could sense how grumpy that made him. So if you are someone who busted ass academically, you are going to have to put your thick skin and blinders on. IMO, as brabus said the interview is the most critical component because they don't know you, and unfortunately if you have high grades it seems there is a tendency for people to maybe make some "assumptions" about you (maybe this is justified, stereotypes exists for a reason I guess). You KNOW YOU, they don't, the interview is the only tool they have to see if you'll fit so have some empathy for the board too. The interview is a POPULARITY contest....NOT a capability contest. Read that sentence twice. Anyone who has gotten the interview has likely already been branded capable. Be prepared, be yourself, be happy, be POSITIVE, and prove you will be a GOOD TEAMMATE. They are people just like you, don't geek out with your tail between your legs because of all the green flight suits. If i could do it all over again, I would have treated it like taking a girl out instead of an interrogation in the the school detention office. You might only get ONE chance, so make sure she has fun and knows that you'll be good in the sack later on. With COVID my guard run is likely finished due to age (27, I am fighter at all costs). I spent 35K turning myself into a commercial multi engine pilot, when all I probably had to do was spend a grand or two on at an interview consultant and maybe I would have that fighter slot. Now I am sitting here preparing  to pull the pin on active duty so I can have a chance to still go upside down and sling weapons...don't be me lol. 

 

 

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There have been a lot of good responses in this thread, and I think they're all valid. I'll share one very useful piece of advice a friend of mine who is now at UPT for heavies gave me, and it proved useful for me in recently getting picked up for a fighter unit as well. 

"in the Guard they're trying to make a decision of 'This guy isn't even military yet, let along a military pilot, and I'm going to select him to be my wingman and trust him with my life for the 10 years based solely on his past achievements and his demeanor'"

@Cherokeeflyer is spot on in emphasizing a focus on how you have overcome adversity and learned from mistakes. Everyone will be tested at some point in training, so if you show up talking about how great you are and how you'll sail through UPT, it doesn't make a good impression. If you can tell a compelling story about a time you failed or screwed up bad but rose to the occasion and bounced back, that'll help you stand out. You want them to see that you're humble, will be a good teammate, and won't quit when the going gets rough. 

@hockeydork hit the nail on the head when he said anyone who's made it as far as the interview has already been considered capable. If you've made it to the 10 or so finalists out of 100-200, they likely already expect you have the skills to make it through UPT. What they're looking for is to see how well you'll fit with the team, that you're excited to be there but not a fanboy, and that you're going to work your ass off to be the best teammate you can be. I am an engineer with scores in the 90s across the board. Can confirm from experience that they did not care about said scores, and were far more interested in the teamwork side of my professional career than the technical. 

A couple things I did for interview prep that were helpful:

  • Don't let your answers come off as overly rehearsed. They don't want you to recite a canned response. Take a moment to think about the question you've been asked before you speak. Take the time to prepare so you know what to expect, but don't be a robot when you answer. 
  • Bring a team-first attitude. Once you're in the interview your academics and test scores aren't as relevant. Focus on sharing life experiences that were valuable and taught you important lessons
  • Do your homework. Learn about the unit, the airframe, and be able to tell them why you want to be there more than anyone else. 
  • Be authentic. It's easy to tell the people who are trying too hard from the people who are relaxed and confident. I've seen a number of interview candidates try to talk like they're already military pilots, and it was obviously off-putting to everyone in the room.

I can't speak to the Bogidope prep since I did not make use of it. I found the standard interview questions thread in this forum to be quite helpful. Best of luck to you. 

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