Strategies to Ace Your Next Interview

Posted by Ashley Jones

Our top 10 tips to help you excel in an interview for a security-cleared job.

1. Understand That Impressions Start Forming Even Before the Interview

Every point of contact with a potential employer—from your online profiles and resume to networking events like Cleared Job Fairs—contributes to first impressions about you. Make sure you’re professional and prepared at all times during your cleared job search, as these early perceptions can influence an employer’s decision to move forward with you in the hiring process.

2. Prepare for Your Initial Phone Screen Interview

Treat phone screenings with the same seriousness as in-person interviews. If a recruiter calls unexpectedly, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them if you can schedule the conversation for another time. Preparation is key, as employers often use these calls to screen out candidates who may not be a good fit. Be ready to discuss salary expectations and ask insightful questions. Being well-prepared for this initial interaction can set a positive tone for the rest of the interview process.

3. Research the Company and Your Interviewers

Many cleared job seekers overlook this step. When scheduling your interview, ask for the names of the individuals you’ll be meeting with. Then research them online just as you do the company, the agency, or the contract. You’re seeking details and commonalities to help you in the interview. Understanding more about the company’s culture, values, and your interviewers will help you connect better during the interview. The more you know, the better you’ll perform.

4. Tap into Your Network for Valuable Insights

Check your online and offline networks to see if you have any contacts at the company. These connections can provide valuable insights about the position and the department that go beyond what’s listed in the job posting, making you a more informed candidate. This intel can also help you gauge your level of interest in the opportunity.

5. Practice Interviewing with a Trusted Friend or Colleague

It’s crucial to rehearse, especially if you haven’t interviewed recently. Mock interviews help you refine your answers, identify any distracting habits, and project confidence. You’ll have limited time with your interviewers and you want to make the most of your opportunity.

6. Dress Appropriately

Your appearance matters. Dressing professionally shows that you take the interview seriously. If you’re unsure about the dress code, ask your recruiter for guidance. Proper grooming is also essential as it contributes to a positive first impression.

7. Be Punctual

Arriving late can create doubts about your reliability. They’re making judgments about you based on limited information, so this is important. Aim to arrive 5-10 minutes early. If an unforeseen delay occurs, notify your contact immediately, apologize, and provide an estimated arrival time. Upon arrival, address the delay, apologize again, and then move forward.

8. Prepare Your Success Stories

Develop and practice 5-7 success stories highlighting your achievements from the past 5-10 years. What was a situation you faced, what goal were you trying to achieve, what actions did you take to achieve your goal, and what were the results? These stories will boost your confidence and help you stand out.

9. Ask Thoughtful Questions

Even if you think everything has been covered, always have a few questions ready that demonstrate you’ve done your homework. Questions could include inquiries about a typical day in the role, the goals for the position, or the follow-up process. It’s okay to bring a list of questions too.

10. Follow Up Promptly

During the interview, ask about the preferred method and timing for follow-up. Send a thank-you email within 24 hours to each person you interviewed with, expressing your appreciation for the opportunity. Reconnect with your contacts at the company to reaffirm your interest in the position, or inform your recruiter if you’ve decided it’s not the right fit for you.


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

    View all posts
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 11:22 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation