Military Promotion Board Experiences Build Civilian Interview Success

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I remember my first Army promotion board interview for an Army ROTC Cadet leadership position. As I was waiting, a Senior ROTC Cadet strolled by and asked if I was nervous.  “No,” I replied, “why would I be?”  “You probably should be nervous. You’ll see,” as she smiled and strode off.  She was right; I should have been more prepared, much more prepared.  I was unprepared for the precision, rigor, and professionalism of the panel and their questions.  I did not succeed that time. 


Army promotion boards serve as excellent examples for military veterans and non-veterans alike for how to plan, prepare, and succeed in a civilian interview panel. The interview panel preparation is extremely rigorous because an Army promotion board and its successful completion is a very difficult challenge. Promotion boards are a hallmark of military precision, efficiency, evaluation, and preparation as they prepare current soldiers for future leadership challenges. 


The military promotion panel is composed of 3-5 senior Army leaders at the Battalion and Company level. The entire purpose of the panel is to test, evaluate, and assess the promotion candidate’s suitability for future responsibility and future challenges.  The panel consists of a uniform inspection, evaluation of test scores, and a rigorous Q&A on subjects from the vital to the mundane.  Sometimes, there are a surprise series of challenging, or standard hands-on tests to show the skill or tradecraft required for the promotion.  Every response is scrutinized, evaluated, and graded.  After the promotion board, the candidate steps out and then returns to be offered precise and actionable feedback on their performance. 


Only the top few candidates’ advances to the next promotion category, the rest learn from their experience and get ready for the next time. As you may well imagine, preparation for military promotion boards are amazing.  Uniforms are pressed, hair freshly cut, brass polished, and military dress shoes sparkle.  Groups of soldiers quiz and re-quiz each other on questions.  Soldiers strive to get their highest fitness, marksmanship, and gunnery scores to help their overall score.


Even if you have never been part of a military promotion board, the preparation to succeed in a military promotion board is exactly what must be done to succeed in a civilian interview. Focus on the precise aspects of your professional dress, have a great shine on your shoes, and a fresh hairstyle.  Ensure that you have memorized, rehearsed, and repeatedly practiced responses to the most common and the most demanding interview questions.  Finally, prepare a follow on presentation of some examples of your “hands on” job results that you can send to the interview panel following your interview.  And, most importantly, find a group of trusted friends that will help you prepare for your interview while they offer simultaneous encouragement and tips for improvement.


Remember the lessons of the military promotion board: A sharp appearance, practice leads to great in person interview performance, and ensure a personal presence that combines confidence with humility. Have a great interview!


Share your experience of how you prepared for and succeeded in a civilian job interview!


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Author Bio: Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 230 articles in over 145 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics.  Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better.  Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and

1 Comment

I agree with this wholeheartedly, if you can pass a military promotion board then a civilian interview should be cake. I always compare and contrast both sides of the spectrum when it comes to similarities like this. Basic training also helps you mentally when pressure is on you from anybody higher-up, it's almost always beneficial to remember your training as a basic trainee. Military standards are set high in order to set us up to be successful in the civilian world, and we must always remember to "hunt the good stuff"!