Update Your Profile

Stay up to date with all West Point news and stay connected with fellow grads

Update your Register Entry

Cullum Files

historical records

Class Notes

login required, available to graduates & widows

Interviews & Negotiations

Interviews | Negotiations

When it comes to job interviews, preparation is essential! Applicants will be expected to have extensive knowledge of and be ready to discuss the employer as well as their own backgrounds and skills. Clearly, effective communication is key during the interview process. Preparing for and practicing responses to anticipated questions will help develop well-crafted interview answers.

How to Start Interview Process

Know the employer: Conduct thorough research into organization so that you can connect with them more easily. A very common interview question is a variation of, “Why do you want to work for us?” Having a well-researched and thought-out response to this question will demonstrate your knowledge of the organization, which shows the employer you’ve taken the time to research them and how you fit in with their goals. For more information on how to research employers, see the Researching Employers Guide.
Know yourself: By the time you get to the interview, many times the employer is trying to evaluate how well you would fit with the organization. If you are moving from a military position to a civilian role, consider your audience: Will this organization be familiar with military terminology, experiences, acronyms, and so on? If you are unsure, it’s best to assume they will not so that you can prepare your responses accordingly.
Know how the two overlap: The ability to clearly articulate your experiences and qualifications in the context of what the employer is seeking will be an integral part of the process. The goal is to prepare (not memorize) organized, confident responses that demonstrate knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm.

Potential Interview Formats

If possible, gather this information ahead of the interview. Ask with whom you’ll be interviewing and about the type of interview. This will help you with your research and preparation. You may encounter several types of interviews for one organization, depending on their process.

1. One-on-One: candidate is interviewed by organization staff members one at a time
2. Panel: candidate is interview by multiple staff members at once
3. Group Interview: multiple candidates are interviewed at once
4. Video/Telephone: candidate is interviewed via phone or webcam
5. Performance: candidate is asked to perform specific tasks that demonstrate skill level.

Type of Question


Sample (s)


Help the employer get to know you. Typically asked early in the interview.

What are your short-and long-term goals? What are your strengths and weaknesses?


Assess the candidate’s ability to problem solve and how you produce results.

Tell me about a time when you exceeded your goal(s).

Emotional Intelligence

Behavior-based questions focusing on your ability to handle stressful situations and regulate your emotional response.

Describe a time when you tried something and failed.

Stress (Case Questions)

Pose a hypothetical situation and ask the candidate to provide a recommendation/response.

Your niece started an ice cream stand. Yesterday was Thursday and she was open from 9am - 2pm. She sold 5 ice cream cones. What should she do differently tomorrow?

Interview Preparation Strategy

There are several strategies for interview preparation, so find one that works well for you! One recommended approach is S.T.A.R. or a variation thereof:
S: Situation—What is the context?
T: Task—What task(s) were you assigned?
A: Action—What action did you take?
R: Result—What was the result of your action?
Sometimes you will see STAR-F. The “F” is for your feeling regarding the outcome. This can give the employer insight into your work ethic, motivation, and personal standards of behavior.
Another variation is C.A.R:
C: Challenge—What challenge did you face?
A: Action—What action did you take?
R: Result—What was the result of your action?
Using a strategy will help you stay organized with your responses so that you hit all of the main points. Be sure to include the result—this is typically the most important part to the employer! During your employer research, try to anticipate what questions they may ask you, and begin outlining your experiences as stories you will tell them to demonstrate relevant skills and experience. We recommend having around five stories prepared that will speak to what the employer wants to know.

Sample Interview Questions

Tell me about yourself.
Why do you want to work for us?
What makes you the best candidate for this position?
What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
How would others describe you?
Describe your leadership philosophy.
What do you know about our organization?
What are your salary expectations?
Describe a time when you disagreed with your supervisor and how you handled it.
What questions do you have for us?

A Few More Thoughts on Interviewing

Be honest. While it’s encouraged to come across as likeable in an interview, it’s equally important to remain genuine. Saying all of the right things to get the position can result in unhappy employees and employers.
Timing. As a general rule of thumb, try to limit your answers to two minutes or less. Responses that consistently exceed this can lead to an unbalanced interview, with the candidate dominating the conversation. Keeping to a strategy, such as S.T.A.R., can help you stay on track.
Thank you notes. Send a thank you note to every person with whom you interview. It is recommended that you do this within 24 hours of the interview. If you do not wish to pursue the position further, that’s completely fine, but still thank you interviewers for their time. If you remain interested in the position following the interview, be sure to mention that in the interview as well as in the thank you note.
Salary. Be prepared to discuss salary expectations, but do not bring them up first.
Questions. Have questions ready based on your research. There are many sample questions available, but be sure to address questions that arise during the interview as well. This shows the employer that you were processing what transpired. Time permitting, ask two to three questions that cannot be answered by looking at their website. 

Negotiating Job Offers

Once a job offer is presented, you’re faced with the exciting challenge of deciding whether or not the opportunity is the right fit for you.
The Good News is after receiving a job offer, you have more power than at any other time in the interview process. The employer has identified you as their top choice! The Challenge is it’s time to evaluate all of the pieces of the offer and make your decision within a reasonable time frame.


Every Negotiation is Different
Do you have a skill set that is in high demand? What is the state of the labor market? What funding is available for the position? All of these factors, and many more, can influence your negotiation process. What worked well for one person, may not work well for another. Negotiating tactics normally reflect a balance of power, as well as desire to close the deal. When negotiating over employment both sides have the same desired outcome, so neither side should push too hard. An ethical employer will pay employees fairly: A smart employee will know what fair compensation is and want to be paid well but not overpaid.
Take Your Time
Often, employers are not expecting you to accept or decline an offer immediately. Take time to clarify and evaluate the offer. A reasonable length of time to do this is commonly a few days to a week. If you’re unsure, ask the employer when he/she would like your decision.

What to Negotiate

After you’ve evaluated the job offer, you may decide there are factors you want to negotiate. While there are a variety of possibilities, here are some that are common:

  1. Salary: Many people first think of salary when considering negotiations. The goal is to find a position that will compensate you based on your level of experience. Knowing an appropriate salary range for yourself considering your expertise, cost of living in the area, the type of organization/position, total benefits package, etc., will help with this factor. Remember that your salary does impact future earnings, so it is a factor to consider carefully.
  2. Location of the Position: Research the geographic area of the position. Does the area offer the lifestyle you desire? Can you choose the location? Is telework one or more days per week an option?
  3. Start Date: Some employers may have flexibility with your start date. This can be an important consideration, especially in you are transitioning from one job directly into another. Would you benefit from some downtime in between jobs? Do you have obligations you need to address before moving into another position?
  4. Performance Reviews: Some organizations give bonuses or salary increases based on performance. It may be possible to request that you receive your performance review earlier than typical to increase your earnings more quickly. This may be a significant factor, especially if the offered salary is a bit lower than you would like.

Other Factors to Consider:

  1. Work schedule
  2. Vacation days
  3. Company car/travel expenses
  4. Work tools (cell phone, laptop)
  5. Professional development opportunities / Professional association membership
  6. Expense account

* It is recommended that you determine the most significant factors to you when beginning the negotiation process. If everything about the offer needs to be negotiated, it may be worth revisiting the position and determining whether or not it is a good fit.

Additional Resources

Mock Interviews with AOG Career Services Staff