As a Coastie, I have traveled the States for the past 20 years going from coast to coast and one amazing adventure to another.
Read on in this blog to hear stories about my experiences living the Coast Guard life, not only as a military officer but also as a small town Midwestern girl who left home to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say about... My Coast Guard Career.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Officer Candidate School Interview

Over the years, I have helped several USCG members and civilians prepare for the OCS interview. This formal interview is conducted with USCG officers and is similar to a regular job interview. In my opinion, it will make or break a candidate’s chances of being selected. This is the only opportunity real, live USCG personnel have to see if you are a good fit for the service.

I am by no means an expert and have only gone through one interview myself, but I offer some dos and don’ts:

Don’t have a personal agenda. At this point, your OCS package should be totally complete and you're on the final stretch to being selected. The interview is not a time to ask questions about the USCG or personal issues (e.g. work hours or pay). It is a time to prove to your potential peers that you are a good candidate for the USCG.

Do be professional. Read up on job interviewing. Dress and act appropriately. If you are enlisted, wear your best dress uniform. If you are a civilian, wear a suit and dress the part by wearing well-tailored clothes and shiny dress shoes. I suggest that women wear their hair up in a professional style and that men get a tight haircut. This may seem obvious or simple, but it is very important.

Don’t go unprepared. Do research and try to think like they do. Here is a great find... a link to the actual form the board will fill out, the Officer Programs Applicant Interview Form. Also, find out what sorts of questions are asked in typical job interviews. Then, ask yourself these questions and write out formal, detailed answers. You won’t be able to bring those prepared materials into the interview with you but by writing them out and thinking about them, you will be more confident and less nervous.

Do read up. Review books on the Coast Guard Reading List and read other leadership advice found online at the USCG Office of Leadership and Development. Some of the leadership advice I use comes from reading official USCG message traffic (Internet releasable message traffic is available to civilians through an RSS feed at

Don’t lie. Be completely honest. Don’t answer the interview board’s questions with answers you think they want to hear. They will see right through that. Sometimes, they even ask questions that are nearly impossible to answer. So, be honest, give it your best shot, and tell them you don’t think you are prepared to answer the question. But...

Do be resourceful. Think about whom you might ask for help in a real situation or where you might find the right answers. Think about those mentors, peers, manuals, and books that you can consult to help you when you need it. Tell the board where you would go to get answers.

Do be yourself. Ya, I know, so cliché. But, honestly, you just want to answer questions honestly, collectively, and using your best judgment. Use eye contact and show confidence. USCG officers have an intense amount of responsibility and the board needs to be convinced that you can seamlessly handle the pressures.

Best of luck to anyone heading into an interview. Let me know how it goes...


luis said...

I got my interview about two months ago and my recruiter told me that I got 6 and 5, I am just waiting for the board's decision. Now my question is, do I have a great chance to get in with that score? Or what percentage of getting picked will I have?Also, I am from Puerto Rico, and knowing spanish and having my B.A. of IT will increase my chances?

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Articles on Careers said...

Oh wow, big thanks for sharing this post! I'm actually looking forward for the interview and I'm getting all giddy and nervous at the same time. Your tips will surely help me when I had my chance,