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NEWS | Aug. 22, 2023

NSWCPD Helps Employees Master Job Interview Skills

By Gary Ell

Interviewing for a job can be daunting. To help job seekers pull off a stellar interview that lands them their dream job, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) recently held a two-part interview skills workshop hosted by two of its own employee-led resource groups.

By regularly holding such training sessions, the NSWCPD Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) help foster a key command mission priority: To serve the U.S. Navy warfighter by empowering, equipping, and continuously educating an inclusive and talented workforce.

The African American Resource Group (AAERG) and Women’s Employee Resource Group (WERG) collaborated to produce the virtual workshop to help future applicants be prepared for what many consider to be a stressful endeavor.

Hosted by NSWCPD’s Edward Carter, an acquisition manager and AAERG member; Allyson Jones-Zaroff, a branch manager and co-lead of WERG; and Alaina Farooq, also a branch manager and AAERG member, the workshop was divided into two parts. Part one included a virtual information session that provided a walkthrough with helpful insights on NSWCPD’s interview process. The second part featured mock NSWCPD-style interviews with post-interview feedback from experienced panelists.

The nearly 90-minute information session began with an overview of NSWCPD’s interview process that differs from private industry’s typical process.

“In the private sector, interviews are usually structured to be conversational with questions added or subtracted based on the how the interview is going. However, interviews with NSWCPD are structured to include five to seven open-ended questions with the interview panelists taking copious notes, but not actively engaging the candidate,” Farooq said.

According to Farooq, the most effective way for NSWCPD employees to prepare for an interview is to have a practice interview.

“Having the AAERG offer mock interviews helps employees break barriers to getting mock interview help and specialized post interview feedback,” she said.

“The interview is timed and pacing is very important. Questions will typically be scored according to a predetermined rubric. Reponses to the interview questions don’t need to be in order, but it is important for the interviewee to clearly state what question they are addressing as they move through the questions,” Jones-Zaroff said, mentioning that the interview panel includes multiple members, some of whom may work directly with the candidate, if selected for the position, while others may be from another department.

“The panel consists of people at or above the grade of the announcement. The hiring manager may not be part of the panel,” Farooq added.

Both Jones-Zaroff and Carter advised that candidates should “do their homework” and that it’s best to begin preparation as soon as the candidate submits their application to the position announcement.

“You are being tested on your preparation process. I think that’s what our interview process boils down to. How well did you prepare for this? You can be the best talker in the world, but if you go into this cold, you are not going to do well,” Carter said.

“Once you apply, assume that you are going to be at the interview,” Carter said, adding that studying the job announcement and questionnaire is the first step. Reaching out to a mentor who may have gone through the process or peers who are actually doing the job that you applied for are also very good tips.

“There is a huge importance for programs like these, especially for someone like myself who has only been with the command for a short period of time,” Keina Thorpe, In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA), Surface Ship Propeller Division, said.

“It gives you the ability to nurture knowledge and understanding of how to effectively interview within the command. This program provides the individual the ability to practice, and practice makes perfect! Having the knowledge, understanding and ability to practice, you ensure success,” Thorpe continued.

During the second part of the workshop, and to further prepare employees, the AAERG coordinated several mock interviews with a panel of NSWCPD managers.

Adrienne Darr, Dan Wheeler, Nang Tran, Stephen Carroll, Bob Pettis, Tony Lee, Ben Pierson, Jeremy Scott, Joe Amato, Monica Schrank, Robert Tronzo, Steven Crowell, Gregg Mann, Chedric Waters, Bill Ritter, Domenic Luciani, Eric Mscisz, and Jones-Zaroff served as management panel members who participated in the mock interviews, while Paul Michael Wilkins and Alessandra Kahl were two of the nine employee interviewees.

Wilkins, a logistics management specialist, had the opportunity to sharpen his interviewing skills with the panel.

“The mock interview was an excellent opportunity to learn about NAVSEA's [Naval Sea Systems Command] interview process and connect with potential mentors in the organization. This was my first exposure to NAVSEA's interview approach,” Wilkins said. “As a result, I learned several strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement in my presentation style. I also received good advice and plan to take action on it so that I'm better prepared for the job I really want.”

For Kahl, who serves as a mechanical engineer, the experience was very helpful in preparing for a future interview at NSWCPD.

“The feedback from the interviewers was extremely insightful and has helped me to focus my answers efficiently. As this was my first interview experience with NAVSEA it was a good opportunity to learn how the process works and exposure to a different format of effectively presenting myself,” Kahl said, adding that the interviewers were able to help her identify strengths, pace responses, and learn how to best phrase answers.

“Without this mock interview, I believe my first attempt at a promotional interview would be a little shocking to the system, and I am now more confident to enter into this process. I am glad I had access to this opportunity as I know it will help me in pursuing a fulfilling career path within the command,” Kahl said.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster awareness, respect and inclusion within the workplace. They are led and participated in by employees with common interests or characteristics. The groups act as sounding boards for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) issues or concerns, uncovering issues specific to the needs of a that community within the organization. They then serve as a collective voice to advocate for change around these objectives.

NSWCPD employs approximately 2,800 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.