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First and foremost, applicants must remember that they are applying for an extremely competitive junior executive position – as a commissioned officer – and must, therefore, prepare accordingly. So, before the application is started or the interview is scheduled, an applicant should pause and answer two questions for themselves: “What is a commissioned officer?” and “How do I know I can be a commissioned officer?”
Reference materials, including dictionaries and encyclopedia, define a commissioned officer as “any person in the armed services who holds a commission sanctioned through execution of an oath or affirmation which, by the very act of execution, grants the individual authority to undertake certain functions and empowers that person to assume a position of authority or command.” Interestingly, even though John Paul Jones, the father of the American Navy, dictated the “Code of a Naval Officer” in 1792, each of its principles fully supports that definition and holds true today. “The Code” remains the best representation of what, and who, an officer is and what an officer should be. Take the time to locate and read “The Code.” While you’re at it, also read the oath of office administered to newly commissioned officers, as well as the verbiage contained in a commissioning certificate.
Review the Coast Guard’s Level 1 Officer Evaluation Report (OER) to gain an awareness of the functions and responsibilities expected of, and therefore measured, in a commissioned officer. Also, consume a few non-Coast Guard, non-military readings such as those found in
The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker (ISBN: 0-06-091209-70)
Character In Action: The U. S. Coast Guard on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips with ADM James M. Loy, USCG, (Ret.) (ISBN: 1-59114-672-0), and
Be-Know-Do: Leadership the Army Way (adapted from the official Army Leadership Manual) introduced by Frances Hesselbein and General Eric K. Shinseki (USA Ret.) (ISBN: 0-7879-7083-2)
Finally, do not hesitate to
seek awareness and insights from those commissioned officers and executive
leaders that you know and respect; talking with them will help you develop
the paradigm needed to frame and complete a competitive application for
In addition to information contained in the Coast Guard Personnel Manual (COMDTINST M1000.6 (series)) . . . there are numerous publications on the market that discuss job interview preparation or that offer advice on how to successfully assume and perform in an executive level position. There are also publications available that will help an applicant learn as much as possible about the organization they are seeking to join. Applicants should ensure they have [read] one or more of these publications prior to their interview:
10 Insider Secrets to a Winning Job Search: Everything You Need to Get the Job You Want in 24 Hours - Or Less by Todd Bermont (ISBN: 1-56414-740-1)
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2005: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles (ISBN: 1580086152)
The Coast Guardsman’s Manual by George E. Krietemeyer, CAPT, USCG, (Ret.) (ISBN: 1-55750-486-7).
Many other resources are also
available to assist an applicant with preparing for their interview.
After they’ve completed their research via print resources, an applicant should seek opportunities to participate in as many rehearsal or “mock” panel interviews as time and availability of people will allow. This exercise allows an applicant to become familiar with the panel interview method and to gain confidence in responding to an array of questions presented in a unique format, without the anxiety that can accompany the actual, formal qualification interview. Sponsoring units and individuals – also known as the applicant’s parent command and mentors, coaches, and champions – can assist their applicant by arranging and preparing for simulated interview panels and afterwards providing honest, analytical feedback and advice from which the applicant can improve and refine their performance.
The members, and particularly the president, of the Officer Applicant Interview Board have a range of important responsibilities, all of which culminate in the final goal of providing an impartial evaluation of an applicant’s leadership potential, communication skills, character and intellectual development, commitment to the principles of health and well-being, and, most importantly, the applicant’s ability to align with Coast Guard core values as either a prospective officer trainee and scholarship beneficiary or as a Coast Guard officer.
Please remember that it is not the responsibility of the interview board to disqualify an applicant; the Coast Guard Recruiting Command is the ONLY disqualifying authority for commissioning program applicants. Therefore, interview board members receive ONLY the same items in an application package that a selection panel member receives. This excludes medical, legal, or security checks and other qualification information. Interview board members should conduct their assessments from the information contained in the applicant’s narrative, transcripts, and letters of reference and/or command endorsement, as well as from the information obtained from the applicant during the interview.
It IS the responsibility of the Interview Board to provide a clear, substantiated, and collective “Recommended for consideration” or “Not Recommended for consideration” decision to the Officer Selection Panel, via the Officer Programs Applicant Interview Form (CG-5527, revised June 2004). No previous version of this form is authorized for inclusion in a commissioning program application.
Treat the CG-5527 as an OER-type document; provide ample commentary to support the numbers. View excessive white space as a deficiency in the overall evaluation of your applicant. Otherwise, acknowledge that the selection panel will draw its own conclusions in the absence or in the dearth of commentary.
Interview board members are cautioned to be especially cognizant of the experience and maturity level of their interviewee in relation to the program the interviewee is applying for.
For example, a 20-year-old college sophomore candidate interviewing for the CSPI program, (a training program in which officer trainees have two years to be nurtured, trained, and developed) should be held in a different regard than a candidate who has, in addition to a four-year degree, multiple years of work experience, and is interviewing for the Direct Commission Engineer (DCE) program.
That DCE candidate will be expected to complete accession training (DCO School), report to their first unit, and be knowledgeable enough in their craft that they can begin to contribute immediately to the accomplishment of their unit’s mission. On the other hand, besides participating in their first panel-led interview, the CSPI candidate may be participating in their very FIRST interview, ever! They will be inexperienced and nervous; they may do or say things that are unnerving or that appear not to be in direct alignment with the behaviors of a commissioned officer. But the goal of the interview board is to assess whether or not that CSPI candidate has a passion for the Coast Guard, the potential to be a leader and manager, and has demonstrated personal values that are in direct alignment with Coast Guard core values.
The bottom line is that the Officer Accession Programs Applicant Interview, communicated via the CG-5527, is one of the most valuable portions of the application package in that it is a selection panel membership’s only significant personal insight into an applicant’s suitability for enrollment in an officer trainee program or for immediate commissioning as an officer. It can, in fact, be a determining factor in final selection for a commissioning program. Being a Coast Guard leader is not easy. It is a huge undertaking to find those applicants who live up to Coast Guard core values; display leader attributes; are competent, courageous, and mature; and who act in a way that they would have their people act. Therefore, we are depending on each of you to help us out.