That One Question in a Job Interview

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

As a Defence Partner contemplating looking for a new job there is a certain level of anxiety around ‘that question’.

You know the one, the one that seemingly innocuous question, ‘what brings you to (insert current posting location)’ sometimes it’s phrased along the lines of ‘I see you have moved around a fair bit’ either way most of us expect and dread the question because we fear that if we acknowledge that yes, we are a Defence Partner and have relocated due to our partners work, there is a very real chance that the interviewer will make any number of assumptions about our suitability for the role based on our answer.

Can I just take a moment here to acknowledge how frustrating, disappointing, infuriating, exhausting and down right unfair it is that as a society our Partners are acknowledged, recognised, celebrated and admired for the work they do protecting our nation yet if we admit that yes, we are a Defence Partner we may not get the job because we are viewed as unreliable or uncommitted, that we don’t hold those same values of professionalism, loyalty, integrity, courage, innovation and teamwork.

Putting that aside for now, the question remains how do we acknowledge the elephant in the room or do we just avoid it?

It is important to note that potentially an employer is being discriminatory if they do not employ us due to our, marital or relationship status, family responsibilities or any other protected attribute.

https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/rights-and-obligations/workplace-discrimination

However just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

I think before deciding how to approach ‘that question’ we need to recognise that this may change depending on your motivation for looking for a new job.

If you have just arrived in a new location and you need another income to ensure the bills are paid on time and there is food on the table and you believe that you will be passed over if you tell them you are a Defence Partner you don’t need to tell them.

They can make assumptions and they may pass you over anyway but you don’t need to tell them, it’s not relevant to your ability to do the job you are applying for.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

If you are asked a potentially discriminatory question then you can ask for clarification or almost pretend you didn’t hear the question properly, “Can you repeat your question please?” “I’m not sure I understand what you are asking, can you please clarify”, or respond without mentioning your Partner or Defence.

Quite often this type of question is used innocently by interviewers to try and create rapport with the Candidate  as part of a general conversation.

And sometimes you get lucky, you will be interviewing with an organisation that appreciates and values what great employees Defence Partners are.

If however you are interviewing for what could be your Dream Job, I would consider how happy you would be in the longer term working for an employer who was not supportive of the sacrifices you make as a Defence Partner.

In this case personally, I would be honest, yes it takes an element of trust but I believe that it is worth it in the longer term to find work with someone who appreciates everything you have to offer, that includes the skills that you have developed to adapt to life as a Defence Partner.

However it is important to note that your response to ‘that question’ should be in line with your own personality and values.

If you are someone who never reveals anything of themselves at work don’t feel pressured to share more than you are comfortable with, or if you share everything don’t ever feel that you need to hide anything in an interview. 

As for your cover letter (if requested) you can use this as an opportunity to add any relevant information not specifically highlighted in your resume.

If you choose to, you can use this to acknowledge that you are a Defence Partner if you want to so that you know that if they call you in for an interview there is no awkwardness about why you have relocated to the area. Or you can choose to address any gaps in your employment without making reference to Defence life, your choice.

Another option is to apply for positions with organisations who have already shown their support of Defence Partner employment by becoming part of the DFA Partner Employment Program.

All the best
Nejula Blake
DFA Project Officer – Employment

The information contained in this post is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice.

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Defence Families of Australia

National Advocacy body for current ADF families. We are all partners of current serving members.