Conducting Better Job Interviews with Veterans

Guidance for military-to-civilian hiring, transitioning, thriving

By Matt Davis April 25, 2019
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​A quarter of a million service members transition from the military to the civilian workforce each year. While much has been written, studied and researched about veterans' employment, bridging the real-life divide can be daunting for HR professionals. Practical guidance to facilitate these candidates' move from their former "we will" military environment to their future "at will" civilian environment is available in From WE WILL to AT WILL: A Handbook for Veteran Hiring, Transitioning, and Thriving in the Workplace (SHRM, 2018). 

Author Justin Constantine, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, offers potential employers real-world case studies, expert recommendations and insights, and state-of-the-art resources and tools to demystify the culture and mindset of today's veterans and present the business case for hiring them. The book provides a clear roadmap to manage the hiring process and navigate the path from veteran-friendly to veteran-ready. 

Below is an excerpt from From WE WILL to AT WILL. Readers familiar with the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge will recognize connections to Leadership & Navigation, Relationship Management, Critical Evaluation and other behavioral competencies. SHRM credential-holders who read the book and pass a quiz will earn three professional development credits (PDCs) toward recertification.

Understanding the Veteran Across from You

  1. In the military, you never have to interview for a job. You take a whole battery of tests when you first join to make sure you are eligible, but during your time in the military there is a higher-ranking officer called a career planner who decides what position would be the best for you, initially based on the needs of the service and individual job fit. If a service member finds herself called to meet with her superior officer for a one-on-one conversation, it is often because something bad has happened.

  2. The veteran probably will not have typical job stories. They will have, however, a set of skills and values that should be explored. Civilian candidates will likely come from companies similar to yours, and often provide examples of work they have done that correlate directly with the job description. But a veteran may very well have performed the same work in the military without necessarily realizing it and won't always know what skills to stress during the interview.

  3. Veterans are taught from day one the value of the team over individuals. It is unnatural for vets to openly discuss their accomplishments. In the private sector you understand that part of networking is not just identifying how you can help somebody, but also highlighting some of your personal accomplishments. Veterans don't think that way, because teamwork is so critical to success in the military.

  4. Veterans often take their skill sets for granted. Many veterans are used to talking and hanging out with other veterans or service members, and therefore it does not occur to them that the skill sets they have picked up and sharpened in the military do not exist everywhere else. They are often unaware that the skills and experience developed in the military can be enormously beneficial in the private sector.

  5. They also have soft skills. Our military spends a lot of time and money teaching and training leadership development, team-building, problem-solving, adaptability, and many other critical soft skills. From this sturdy foundation, you can train for industry-specific skills.

 

Matt Davis is manager of book publishing at SHRM.

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