Hiring military veterans is becoming more common as the nation transitions away from long over-seas deployments and more officers and enlisted personnel leave the service. On Veteran’s Day, in particular, it can be a heart string issue that emphasizes the need to give back to someone who risked so much for our country.
But hiring a veteran shouldn’t be a moral obligation. In fact, most vets would prefer to be hired on their own merits. And those merits can be numerous. The U.S. military imparts a great many skills on the men and women that occupy its ranks. A business that ignores these skills is not only doing that veteran a diservice; they are harming their own self interest.
But successful employment is seldom a one-way street. Some of the barriers to hiring vets seem to come down to whether or not a former soldier can communicate his or her skills. In a Fortune article, Katherine Reynolds Lewis describes how veterans can translate their skills:
Veterans who succeed in making their military experience relevant to civilian employers quantify their accomplishments and eschew military jargon and acronyms in favor of lay terms…
Her article goes on to outline some of the negative stereotypes of returning vets such as fears of future deployment and PTSD. These are very real misconceptions that should be discouraged at the management level in the hiring process. But there are other barriers that need to be managed in a dialogue between someone hiring and a veteran job candidate. This is a dialogue that can be informed from both sides in order to judge a job candidate and be judged as a job candidate.
For those hiring: Don’t dismiss military experience because it doesn’t directly apply. Leadership skills, informed decision making, team-work, and mission driven strategy are all part of military experience and are sought after business skills.
For veteran candidates: Translate your skills so that a non-military person can understand them. But don’t hide or diminish those skills thinking they don’t apply. Your military experience should not be a blank spot on your resume.
Here’s the big secret: this advice really applies to everyone – not just vets. Interviews should all be a dialogue regardless if someone is a veteran or not. A collection of degrees and jargon on a piece of paper will never be as valuable as a conversation between two people in order to better understand skills and how they might translate to an employment opportunity.