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Wed, Apr 4, 2012

Talent Strategies

3 Things Hiring Managers Need to Know About Hiring Veterans

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This guest post is by Malcolm O. Munro, an author, speaker, consultant and coach who has personally trained and coached hundreds of veterans in their career transition. He is the author of “Mission Possible: How to Find a Job in a Tough Economy” and can be reached at his website www.careerfulfillmentcoach.com., via Twitter at @coachmunro, and on Facebook at Facebook.com/cfcoach.

As the Middle East wars slowly come to an end, all four branches of the military will no doubt be shrinking, leaving employers with a growing talent pool to draw from. In anticipation of this opportunity for hiring veterans, here are three important considerations HR professionals and hiring managers need to know as they interview transitioning military folks.

  • Ease up on the stereotypes. Stereotypes, whether positive or negative are always flawed. The list of stereotypes for military folks is endless, ranging from “they are great leaders” all the way to “they might suffer flashbacks of combat right here in the office.” While either extreme may indeed be true, it’s important to evaluate all candidates objectively, matching their skills and experience against the open position. It’s what you do when interviewing non-military candidates and shouldn’t change when interviewing veterans.
  • Respect the skills they bring. Certainly some veterans might have perfect skill-for-skill matches, but don’t automatically discount those that might not have a direct correlation. While some military jobs don’t have a direct match in the civilian sector, veterans often bring intangible skills such as the ability to work well under stress, vague instructions, rapidly changing conditions, and with tasks that require great attention to details. While these may not be evident in resumes, you can easily uncover them in an interview.
  • Be prepared to interview them. One area where military folks have a disadvantage is in their preparation for transition. Formal transition classes may be using outdated materials and instructors may not be up to speed on current hiring trends. Additionally, some vets are rushed through their out-processing (particularly those in reserve units) and are not able to attend transition classes. That said, you might find candidates for your open positions showing a lack of confidence when interviewing and negotiating salary. Do NOT mistake this as a lack of ability. That candidate may possess the tangibles and intangibles you’re looking for and you won’t want to let them get away! Take your time in the interview and ask lots of open-ended questions such as “tell me about a time where you had to make an important decision in a hurry. How did you handle it?” Allow the candidate to tell their story and take note of the key details that give you the answer you’re looking for.

All employers want to hire motivated, loyal, skilled, and hard-working employees. That describes most successful veterans. When looking for qualified candidates for your open position, be sure to extend your search to those folks to have honorably served in uniform. You may find your best workers.

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  • Karen Banes

    Great article, Malcolm! You are right on target regarding our military population and the challenges that they face. I hope employers pay heed to what you have written here.

  • Jim Sardonia

    My advice to Employers is to take the time to understand the great benefits most Veterans have to offer. Flexibility and adaptability are required for most Veterans and although it is natural and second nature to them, this is a critical element and skill that civilian companies are looking for. Many Vets have a very diverse set of skills coming out of the military. Many are bilingual and have learned a 2nd and 3rd language while on Active duty in their remote locations. I would say all have advanced computer skills coming out of the military and many have a high level of programming skills. Most veterans are highly competent in technical machinery making them ideal candidates for the highly-technical industrial and manufacturing businesses out there. Civilian companies want people with a wide variety of skills and talents; the more skills they have and can demonstrate will make that person a more valuable prospect and asset during the interview process and on the job.
    My advice to Veterans that are transitioning to the civilian work force right now is to find the Veteran-friendly companies. One start is to simply search online, and type in ‘Best for Vets – 2011’. You will find a great list from the Military Times that rates the best companies that are hiring veterans in various fields. The company I work for (Siemens) is on that list. Siemens recognizes the great qualifications and skills our returning veterans have and has successfully integrated many Veterans into our wind power division with great results. We have partnered with “Orion International’ which has a great website and resources for transitioning Veterans. The site contains many tips on writing Resumes, cover letters and helpful advice on Interviewing. Also, I recommend that Veterans looking to transition to a civilian to take a look at this website and the Siemens USA Jobs website for available positions. Siemens is hiring and we are hiring with Veteran’s preference.