Veterans possess many attributes that benefit any company, big or small, such as team-building skills, exceptional technical training, trustworthiness, and strong organizational commitment. These qualities stem from serving in strenuous and unforgiving environments. In the field, there’s no margin for error, and veterans bring that mindset to the civilian workplace.
Despite veterans having one of the highest returns on investment, according to a 2017 study by Syracuse University, they still face huge hurdles in finding meaningful work upon transitioning to civilian life. We’ve previously written about how to keep veterans in the workplace, but how can hiring teams give them a more fair shot at getting the job in the first place?
One key issue: only 54 percent of HR professionals cite having moderate or more knowledge of the military, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Without this knowledge, hiring teams can’t understand the references that are likely to show up on veteran resumes.
It boils down to educating human resources and talent acquisition teams about how they can make the hiring process receptive to veterans’ unique skill sets and how to better recognize their talents. Here are a few of our tips:
The language of job descriptions can either inspire or hinder candidates from applying. Coming from a completely different culture, veterans are especially at a disadvantage for understanding and translating their experience to correlate with job descriptions. Research from Syracuse University found that one way to combat this is to use competency-based language rather than years of industry experience or role-specific tasks. For example, a job description could list, “creative leadership and problem solving” instead of “project management experience.”
Additionally, job descriptions should clearly state how performance is evaluated. During an interview, one alumnus of the Workforce Opportunity Services job training program, Morgan Beebe, said, “There were many things I wasn’t sure about in civilian life, but in the military, I always knew where I stood.” Being able to know how to perform their civilian job well can help veterans thrive in this new, uncertain environment.
Understanding the Military Resume
The experiences veterans bring to the table are unique. They can’t be matched “apples to apples” to those of civilians workers. But it doesn’t mean their skills and experience aren’t relevant.
To give veterans and their resumes a fair chance, hiring teams must become educated on military terms, roles, and ranks. A good way to achieve this is to include information regarding common roles and definitions of military terms in HR training manuals and direct them to online tools, such as this military crosswalk search or Military.com’s Military Skills Translator, which matches military terms to civilian jobs whose skills correlate.
Resumes that are put through artificial intelligence (AI) applicant systems, which screen for certain words or phrases to weed out candidates, put veterans at a disadvantage. Hiring teams must combat this issue by double-checking the work of AI programs as well as adjusting the settings, if possible, to accommodate military terms.
Veterans are used to straightforward and succinct conversations that are matter-of-fact, rather than expressive or elaborate in nature. Additionally, given the team-based nature of the military, they’re not used to boasting about their individual contributions or providing answers to questions such as, “How will you benefit our company?” The Department of Veteran Affairs recommends using performance-based interviewing (PBI) when interviewing veterans. PBIs prompt interviewees to describe ways they have worked in the past, which the VA cites as the most effective way to predict how someone will behave in the future. For example, instead of asking a candidate whether they can perform certain tasks, which likely prompts simple yes or no answers, the interviewer can ask, “How does your past military experience translate to this job?” This type of open-ended question encourages candidates to divulge more attributes about themselves through detailed experiences and examples.