by Lawrence Oleary Ph.D.
In my book, “5 Steps to Take Before Your Next Job Interview,” I provide numerous examples and case studies in regards to veteran job candidates and their frequent concerns that they have been away from the civilian world for a significant period, that this puts them at a disadvantage, and that they cannot communicate the relevance and the value of their military experience to a civilian interviewer.
The first thing that I address in the book is the inaccuracy and debilitating aspect of the above point of view. To shift this point of view, here are some facts found in my book:
1.Many employers are seeking out qualified veterans and are eager to hire them.
2. Independent research at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University have demonstrated that veterans are stronger in a number of important worker characteristics (competencies) when compared to non-veterans. In other words, the veteran’s military experience has enhanced his/her effectiveness in a number of important job related competencies rather than interfering with those competencies These include but are not limited to:
The fact that veterans have successfully participated in a military organization has been connected with an increased probability they possess the valuable competency of self –discipline to a greater degree than nonveterans.
•Team Building Skills- Veterans are more adept with regard to organizing and defining team goals, team member roles and responsibilities and developing a plan for action.
3. A third point that the veteran job candidate needs to realize is that the civilian interviewer, in many instances, is not looking exclusively for somebody who has experience performing the specific tasks or activities of the job that needs filling.
This is particularly true in today’s economy when the specific activities or tasks of the target job frequently change from year to year. This means that the number of job candidates who have the experience performing the tasks of the target job is frequently quite rare
Instead the interviewer is looking for someone who has the competencies (worker characteristics) to do the job. Frequently, the important competencies that are required to do the target job match up with the competencies at which veterans are superior.
4. Finally, the military people to whom I spoke with, insist that veterans encounter difficulty communicating their value in an interview because they are prone to speak in military terms. This problem can be reduced if not eliminated by taking a few steps:
•Consciously recognize the need to avoid using military acronyms and other terms before speaking, in many interviews. Think of what experience you are trying to communicate and practice saying in non-military terms.
•Talk with other veterans to see how they addressed the problem.
•Where possible, get a description of the job you are pursuing (you can typically call Human Resources at the company who is hiring), tell them you are interested in a specific job and request that they send you a copy of the job description of that job.
•You can practice interviewing for the job once you are scheduled for an interview. My military sources have told me that this practice piece is another piece where veterans are more experienced than non-military candidates. If you need help with this step to accomplish this practice piece, the material required to obtain a person to play the role of an interviewer is included in my book.