VSN Banner

Struggling to Hire Veterans? Your Interview Structure Could Be the Issue 

By David Muir, Senior Vice President of Easterseals Veteran Staffing Network

Many employers desire a diverse workforce made of people who can get things done efficiently, with quality, in a range of environments, and in rapidly changing, high stress situations. Veterans are known for these are characteristics.

Why might your organization struggle to hire veterans effectively?

The answer may be in how your team conducts interviews…and some slight changes on your end will likely help you meet hiring goals.

The structure of your interview questions, paired with a lack of interview experience among many military candidates, are barriers to you successfully hiring veterans. 

Let’s start with veteran interview skills.

I was coaching Carlos, a 28-year-old who was transitioning from the military after ten years of service. When I asked him about his job in the Navy, he said, “I’m the right-hand man for the Air Boss.”

I stopped him there. I didn’t know what an Air Boss is, and neither would most others. Carlos explained that the Air Boss oversees all the aircraft on an aircraft carrier…a ship that carries nearly 100 aircraft. Most of time, this officer is focused on those aircraft that are out on missions. 

Carlos’ job was to manage the flight deck. For the last three years, he was responsible for managing hundreds of staff, scheduling, training and operations, not to mention launching more than $20 billion worth of United States property in ten minutes during a scramble drill! When we talked through these details his response was: “Oh, I never thought about those things. I just did my job.”

This humility is common among military candidates. While admirable, it doesn’t help them get hired in civilian positions. How can candidates like Carlos possibly convey their extensive project and personnel management skills, operational expertise, and leadership if they are unaware of the need to identify and highlight these skills for employers?  

Coaching and preparing candidates like Carlos to highlight their relevant and extensive experience is a critical part of the hiring equation. Equally important is ensuring that employers can adapt their recruiting and interviewing process to hire these skilled and highly qualified veterans.

Employers who desire to hire military candidates should consider changing how they interview these men and women. Interview questions can be evaluated and altered to “pull” the information out of your veteran prospect. 

For example, if you are evaluating someone for his/her project management skills, instead of asking specifically about “project management” you might consider asking: “Would you please tell me about a time when you were given a task and had to solve a problem or problems. What resources were available and who were the people involved? Did you have to work with people outside of your direct group? What was your plan and the outcome?”

Re-engineering the way you interview, focusing on the components of the skill without the civilian terminology, will significantly increase the likelihood of learning about his/her true skills. Employers who take these steps to “pull” these stories and experiences out of the veteran will more clearly see the depth and breadth of what that candidate has more to offer your organization.

To learn more about how Easterseals Veteran Staffing Network can help your organization be better at hiring military, please reach out to us at www.vsnusa.org to schedule a conversation.

Powered by Blackbaud
nonprofit software