Nearly one-third of veteran job seekers are underemployed.  That’s 15% higher than for non-vets. Recent veterans lack the knowledge of how to translate and market their military skill sets to the civilian labor market.  Lack of job-search knowledge and experience may lead veterans to take sub-optimal employment to immediately replace income after service.  

Likewise, employers are ill-prepared to understand and cultivate veterans’ unique skills and expertise.  Over 59% of employers reported veterans perform “better than” or “much better than” non-veterans according to a study conducted by ZipRecruiter and the Call to Duty Endowment.  Veterans bring experience, perseverance, leadership, stress-management, time-management, team-oriented, and directly relevant skills in addition to an unparalleled work ethic.  And as if that wasn’t enough, hiring a vet can translate into tax credits for your company.

To help you properly evaluate a veteran applicant, here are 3 simple tips to tailor your interview questions to allow them to explain how their experience and education match the job requirements and key performance objectives of the job.  

Tip #1 – Build rapport with general opening questions that provide a sense of where the individual is in his or her transition from military service to civilian employment. Begin the interview with questions such as:

  • How is it going, separating from military service?
  • What has been the biggest surprise about the civilian workplace?
  • What opportunities are you looking forward to taking advantage of as a civilian employee?

Tip #2 – Behavioral and situational interview styles are the most effective when interviewing veterans. That’s because veterans are accustomed to concise and polite conversation. They are not accustomed to boasting about their accomplishments, scope of authority or level of responsibility, as they have been operating in a team environment. 

For example, a candidate may say he drove a truck. What he/she may not be saying is that he supervised several dozen soldiers transporting millions of dollars of inventory. 

You as the interviewer must probe for their accomplishments and for detail revealing their adaptability and how their experience can contribute to your company.

Insightful behavioral questions include:

  • Describe a situation in which you had to use your communication skills in presenting complex information. How did you determine whether your message was received?
  • Lead me through a decision-making process on a major project you’ve completed.
  • Give an example of a time you had to make a difficult decision.

Tip #3Remember to keep the interview questions legal.  Asking interview questions related to the candidate’s type of discharge, current military status and potential disabilities are illegal.

It is perfectly fine, and encouraged, to ask an applicant if they have read the job description and can fulfill the minimum job requirements; however, questioning an applicant on their disability or trying to uncover PTSD or a traumatic brain injury is totally illegal.

Some acceptable questions specific to their military career are:

  • Why did you join the military?
  • What aspect of your military career has prepared you for this position?
  • What challenges did you face in your military that will be an asset to our work environment?
  • What is one of the most important skills that you feel the military prepared you for?

 While considering a veteran applicant’s candidacy, be sure to keep the “counter-narrative” at bay.  These are the stories regarding the extent to which veterans may be traumatized, wounded or somehow “damaged” by their service.  While some may be coping with health issues, the vast majority perform well in the workforce after service.  

There are lots of resources available to help employers engage and employ veterans.  Begin with the Department of Labor’s Veteran’s Employment Programs website where you will learn how to attract and support employees who are veterans or members of the Reserve or National Guard in the workplace.  

Membership at MassHire Cape and Islands Career Center affords local employers the opportunity to take advantage of the many  Recruitment and Human Resources services offered at the career center.

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