How to Interview a Veteran

Is there any special way to interview a person who is just coming out of the military? Here are a few items to consider:

  1. This person may have great skills, but may have never interviewed with anybody, ever. Many times, those in the service entered straight out of high school or college and have never really been thoroughly questioned in an interview. Sure, they may have worked at McDonalds or delivered pizzas while in high school, but those interviews certainly don’t compare. The point is to realize that even though a first-timer may not be as polished, the substance may still be there.
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  3. “Milit-ese” is a language the corporate world doesn’t speak. Military terminology and jargon can be overwhelming to the layperson. In fact, many resumes have codes and acronyms that are “Greek” to most of the civilian world. It takes a little time to change the language for the veteran. So, in order to put everyone on the same page, it might be helpful to politely ask them to explain these terms as they use them.
  4. Typically there is a difference between the equipment used in the military and the civilian world. There are two things to say about this fact. First, the military is usually the first to test and utilize high-technology equipment, and therefore is on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest. Second, the name of the equipment will almost always differ from the military to civilian world, but the function and the skills that the operator or engineer possesses are similar, if not nearly identical.
  5. Sometimes candidates don’t know what they want to do. They have been in the military for a few years and are not very educated on what all is out there. Certainly, someone who has led a group of people by building trust and strong communication would be a good production manager in a manufacturing facility, or maybe a great salesperson for an insurance company. But the key is to sell the candidate on the opportunity, because the connection may not be immediately clear.
  6. Be understanding of the military way. The “yes sir,” “no sir” language and the sometimes stiff demeanor is a product of their culture and training. This is how they are taught to behave with superiors. It is an act of respect. While they do respect people, this is not actually how they act in their lives. Once they are out in the civilian world and see the proper norms of interaction with their boss, they will change in no time. They didn’t go into the military like this, so when they get on the outside, they will change too. The important point is to recognize this is just an interview and not indicative of their work performance.

Without recognizing these differences, you can see that there can be significant grounds for miscommunication and misunderstanding on both sides. The most important rule is to embrace the diversity we find in this top-level group of service members and go beyond superficialities to recognize the real substance. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

Bill Gaul ( is President and CEO of The Destiny Group, an Internet-based recruiting tool that utilizes the latest patent-pending technology (including audio/visual) for organizations to use to source men and women departing the military services. Endorsed by all of the U.S. Service Academy Alumni Associations, and three times selected as one of the "50 BEST" by CareerXRoads, this online system is the easiest and lowest cost method to reach transitioning military worldwide, without a per-head fee.

Bill's articles are Copyright 2001, The Destiny Group.


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