How Employers Can Move Beyond Military Skills Translators


As employers seek to hire military veterans, a common stumbling block is the skills translation. How does a civilian employer make sense of a resume which lists experience that isn’t directly relatable to the job their trying to fill? To get answers, I spoke to Jean South, CEO of Hire Served, a national recruiting firm focused on placing service-focused individuals within mission-driven companies. Hired Served encourages a process called Purpose Matching, which encourages employers to focus on their purpose and mission, instead of just skills, to make better hires. Jean believes that when employers make smarter hires, retention increases, as does employee engagement and teamwork and customer service – all things that affect the bottom line of an organization directly Here are ways to think beyond the translation of skills and experience when hiring veterans: Lida: Why is Purpose Matching important to employers? Jean: Purpose Matching ensures the applicant and the employer share the same values and goals. When purpose and vision are aligned, retention and engagement grow exponentially! A recent study by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) showed that veteran job retention appears to be more about fit within a desired career field than about job matching based on prior military skills or veteran’s hiring preference. However, in this same study, when skills and career field preference were both a fit, and veterans were working for an employer who intentionally seeks to hire veterans, they stayed in those jobs longer than if only one or two of these factors was present. Many hiring and recruiting professionals rely on a “skills translator” to find a veteran the right civilian job. This approach falls short because it only addresses part of the hiring issue. Lida: Are you suggesting employers adopt a more human approach to hiring? Jean:  Indeed! If the employer can start with a series of conversations around understanding how their organization operates from a values-perspective, and then align the ways a military veteran will help accomplish that mission, they are looking beyond the blocking-and-tackling of the job duties, and towards growth and leadership. In early calls with our clients, we spend a lot of time discussing the company’s goals, purpose and vision, and how it can line up with a commitment to veterans. We use this information to create a job posting that generates interest in the company, the mission and the open position. This approach is particularly meaningful with veterans, who are by nature service-driven. The military instills values of loyalty, duty and service into our service members; they don’t lose that when they take off the uniform. Unfortunately, those character qualities are not always obvious when reviewing a resume listing job skills and expertise. It is important to interpret the candidate’s military experience to help the employer gain a better understanding of the value the candidate brings to the company. Lida: Do you have an example of how this works? Jean: My favorite success story was an Army Intelligence Officer we worked with who was no longer able to serve in the active forces, but wanted to continue serving his country. We connected him with an organization whose mission it is to direct mission critical program initiatives in support of those who serve in the military and civilian sectors of government. His skillset happened to be a good match for a position they were trying to fill, but more importantly his passion was directly aligned with their mission. Today, he is thriving in his role because he says he still feels like he’s serving his country.

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