American corporations have dedicated themselves to hiring veterans. Time and again, one company will pledge to hire 10,000 vets. Another says it will hire 25,000. But to many veterans who've looked for a job in the past 10 years, some firms seem reluctant to follow through.
Internet job search boards are replete with questions from veterans who wonder whether their military experience is helping or hurting them in their job search. When asked, business managers and HR professionals don't actually disqualify veterans automatically.
The devil is in the details, as it turns out. We asked hiring professionals to give us real reasons, from their personal experience, why veterans were looked over for a job.
1. The Hiring Manager Didn't Speak Veteran
And she didn't want to.
Veterans learn to speak the lingo of the jobs they have within the branches they serve. Military members and veterans alike can tell you that cross-discipline jargon -- and even language between branches of the military -- often involves terms that are unfamiliar to outsiders. In this instance, the HR professional didn't understand the vernacular on the veteran's resume and wasn't able to translate the skills.
Hiring managers have to look through hundreds and maybe even thousands of resumes to fill a position with a qualified candidate. The bar for tossing a resume aside becomes very low, and it's on the vet to be able to translate his or her skills to the civilian world.
2. The Veteran Doesn't Want to Start Over
Separating veterans need to understand that this is what they will essentially be doing when they cross over. While they may not start from an entry-level position, based on their education and experience, they certainly won't be able to just walk into a similar level in a related field.
If an industry executive decided to join the military all of a sudden in his mid-30s, and demanded to have a colonel's rank, he would probably be laughed out of the room. If a military member did the same thing in corporate America, they should expect the same result. Start over and work your way back up, with your new experience.
3. The Hiring Manager Didn't Know What a Veteran Can Bring
Many civilians have trouble understanding military life and can equate young members who are newly separated from the military with their civilian peers. When looking at a young veteran, inexperienced civilian HR managers can tend toward applying negative stereotypes depicted in movies and television, rather than looking at the individual as a whole.
Again, the person looking to fill a role may have hundreds of candidates to sift through and has to come up with some way of getting to the bottom of a stack. It's not fair, but that's how it goes sometimes.
4. The Resume Was Too Long
A convincing resume gives a hiring manager a good glance at a candidate who might fill a position well. The resume needs to be tailored to the job seeker's ability to fill that role. Handing a resume to someone should allow them to quickly determine whether the applicant is actually a potential fit.
Veterans are prone to adding every military position, school and award they've ever earned, resulting in what looks more like an autobiography than a quick sell. Tailor your resume and learn how to translate those schools and jobs to the position for which you're trying to get hired.
5. Knowing What They Want
One of the most common questions newly separated personnel face is the ever-present, "What do you want to do?" Ask fiends and mentors for advice, speculate on your skills or give a long list of your passions.
During a job interview, the correct answer is anything related to that job, speculations on anything related to the company for which you're interviewing and to show gratitude for being considered in the first place. The interviewer has a lot of work to do and is interested in you only so far as that job goes -- if you wonder if it's right for you, so will the interviewer.
-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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