Connecting With an Employer as a Veteran
Five Key Steps to Get That Job
¬†The following post was contributed by Russ Hovendick, an author and expert in veteran transitions. Read more about him at the end of the post.
In my 21 years as an executive recruiter one of the most frequent comments I have heard from employers is that candidates are failing interviews because they lack the communication skills and the ability to effectively present themselves in an interview. This comment holds true for both civilian and veterans alike. It seems that younger civilian candidates struggle to communicate in face to face scenarios, due to their reliance on technology and electronic devices to communicate. Veterans on the other hand favor the use of acronyms, facts, figures, and numbers to express their level of competency. Each side is failing to connect with a potential employer. I certainly have suggestions that have proven very effective for civilian candidates, but our focus today is you, the veteran. What can you do differently that will enable you to connect with your audience of choice.
- Create a resume that connects: Your resume can be as flexible as you would like to make it. Gear it to your audience. Read the posted job description and develop a resume that includes the key terms and phrases of the job description. Using this mirroring approach greatly enhances your chances of making it through the initial computerized screening process. It also allows you to start preparing for your upcoming interview by thinking of situations that you have encountered that would show you have this type of experience. If the job description advises that you will be leading a team of 20 associates and you have led 20 troops, then call them associates in your resume. If they ask for team building skills, include the phrase ‚ÄúTeam Building‚Äù in your resume. However, if you don‚Äôt have that exact experience, don‚Äôt show that you do. Instead list experience that would align, as closely, as possible.
- Change your vocabulary: For 4,8,12 or 20 years you have lived and breathed military. It‚Äôs in your blood. Unfortunately, it‚Äôs also in your vocabulary. If you are interviewing with an employer who has no prior military experience and you spew acronym after acronym, that employer will have no idea of what you are referring to. Attention lost ‚Äì interview over! But it doesn‚Äôt have to be this way. Instead of using terms, such as mission, incorporate the use of civilian friendly terms like goal or objective. It‚Äôs almost a certainty that you will say mission here and there but let it be a sprinkling and not a flood. Responding to a question with yes sir and no sir are not sufficient answers in a civilian interview. If you continue to use these, soften your responses by including a follow up sentence after each. For example responding ‚ÄúYes sir that would be great!‚Äù Instead of just ‚Äúyes sir.‚Äù With civilian employers concerned about the rigidity of military, also be sure to RELAX! Engage in small talk, grow your hair a bit longer, standing at attention is not needed‚Ä¶yes, RELAX! You will put your audience at ease.
- Know your attributes: As I interview veterans, many struggle to define who they are. How can an employer make a decision, as to who you are if you can‚Äôt effectively explain who you are? Get out a sheet of paper and write down your characteristics. Let‚Äôs say one of yours is commitment. To say in an interview that you are a committed person and not explain further, no one is convinced. So let‚Äôs take it a step further. Ok, so you are a committed person. What actions have you taken that would demonstrate this? Now, let‚Äôs include a quick statement of what others have said about your level of commitment. Now you are connecting and the employer has some fodder to actually begin making an informed decision about you. Using this approach with several attributes provides the opportunity for you to connect on multiple levels with a prospective employer, but the key is that you must know yourself first.
- Know your competition: Who is your competition? The recent graduate? The job hopper? The 30 year old still living in mom‚Äôs basement? In today‚Äôs job market the talent pool for certain positions leaves a lot to be desired. You can have a distinct advantage, if you prepare yourself. This may not be your dream job, but it can be your foot in the door, until you find something better. But, first you need to land this one. So with this in mind, set yourself apart. Dress the part, turn off the cell, be courteous, show up on time, be flexible to work any hours, and display a genuine desire to make an impact and to¬†help the employer increase the company‚Äôs bottom line. Just by doing these simple things, you can set yourself apart from about 80% of your competition. Is this your ideal job? Maybe not, but it could be a great reference source when future opportunities arise? Only you can influence this, but if you demonstrate a work ethic that is extraordinary, someone is certain to notice. Who knows, you may get promoted into that dream job you always wanted.
- Be active: The old saying goes, the harder I work, the luckier I get. It is the same in the job search. Your next job is not going to come to you and no one cares about you getting a job as much as you do. Take the necessary steps to make it happen by sitting down and formulating an action plan. Directional Motivation provides worksheets that help you stay organized through each step of the interview process to make sure you stay in the game. Without a definite plan of action, days pass by, with little opportunity to connect with an actual employer. By having a step by step plan of your activities you will have a daily goal to accomplish and a reason to get out of bed. Inactivity leads to despair, which leads to depression, and you don‚Äôt want to go there. Also, surround yourself with a support group. I am not speaking of other unemployed, but rather individuals that have made a successful transition and are positive and pulling for you to succeed.
I would also recommend connecting with a Chaplain. Chaplains are aware of countless resources to help you, in addition to providing spiritual guidance. They want to help you but be careful not to allow yourself to get in a mind-set of expecting someone else to do it for you. Yes, people definitely want to help, but ultimately it‚Äôs up to you. Just get after it with a positive attitude and lots of activity and you will be surprised at your results.
Russ Hovendick is the founder of Directional Motivation www.directionalmotivation.com which provides free career resources to veterans and their families. He is also the author of three books. ‚ÄúDeployment to Employment: A guide for military veterans transitioning to civilian employment‚Äù has been regarded by the military community as a vital resource for transitioning veterans. This book reached the #1 Top New Release status on Amazon, has been added to college curriculum, and is being used by a Top 100 Food manufacturer for military job fairs. His others ‚ÄúHow to interview: What employers want to hear in today‚Äôs competitive job market‚Äù has been added to high school and college curriculums and ‚ÄúHow to get a raise: The correct way to ask for an increase in salary and wages‚Äù has been recommended by Fortune 500 Human Resource Managers.