Blog

On Hiring Veterans

by Michael Pollack
on 2015-11-11

“In corporate America, from my experience, there truly is no advantage to being a vet,” said Ricardo Roman, a former Director of Airborne Cryptologic Activities in the U.S. Air Force. Now Vice President of Strategic Alliances for Caliper, he admitted his words seem “counterintuitive” but said “at the end of the day, it’s about doing a job. You need the right experience and right education. If you happen to be a vet, it’s a cherry on top.”

On Veteran’s Day, our thoughts turn to all those who wore the uniform in peacetime and in war, including those who never returned from the battlefield.

Flags will wave, and a feeling of pride will pervade as we honor those who sacrificed. The challenge, though, comes after the parades, as patriotism alone won’t help veterans returning to a job market in which their skills don’t always translate seamlessly.

Many, like Mr. Roman, “have to start anew” and are ill-equipped to do so.

“I think one of the reasons there’s a lot of unemployed vets is because while everyone talks a good game about how [veterans are] disciplined and team oriented, corporate America is cutthroat,” Mr. Roman noted. “It’s a totally different environment from being in the military, where you sacrifice for your team to get your mission done.”

Mr. Roman’s advice to returning troops and businesses:

  • Realize the veteran population is just a subset of the civilian population. Each member is unique and comes with a distinct personality and potential.
  • Address the mismatch between experience and job requirements. “Caliper looks at a person’s potential, not just their experiences. If you have a vet who doesn’t have the experience, but you think they can do the work and transition to do a higher-level job, make it known to them” and help them learn the necessary skills.
  • Have more “sophisticated” interview discussions surrounding military service. Doing so should enable veterans to speak with confidence about specific experiences and to “interview the interviewer” so they can ensure that a culture fit exists.

Fellow veteran Ron Wolff, a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and Caliper’s SVP, Talent Management, suggests to:

  • Find the personality attributes that match to the job. “Personality doesn’t distinguish between military and civilian; it’s something we all have and follows us throughout our lives.”
  • Boil military experiences down to the behavioral level (e.g., ability to think on one’s feet), so the interviewer and assessee are speaking the same language.
  • Vets should present a “balanced assessment” of their strengths and weaknesses.
  • American businesses must dispel the belief that servicemen and -women return as “damaged goods.”
  • Businesses should share their culture and value proposition.
  • If a veteran presents the skillset and acumen needed in a job, say to him or her: “I want you because you are valuable, not because I owe you something.”