Military personnel are a powerful resource to prospective employers.


How to Hire a Veteran

Learn to understand and interview them

Jargon … acronyms … terminology. It peppers your vocabulary, flows across your tongue like honey, and impedes your ability to communicate. Why? Because no one can understand you.

Every sector of this economy … every industry, every company … is affected by this. There is jargon found in the business world, the world of education, and even the military; it is one of the reasons that our military veterans struggle to find gainful civilian employment after they receive their military discharge.

Many of our service men and women have never applied for a job; they enlisted right out of high school. Therefore, they are naturally going to revert to the only mode of communication they have ever known. The advice is always the same for them….remove “military speak”, explain topics as if you were talking to your grandmother, not too many “no, sirs” and “yes, ma’am’s”.

This is true….military jargon exists on a whole different level. Cache does not mean the same thing to a veteran as it does to a civilian (it is a hiding place for supplies vs. an area of computer memory devoted to high speed retrieval of frequently used data), and a no military veteran would be scared to stand next to a gator (an amphibious vehicle).

However, jargon works both ways. Whereas, you may be thrown by references to KFS, TAA, or Mae West (an inflatable life raft), military veterans may have no clue how to respond to references to RFP, API or “the stack” (as in database schema). So remember to remove your “industry/company” jargon and acronyms from your conversation as well.

Honesty is key. If you find yourself in an interview where a former Sergeant E5 is speaking in a way you cannot understand, simply ask them to explain things to you as if you were his grandmother. It is a simple request that works wonders and make communication much easier.

Once communication becomes a two-way street, you will have a much easier time understanding how the veteran’s skillsets apply directly to your open job. According to, approximately 80% of the jobs in the military are non-combat occupations – meaning that these men and women are learning applicable skills in addition to their imbedded work ethic, dedication and leadership skills.

However, here are some other tips to make your interview more productive:

  1. FOCUS ON ACHIEVEMENTS. Regardless of a candidate’s background – civilian, military, student – everyone has achievements. Everyone is proud of what they have achieved, so talk about it. It will help you understand the vet’s character, work ethic and values.
  2. FOCUS ON CONVERSATIONS. Have the veteran explain his/her job duties. Listen for any possible follow-up questions – supervisory responsibilities, management of resources and/or distribution responsibilities. Beware of the legalities though. You can never ask about deployment, reenlistment plans or PTSD diagnoses.
  3. ASK IF THEY HAVE DONE ANY TRAINING. The old adage ‘those who cannot do, teach” is (in many cases) a stereotype. If the veteran has trained others, that indicates that he/she has the ability to communicate effectively, learn difficult/ complicated material and engage others in the process.

If you are interested in understanding how to effectively roll out a veteran recruitment program, Snelling can help. We have the knowledge on how to evaluate and translate skill sets and how to effectively establish an interview process. For tangible proof on these facts, please read our case study on NACCO Materials Handling Group. If you like what you read, visit our Office Locator page to find your local Snelling office; our staff is waiting and willing to help you effectively leverage this powerful part of the American workforce.