USAA Tips: How to put employers at ease

Content provided courtesy of USAA

Let’s think about the military culture for a moment:

  • We tend to yell a lot. We shout out orders. We give commands with authority.

  • Job descriptions, organization and function, roles, and rank are very clear.

  • Physical fitness, mental toughness, and a warrior spirit is essential.

  • HOO-AH is a noun, verb, adjective, or any other word form.

  • Esprit de corps is something we understand.

  • Going hours without sleep is common.

  • Your experience involved work for the country, not a company.

  • The pay scale is known to all and easy to understand.

  • Your path to employment involved some sort of basic training.

  • What you wear to work is highly predictable and pre-determined.

  • A known set of values, tenets, creeds, and customs is a vital part of the culture.

So, imagine walking into a prospective employer’s company and acting like you did when you were in uniform.

Based on the short list above this begs the question: Do you present yourself to the non-military hiring world as someone who’s still in the military?

Let’s say you’ve done all the right things in order to get hired. You’ve prepared an incredible résumé. You’ve practiced your interview questions so that your answers flow beautifully. You’ve upped your wardrobe so that you look just like the current employees you want to work with. You’ve developed a strong list of personal and professional references who can sing your praises with ease. You’ve done everything possible to get hired now.

Your phone doesn’t ring. Your email doesn’t get answered. You’re still unemployed. Why?

I believe several things happen during a veteran’s transition to civilian life. One of the most vital elements and keys to success I believe exists in your ability to put civilians at ease with you.

That said, here’s a list of questions I’ve put together that might help:

  • Do you have conversations during interviews, or does it sound like you’re briefing someone?

  • Do you come across “hyper-confident”? Do you need to tone it down a bit?

  • Do you use military speak such as “HOO-AH!” and other non-civilian terms?

  • Do you assume the interviewer can connect the dots on your experience, or can you simply provide examples of how you built teams, worked with limited resources, met tight deadlines, or otherwise get the job done using terms they can understand?

  • Do you recognize that most of your non-military counterparts have their own civilian definition of esprit de corps?

  • Do you realize that a non-military person feels strongly about their commitment to the company? (And, they probably have strong positive feelings about those who served our country and may not know how to verbalize it to you.)

  • Do you know that in some companies, pay levels and benefits may be ambiguous? Do you realize that in some companies people negotiate for higher pay? (There may be ranges of pay as in a low end and high end.)

  • Do you appreciate the fact that a non-military employee’s “basic training” may have involved civilian schooling, college, trade school, on-the-job training, or prior work experience?

  • Even though business attire is most likely to be the dress code for the interview, can you interact with the various styles of dress you might find at the company you wish to work for?

  • Do you know the company’s mission statement, tenets, values, and goals? Can you verbalize your understanding of these without referring to “how we did it in the military”?

  • Do you understand how job titles, responsibilities, and duties may or may not be clearly defined?

If you ever walk away from an interview wondering why they didn’t hire you or call you back, maybe you haven’t done enough to put them at ease.

By making a concerted effort to do a self-evaluation, you might uncover some things you need to improve upon. Be honest with yourself. Pay attention to how you carry yourself in the interview setting.