There’s bad news and good news for post 9/11 returning veterans, known as the Gulf War Era II vets. The government’s October 2012 employment figures show that the unemployment rate for Gulf War Era II vets is 9.7%; but for the youngest vets, age 20-24, it’s a whopping 14.5% (compared to 12.1% for nonveterans), and for vets age 25-29, it’s 11.5% (compared to 8.7% for nonveterans).
In a 2012 Society for Human Retarget Management poll of 359 HR professionals, 50% of the respondents said that one of the biggest challenges in hiring veterans is “translating military skills to civilian job experience.”
But here’s the good news. Returning vets have the very skills US businesses want — discipline, leadership, resiliency, teamwork, loyalty, accountability, and self-motivation, to name just a few. What they lack — and aren’t learning well enough in the VA’s various transition programs, are techniques for selling themselves to prospective employers, and showing these employers that hiring them will be to their advantage. Translation: They need to learn some basic negotiation skills.
Learning professional negotiating strategies can help returning vet job seekers nail the interview, get the call-back, and land the job. Having the right attitude and system in the negotiation (the job interview) helps the vet portray himself accurately on the phone and in person with a prospective employer, translate his raw skills and talents into desirable business assets, and negotiate a fair but generous salary and benefits package for himself.
Avoid the top mistakes returning vets make. They may feel as if they are at a disadvantage. They go into the interview feeling nervous about rejection, ashamed of their spotty job experience, or perhaps feeling needy and too anxious to please. If you let such emotions and attitudes overtake you, you’ll be unable to think about the challenges facing this company and less likely to articulate why they need you and should hire you.
Here are nine tried-and-true tips to acing the job interview.
1. Do impeccable research on the company and position before the interview. Read recent business articles, visit the company’s website, and study press releases and annual reports. Write down everything about this company so you’ll feel well prepared.
2. Don’t be needy. Neediness kills your advantage in a job interview. You do not NEED this job. You need water, food, and air. Neediness can reveal itself as excitement, hope, overconfidence, discouragement, and many other emotions. Learn to clear your mind of assumptions, fears, and expectations so you’ll be emotionally neutral and can maintain an open mind.
3. Don’t try to impress them with your dress, attitude, or speech. It will backfire. Be honest, direct, and authentic. Look decent and be comfortable in your own skin.
4. Find out what your interviewer wants by asking questions. Your aim is to discover the company’s problems, issues, and needs so you can position yourself as the solution. Example: “What are the biggest challenges facing your company?”
5. Ask “what, how, and why” questions to help YOU direct the dialogue. These get your interviewer spilling the beans, and they won’t be able to answer with a simple one-word answer. More information about them is more ammo for your side. Example: “How do you see this position developing and changing over the next three years?”
6. Get them revealing what a “good fit” means to them. Your objective is to find out how you might uniquely enhance this company. Example: “How would you describe your employees and the culture of this organization?”
7. Don’t volunteer too much information. You might think your previous working environment is relevant, or that your family life is important, or that your hobbies are character revealing. But telling too much gives your interviewer fuel to make assumptions and draw conclusions about you.
8. Focus only on what you can control. The only thing you can control in the interview is your behavior and your responses. Focus on listening carefully–taking notes if necessary–and on controlling your behavior and words. Speak slowly in a low-pitched voice.
9. Present yourself as the solution. Answer questions in such a way that you are always keeping your employer’s requirements and goals in mind, not yours. Your answers should reflect how you fit in with this employer’s aims and enhance the employer’s objectives. Remember: you’ve got the very skills your employer is looking for. Talk about your qualities as assets, and always position yourself as the solution to your employer’s problems.
And here are some more brilliant insights from Jim Camp that can help veterans be more confident at their next interview.
First: The decision to interview from a resume is emotional on the part of the employer. What they see from the words will drive their decision to interview.
Second: The key to creating vision for the employer is to have the vision yourself. The more the veteran can see what they have learned, developed, experienced, attained and achieved while in the military the better it can be translated into vision for the interviewer.
Squad Leader: The veteran must ask them self what are the attributes of that job and how does it translate to a potential employer?
Examples on translating it onto your resume:
- Experienced and mastered individual and team training to a very high level of performance.
- Vast experience in project planning and plan execution.
- Developed the skills to instill discipline and focused problem solving in all team members.
The veteran should dig deep and work hard to uncover ever possible nugget of vision in order to deliver vision to the possible employer.
Tackling challenging questions during the interview
Prior to interview you must do all the research on the potential employer, their history, their leadership, their products and services, awards and anything that will give you an advantage in creating vision for the interviewer. This should be part of your preparation.
Your second building block of preparation is building your mission and purpose to the potential employer. What is it you want to deliver to them? What is your responsibility to them?
Example: To provide xyz leadership skills that will give them an opportunity to expand their efforts within the business arena they are focused on.
Employer Q: What did you learn in the military that applies to our business?
Veteran A: Precede every answer with a nurturing statement.
Example: Good question, as you know your products or services are number one in your industry. I know they got their with great team work on your companies part. I believe that my experiences in training a team, taking responsibility for the teams performance in a difficult environment gives me a very good platform to build on with an organization like yours.
End every question with a question that will engage the interviewer.
Example: How important is training within the company? What could someone like me expect from company training?
Employer Q: What did you find most challenging in the military?
Veteran A: That is interesting, I believe it was learning to grasp the magnitude of what it took to grow into the leader I have become. In my training and development I found it challenging and rewarding in learning to successfully interact with others in difficult situations and conditions. Once that interaction began and success was attained it was then that I started to grasp the magnitude of the effort and work required. May I ask, what are some of the ways the company looks for leaders? What programs are there to help those who wish to lead, grow?
Some common mistakes a veteran makes at the interviews
- Falsely believing that anyone is hired from a resume. Go see someone at a high level in the company you want to work for and ask them how you can best prepare to work for their organization.
- Failure to prepare with great knowledge of the organization you are interviewing with.
- Failing to dig deeply into your military experience and have the vision of who you are and what you have for the employer.
- Failing to engage the interviewer with great interrogative questions that create vision of you as someone that is effective and can think and grow.
About the guest post author:
Jim Camp, a Vietnam vet, is president and CEO of The Camp Negotiation Institute, which has more than 400 students from 24 countries enrolled in its credentialed Team Member courses. He has a special passion for helping veterans become certified negotiators. His two bestselling books, Start with No and NO: The Only Negotiating System You Need for Work or Home, have been translated into 12 languages. His newest offering is the audio program, “Power of No.” Learn more at http://www.startwithno.com./
Image courtesy: psmag.com