Employers who have hired veterans in the past usually continue to do so because they know what individuals with military experience and training bring to the table as employees. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is quoted as saying “Hiring people is an art, not a science and resumes can’t tell you whether someone will fit into a company’s culture.” And he is right – resumes and cover letters usually serve only as first-pass screening documents to tell if an individual at least meets the minimum requirements of the job as stated in the job posting.
Most companies in today’s hiring environment use automated scanning software to make the first cut. It is the interview where the true value of an individual is discovered. So what do hiring officials typically find about a veteran’s true value during an interview that can trigger a job offer?
Let’s start by first acknowledging that numerous academic researchers have found a veteran’s value to an organization often goes deeper than the normal attributes of leadership, attention to detail, mission focus, and a host of other desirable soft skills. In particular, the knowledge, training and experiences of applicants with military service often exhibit the following ten desirable attributes sought by employers trying to get an operational edge in highly competitive business environments.
1. Entrepreneurial mindset
Even as an employee, veterans show a strong desire to succeed, are comfortable with the autonomy given to them, and more often than not, make correct decisions when operating in dynamic, uncertain and changing environments within their own workgroups – all attributes of having a business-like mindset. Because many veterans oversaw their own workgroup varying in size from a two-person team to a company-size element numbering 100 servicemembers or larger, they developed the business-like acumen needed to manage the resources of people and equipment left in their charge.
Results of studies found that in an organization, having the confidence to trust coworkers and superiors alike leads to highly performing teams with tight cohesion and high morale. Because each military branch is nothing more than a large organization, they operate much the same as do civilian organizations from a business-oriented perspective. However, unlike most business organizations, they do so while operating in some of the most austere environments, where not having that level of trust, confidence and morale both up and down the ladder can have devastating results often resulting in casualties.
Because military members are taught to always have a Plan B in their back pocket as a backup to Plan A, research has found they are very adept at quickly adapting from one scenario to another with little to no interruption to the operation. This ability to make changes “on-the-fly” is a very useful and necessary attribute to a business that typically operates in a rapidly changing and fluid environment, if they are to stay viable and relevant in their product or service offerings.
4. Advanced technical training
There are very few positions in today’s military that don’t involve some level of technology. In many cases, the technology used today by civilians was developed initially for use in the military. Take the cellphone, for example. It was originally developed as a radio telephone integrated communications network by General Dynamics and called MSE (Mobile Subscriber Equipment). From the Infantrymen in the Army and Marines, to Sailors that operate the Navy’s nuclear reactors aboard ships and submarines, to the Air Force Pilots and Mechanics that fly and maintain the newest and most advanced fighter – the F-35 – all military branches use technology in varying degrees of complexity.
How does this translate to the world of business? Reports have found that veterans are not only more highly trained technologically than their civilian counterparts, but they are better able to apply that knowledge when charged with finding technological solutions to organizational challenges.
Defined as “A condition where individuals can successfully adapt despite adversity, overcome hardships and trauma, achieve developmental competencies, and excel even in the face of harsh environments”, veterans are more resilient than their civilian counterparts. While most veterans display this attribute to one degree or another, combat-seasoned veterans are the most adept at this in situations involving new-product development, early-stage ventures and other areas where there is a high chance of failure. Very few business environments can equal the austere environments where veterans developed their resiliency to adapt the mission to changing dynamics while under fire.
6. Team-building skills
Veterans are more capable of organizing and defining a team’s mission, the roles and responsibilities of each team member and crafting a plan on how to accomplish the stated mission than their non-military colleagues. Veterans excel in this attribute because teambuilding in business is no different than team-building in the military. And anyone with military service has experienced team building at one level or another either as a member, leader or in most cases both, so they know teambuilding from the ground up.
Veterans bring with them a strong sense of dedication and loyalty to an organization. Dedication is fostered through institutional socialization while serving. That strong connection between individual and organization in a business in turn leads to reduced attrition and turnover, along with having more pride in the work unit to produce a quality product or deliver exceptional service.
8. More cultural diversity
All military branches are melting pots regarding race, gender, ethnic and cultural diversity. Veterans are better experienced globally, have often learned to speak another language, and have a higher level of cultural sensitivity when compared to same-aged peers not having served in the military. Having this kind of diverse experience gives an organization a competitive advantage, especially if they operate in a global environment as many do today.
Not only do veterans have better diversity skills when it comes to the people aspect of an organization, but they fare better in the work unit itself. Besides cultural differences, members in a work unit will have varying levels of education, goals and values. Because of their military training and experience, veterans almost across the board are better at accepting individual differences and creating interpersonal relationships within their work unit enabling them to function at a higher level with fewer conflicts.
Finally, because of their decision-making training and experience, veterans are more adept at evaluating a situation, choosing possible courses of action and selecting the best one that has the best chance of solving the issue at hand. In the dynamic and uncertain environments many businesses face today, having this ability in its employees gives it a distinct advantage over other businesses that are facing the same uncertainties but may not have the people experienced at handling them as well.
It is easy to see from this list how asking the right questions when interviewing a veteran is critical to finding the right individual for a position. Questions asked should be geared to bring out the experiences and training in the attributes that employers seek to find. If your business is looking for employees that need little to no ramp-up time, then hiring veterans will be the force multiplier that gives your business an advantage over the competition.