Many veterans are likely to encounter some uncomfortable or inappropriate dialogue in the civilian sector when it comes to their time in service. In particular, when the person interviewing you says things that they cannot take back.  While the media and veteran advocacy groups largely contribute to how mainstream America perceives veterans – it is those uncomfortable encounters with people that should know better, that tend to leave job candidates speechless. Veterans assume that those hired to interview and assess our backgrounds would be properly educated in the sensitivity of discussing matters of war, PTS (Post -Traumatic Stress), and veteran suicide. In most work-case scenarios, these types of candid conversations have no place during an interview.

An Unsettling Interview

I was interviewing for a senior learning and development role for a tech firm in Scottsdale, AZ. At this time, I had two interviews under my belt with this company and was feeling pretty optimistic about the job. It was my experience during the third and final interview, that sealed my fate. The person who interviewed me worked directly in the field supervising other veteran employees. He was considered a seasoned professional due to his time at the company and level of responsibility. He scrolled through my experiences, one by one, asking various skill-related questions to the industries that I worked in. Somewhere along the way, he diverted into my time in service and candidly shared thoughts on his current veteran employees. His thoughts would lead to my decision to work for the company.

The interviewer discussed how he had some veterans on his team. Sometimes they had great work-ethic and other times not as much. None of this was surprising for me to hear; therefore, I was not concerned with his thought process. He then furthered his thoughts on the veteran employees by sharing some uncomfortable and inappropriate information about them. He told me that some of them have mental-health issues and have been on the brink of suicide. He went even further to tell me about how he viewed them as problems that needed to be solved. At this point, I remained quiet and respectful, as I was fully aware that this person was not in the right state of mind or character to continue interviewing me.


This experience rattled my cage more than most as the disregard of a protected class of employees was repugnant and shameful. I had to keep my composure and choose when to bring this experience to leadership, as I knew that I would have to say something. The plot thickened, since I was selected as a final candidate for the opportunity. I had a major ethical dilemma on my hands. Do I accept the job knowing what kind of person I would be working with or do I file an EEO complaint and notify their ethics team? The very next day, I filed a complaint and within hours had a senior leader from the company contact me. She thanked me for the email and advised that they would be taking the appropriate actions on this discovery. She then asked if I would still consider the role. I asked if the gentleman would still be a colleague of mine, and she could not be certain of his outcome. I turned down the offer and left with an experience that I would not soon forget.

How to Respond if You’re Sensing Bias

When faced with uncomfortable or inappropriate questions during job interviews as a veteran, remember that you deserve respect and sensitivity in discussing your service. If you encounter such situations, politely steer the conversation back to your qualifications and experiences relevant to the position. Be aware of your rights as a job candidate and seek support from veteran advocacy groups or human resources departments to address such issues constructively. By staying true to your values and standing up against disrespectful behavior, you can contribute to fostering a more inclusive and understanding work environment in the civilian sector.

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Carin Richelle Sendra is a Post 9/11 USAF Veteran that served both in active duty as well as D.O.D security contracting OCONUS. She has spent time in both the private and public sector working within the Human Capital space assisting organizations to train and develop their teams. She has spent time as a lecturer for academic and professional development. Carin has spent several years supporting the military and veteran community while offering her unique perspective that many veterans encounter post-service. She has a Master's degree in Management studies from The University of Redlands and a certificate from Cornell University on The Psychology of Leadership.