Popular advice suggests that veterans should thoroughly investigate the companies they’re considering working for, engaging in candid conversations with existing employees if possible. Connecting with individuals who can provide insights through informal interviews has become a widely endorsed practice in the military community. While this advice offers a preliminary glimpse into the organization’s culture, it’s during the interview and onboarding stages that the organization’s authentic character truly emerges.

Assessing People In the Interview

Every step of the communication process from the initial interview screen to the in-person interview gives clues on how you can expect to be treated as an employee within the organization. The best advice I can offer veteran job seekers is to not dismiss the subtle nuances or abnormalities that you may experience along the way. Each interaction helps create the larger picture of how the organization operates. If there is a uncomfortable dynamic early on in the process – do not just brush it off.

Hindsight Is 20/20

I have had my fair share of interesting onboarding experiences. I have been left in a room waiting for someone to arrive to find out that they had the wrong conference room scheduled and was not aware. I have had a Zoom scheduled where the entire company attended and sat quietly staring at me on camera as I was onboarded with HR.  I have arrived for orientation only to be left waiting until after lunch to get my laptop. I have had awkward conversations with staff as they tried to interact with me as veteran and whatever their perception of one was.  What I realized in hindsight is that the signs were there during the interview process.  The poor communication, problematic leadership, and lack of organization only was re-affirmed along the way. But being a strong-willed veteran that I was — I had chosen to see the ‘brighter side’ of the interactions and convinced myself it would be better once I was working there. I feel this is something that veterans convince themselves to be true more often than their civilian counterparts. It will be okay – I just have to get there and fix it.

Don’t let your grit and determination to succeed or make the best out of situations leave you coming up empty. In hindsight, it was affirmed that my informal interviews and organizational research only scratched the surface of what was to come. It is through honest self-reflection and self-awareness during the interview process that I was able to properly assess the culture of the organization and get into the nitty gritty. While doing your ‘homework’ on the company you are interviewing for is vital – do not assume that what you read on the homepage under the mission statement is going to be your experience. People always show you who they are. Be willing to accept them as they are or walk away.

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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.