Effective ways to translate military experience in a civilian interview

There are around 20 million veterans in the US, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. And as Veterans Day fast approaches (11 November), I thought it would be an ideal time to share some tips on how vets can successfully translate their military skills into business objectives when they go for a job interview for a civilian role.

For any job candidate, cracking the interview process is stressful and often complicated. However, when it comes to veterans who are looking to transition from military service to the corporate world, it’s even more complex. Veterans are not just leaving a job, but a whole lifestyle!


An interview is your window to shine to employers and to make a lasting impression. To increase your chances of moving into the next phase of your career you should successfully translate your military skills, values and capabilities into concrete business objectives. Here are some ways in which former military personnel can best show off their military experience to land your next  job in the civilian world!


Before the interview:

Do thorough research about the role and the company. Review your qualifications for the job and try to match your skillset as close to the requirements as possible. Employers always look for candidates whose skills are a direct match for the job. Browse Linkedin and read the profiles of employees who hold current or similar job roles in the company. This will give you a very clear idea on how civilians describe their experience and accomplishments. Learn as much as you can about the company. Don’t just google it. Visit the company website and read about its origins, growth, accomplishments and visio/mission. You should also read about its culture to check that the organization will be a cultural fit for you as a former military member. Remember, a job interview is a two-way process and gives you an opportunity to find out more about the company in question.


Landing your first civilian job might seem difficult but it doesn’t have to be!


  • Practice interviewing:  

Ask a friend or family member to go through mock interviews with you. Get comfortable talking about yourself in civilian terms. See what does and does not resonate with your audience. This will allow you to refine your description of how your military experience translates into civilian jobs.


  1. Identify transferable military skills:

Military skills are enormously valuable in the civilian job market if you know how to leverage them. So, it is down to you to highlight your military skills to the hiring manager and show how you will be an asset to the company. One thing that the military and the private job market have in common is its focus on efficiency and results. Use this to your advantage. Focus on all the attributes – like discipline, team player, leadership and so on –  you gained while in service and tell the hiring manager how you can succeed in any role by applying those.


  1. Take ownership of your achievements:

For a workforce and culture known for its camaraderie, veterans always speak in terms of us, and not me. It’s a part of their training and very commendable, but the restraint to take credit will diminish the accomplishment. You can be honest without being boastful. Your achievements indicate what you can offer to a prospective employer. So, whether it is an award, appreciation from seniors, or being ranked highly among peers, talk about them and claim credit where it is due!


After the interview:

Send a thank you note. Be sure to thank the interviewer for taking the time to interview you and reiterate why the role is a good fit for you and the potential employer.


So, get all geared up to crack your interview and these steps will surely help you along the way to start your career in the civilian world.


Thank you for your service!

Topics:
Diversity and Inclusion Veteran Recruitment

Alekhya Dasari

Alekhya Dasari is a Recruitment Consultant at WilsonHCG