Myth Buster: Vets Aren’t Damaged Goods

In a world where impressions matter, misperceptions about the military can be detrimental to veteran job seekers. Here are a few common themes and why they’re wrong, as well as some tips for recruiters hiring veterans to get it right.

**#1: Veterans can’t think out of the box, and depend too much on structure and process**

Of course, the military has procedures, check-lists and protocols. Doesn’t any work culture where safety is an utmost concern? Creativity probably originated on the battlefield, and the military’s top talent must be creative to make key decisions when the original plan goes awry. Because there is frequently no time in the field to wait for approval from a central authority, military leaders are taught to take responsibility, rely on their training, and think on their feet.

**#2: Service members can only give and take orders**

Some of the best military leaders are great at motivating teams. Today’s soldiers are smarter than ever before (debunking another myth that people only join the military as a last resort or because they’re too dumb to do anything else), and respond to leaders who are committed to their success. And since low performers can’t be “fired” in the same way as civilians – innovative methods to inspire a weak performer are often required.

**#3: Military personnel don’t understand business**

Veterans don’t just shoot guns and fly planes. They build and sustain communities, teach and train; motivate team members; and work relentlessly as a team to successfully complete a mission. Leaders from the lowest levels all the way to the top are frequently responsible for thousands or millions of dollars’ worth of assets and personnel - and are accountable for all of it.

**#4: Veterans are too rigid**

Disciplined does not equal inflexible. Although the military certainly teaches discipline and the importance of following directives, veterans change duty stations and assignments frequently. They often work outside of their academic and/or military specialty, and can change course frequently. Furthermore, military veterans can also work well with diverse groups of varying backgrounds. Integrity is important to them - and that’s a character trait that any business wants in their employees.

**Break Down Barriers for Better Understanding**

What can recruiters do to better understand the military experience and culture?
For one thing, knowing a few basics is key. “Veteran job seekers do their research and homework, so you should too,” says one recruiter. “Understanding the role of each military branch, the skill sets that come from each, as well as rank structure and the roles of military occupational specialties goes a long way when attracting veterans to an organization.”

**Go Deeper**

“There’s so much jargon in the military that recruiting veterans requires an extra level of probing,” relates one human resources manager. “If a candidate tells you they worked as a 91B (wheeled vehicle mechanic) in the Army, don’t let that shut down the conversation. Go deeper by saying something like, ‘Tell me more about that. What were your duties?’”

“If you get lost during a conversation, it’s ok to say, ‘I’m not familiar with that term or experience. Can you tell me more?’” said another.

**Test Your Skills: **

Recruiters unfamiliar with the military branches should assign themselves the task of learning more about the different branches, as well as the overall military experience:

• Can you explain the military rank structure and organization and distinguish the primary mission and core values of each branch of service?

• Can you describe differences and similarities between Active and Reserve components of the military?

• What are some demographic characteristics of service members?

• Do you recognize general and deployment-related military terms?

“Your attrition rate shrinks when you hire veterans,” said one veteran recruiter. “If you are seeking a more disciplined culture for your company, you must go to where the discipline cultures exist, and make that your pipeline.”

Once you’re there, take the time and the extra level of probing to more fully understand the veteran experience. You’ll be glad you did.