Interviewing Veterans: 3-Tips to Create Successful Outcomes

A How-To Guide

How to conduct more effective military veteran interviews

The interview can be a real tipping point for employers and veterans, alike. Without some preparation on both sides, there is an increased likelihood for a missed opportunity to successfully align a very talented military veteran with the perfect role an employer is seeking to fill. For veterans, in particular, this interview may be the first job interview they have ever participated in. Not every veteran you will come across may be applying for their first private-sector role. However, for many transitioning service members, the job interview process can be a very new experience for them.

What makes veterans unique is the culture they come from having served in the military. Since military service members operate as a cohesive unit and always put the mission first, many veterans feel uncomfortable spotlighting their individual accomplishments. Further, service members are taught to give answers to questions as quickly and succinctly as possible. Both can pose a challenge in qualifying a veteran job seeker for your role.


Here are three tips for conducting a more successful interview with military veteran job seekers:


1.) Slow down.

While military experience may differ significantly from the private sector, there are more similarities than you may be aware of. For example, there are over 3,600 military jobs that have private sector equivalent roles; and even more skills that translate over. Take time to get to know the veteran that is interviewing with you as it allows a two-way, reciprocal relationship to be developed, creating a level of comfort and trust for both parties. As a best practice, doing some homework beforehand to understand how the individual’s military occupation and military achievements translate to your requirements is always worth the small time investment.


2.) Ask follow on questions.

When describing what he or she did in the military, the veteran may have simply responded that they worked in a supply warehouse. Unless you ask the right follow-up questions, you might not learn that working in that supply warehouse the veteran was responsible for 20 other service members and personally responsible for over ten million dollars worth of equipment. By asking follow-on questions, it not only gives you the information you need to make an educated decision about the veteran jobseeker but also enables the individual to provide you details that they otherwise may not have thought were valuable to you. Don’t miss opportunities to delve deeper and learn as much as possible about that veteran’s experience.

3.) Ask about military awards.

There are over 140 military awards in today’s military. They can be earned for significant occupational achievements and individual accomplishments all the way up through acts of heroism and selflessness. It is very likely the veteran you are interviewing may have received several awards while in the service – whether they list them on their resume or not – as the veteran may not have thought it relevant to list them. These awards can be a significant indicator of an individual’s drive for professional achievement and their track record of success. You can learn a lot by asking the veteran if they earned any achievements and what they were awarded for.


The goal in any interview you conduct with a veteran is to authentically understand their military experience and skills and how they will align with your needs. The interview isn’t just a means to simply hire a veteran, but rather a critical step in ensuring the military candidate’s skills and talents will be leveraged in an impactful way; fulfilling both the needs of your organization and the individual candidate. This is where retention truly begins.

Understanding Military Culture

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When we think about workplace culture, it’s fair to say that the military is unlike any other career out there. Military members do not consider serving as just a job, or something that they do, but rather as a call to action that more deeply defines who they are. The military provides for a strong sense of community and camaraderie amongst those that serve. It embraces a “warrior ethos,” by rewarding physical and emotional strength, while looking down on weakness and timid behaviors. This high demanding environment is one that instills in its members a unique set of ethics, ethos and values deeply rooted in military history and tradition.

For those that want to draw on new military talent or better support those in your workplace, it requires a deeper insight into the culture that veterans have come from while serving in the military. This will serve to provide you with a better overall understanding of what makes our service members unique.

The military is a highly structured and mission focused organization, and it demands that all members amongst its ranks approach their tasks from a mission-oriented perspective. Those men and woman always know what the task at hand is, they understand that the “task” or “mission” comes before self, and that mission failure, or giving up, is simply not an option. Further, they understand the roles and responsibilities of all those around them and how together they must operate to accomplish the task they have been given.  So whether it be securing an enemy stronghold in a foreign land, or training a group of junior personnel on financial responsibility, service members approach everything they do as a mission.

This type of behavior is expected from all and strictly enforced by hierarchy of leadership known in the military as a “chain of command”. Commanding Officers issue their directives through a hyper-organized multi-tiered set of ranking enlisted personnel and commissioned officers – each with their own set of management responsibilities and decision-making power. These orders are passed down from appointed person to appointed person until those who implement the orders have received them. As such, military members expect those with authority to take charge and make clear and confident decisions – regardless of what is going on around them. Service members are used to receiving orders with directness and simplicity.

Similarly, requests and inquiries are moved up the chain of command until they reach the individual with the authority to make a decision or take the action required. So whether it’s an order coming down the chain of command or an issue being raised up the chain, there is a strict understanding that no level or step is skipped, and that clear communication is paramount.

Service members also maintain a very close-knit community amongst their peers. While training and living in such close quarters, and with little personal space, everyone seems to know everything about one another. But because of this constant personal transparency, it creates an environment that promotes trust and respect amongst military members.  

Another difference that is important to note is that military members always use sir and ma’am when addressing superior officers, and never refer to anyone by their first name. Respect is a key value when addressing one another in the military. What may come as surprise to you is that many service members do not even know one another’s first name because they are never used in the service.

While the culture in the military is very different from the rest of the world around it, the culture amongst each branch of service also differs greatly; each branch has their own motto and set of core values.

It is these ideals and core values that set service members apart. Military culture demands that those who serve set aside personal needs in exchange for teamwork, selflessness, and shared goals. Service members understand these principals, and they strive to selflessly serve others. When they join the military, they take an oath to that effect. And once they depart from the service and return back home, these values continue to be deeply held by so many.



Military Veteran Talent Development Under the Watchful Eye of Predictive Analytics

The Moral Imperative is Now the Business Imperative:

By: Jesse Canella, CEO – Military Talent Group, and David Pollard, Chairman – PredictiveHR

As we continue into 2019, we will see a growing industry-wide shift taking place in the talent market that is driving new business strategy. With an overall projection of 20.5 million jobs that will be created by 2020 and the labor force growth rate slated to decline this year (Jobs Outlook), employers are now even more challenged in competing to attract and retain top talent. This shift has pushed employers to rethink their talent strategies to pursue a forward-thinking approach that will enable them to stay ahead of their competitors. Looking at the trends now taking place in the talent acquisition and human capital management space, we now see two major initiatives: a focus on more comprehensive diversity and inclusion programs, and the integration of new HR technologies.

The Impact of Diversity & Inclusion on Businesses.

According to a report issued by Deloitte, “Leading organizations now see diversity and inclusion as a comprehensive strategy woven into every aspect of the talent life cycle to enhance employee engagement, improve brand, and drive performance.” Diversity programs will continue to evolve, and so will an increased focus on a hyper-diverse group of high ROI job candidates such as military veterans.

Military veterans represent a uniquely skilled and finite segment of talent with approximately 200,000 military service members transitioning to the civilian labor force each year. Veterans now rank as a Top 3 priority to American businesses, and 90% of HR professionals and hiring managers feel veteran recruitment is essential to their businesses. The business case for hiring veterans has been well established and has driven employer demand for this segment of the talent pool.

However, recruiting and retaining military veterans is challenging. While many companies now have military veteran employment initiatives in place, a majority of them are struggling to achieve desired results. In fact, only 7% of the Fortune 500 are satisfied, or very satisfied with their veteran hiring program.

The reason: Traditional recruiting, hiring, and onboarding processes do not allow organizations to compete for and appropriately place a veteran candidate in the right job. In fact, the number one reason why 43% of veterans leave their first post-military job within a year is due to job misalignment.

A successful military veteran program requires a strong foundation that runs much deeper than just recruiting. It needs a phased-approach that begins with organizational planning and preparation to deploy the right applications, processes, and tools required to execute effectively and maximize business impact. However, most companies today do not have a clear picture of the number of veterans they already have employed, and lack data on their current military workforce performance and the individual needs that may cause roadblocks for their military talent to reach full potential.

The Impact of Big Data & Predictive HR Analytics on Veteran Programs. 

Building the right military talent strategy must first start with a comprehensive analysis and understanding of an organization’s current workforce and the overarching business objectives. When military programs are not wrapped around organizational needs and goals, they often result in performance decline, poor employee experience, and costly turnover.

The first step any business should take is to implement a basic analytics technology that can organize workforce data to baseline the current situation and identify the veterans that are currently employed. Once the organization can look at their veteran population discretely, patterns and gaps will be revealed that will drive the development of program strategy and the proper action plans that align to the business’s goals.

  • Which groups of veterans are currently operating at a high level? What attributes and experiences do they have in common?
  • What military and post-military training and experiences were those veterans exposed to that assisted them in their high performance?
  • Can we replicate that experience that led to high performance in other veterans who may have missed out on such exposure?
  • What overall patterns should we look for in our hiring process to both identify immediate top performers and, much more importantly, those that with exposure to training and experience will themselves become high performers?

Predictive analytics technology can play a vital role in this base lining exercise providing, for the first time in many cases, visibility into the value and opportunities that a focus on military talent reveals. This data-driven approach is the only way for an organization to accurately measure the growth of their military program and its impact on the business.

Once the analytics platform is established, and all veterans (and any other class of employee for that matter) are in the system, then the power of the analytics tool begins.

As the analytics platform reveals specific patterns and cause and effect relationships, immediate action plans can spring into action.  

  • Targeted training should be provided to fill any gaps within the organization to ensure the understanding of military experience, practical skills translation and matching, and industry best practices. This approach is required to properly prepare the entire organization to have the greatest success with their military program.
  • Improved hiring profiles can be established to target veteran with specific configurations of life, military, and work experience.
  • Untapped pockets of military talent, overlooked by other employers but that possess the trainable gaps can be targeted. Here is where solving the moral imperative becomes a competitive business advantage.

Moving forward, the analytics platform gets smarter and smarter. Machine learning will organize the data and make it more intelligent as new information comes in. New patterns, gaps, and opportunities can be revealed. New veteran leaders will emerge with other attributes and correlations that can be tied together back into the baseline to feed the hiring and employee development programs.

This is not a static one-time exercise, but rather a living breathing strategy. We are just barely scratching the surface of the potential of these types of programs to maximize all human potential, and that data will reveal a wealth of value to be tapped into for the company and the people involved.

Smart organizations will, over time, realize that by weaving veterans into the fabric of their organizations while leveraging big data analytics, creates the greatest reciprocal success and satisfaction rates that benefit the employer and military veterans, alike.

This approach will provide a significant competitive advantage in an already overheated labor market, which is forecasted to get much more severe in the years to come.

How to Engage Veterans to Really Boost Your Small Business

Companies with less than 500 employees are facing incredible hurdles in today’s highly competitive market. With growth being top of mind for today’s small business leaders, these organizations must now look to adopt new strategies to sharpen their competitive edge. 

Business growth, however, is primarily driven by an organization’s ability to successfully attract and retain top skilled talent that will drive company performance and increase revenue. With job creation on the rise and a labor force that continues to decline in its growth, these businesses now find themselves forced to compete with well-established enterprises to attract this type of top talent.

Further, many of these businesses are under-resourced and rely on antiquated hiring practices, making it even more difficult compete to attract and retain high-performing employees. Hiring costs are already staggering, and when recruitment goes wrong, the impact of employee turnover is even more devastating to the bottom-line. According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), the average cost-per-hire for a company is $4,129, and when an employee leaves, it can cost between 90% – 200% of that person’s salary for the company replace them.

It’s no wonder why business leaders at the helm of these organizations recognize the urgency to implement a new approach that will better position their business to compete and succeed going forward.

For these forward-thinking leaders, there is a powerful blueprint to bolster their ability to attract top performing employees, reduce employee costs, and drive business growth.

The answer – Military Veterans.

The moral imperative is now a business imperative. An organization establishes a tremendous competitive advantage when they integrate veterans into their business. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Increased employee ROI – Veterans are a uniquely skilled and finite segment of talent with over 200,000 military members entering the workforce each year. There is a myriad of military occupations that match directly to private sector roles, such as IT specialists, business operation managers, healthcare workers, heavy equipment operators, construction workers, human resources specialists, truck drivers, and so many others. Further, there are even more military skills that translate directly into private sector job requirements. On average, veterans also have higher rates of retention over the bell-curve of their careers and perform at higher levels in the workforce compared to their non-veteran counterparts.
  • Reduced hiring costs – Employers can reduce their hiring costs through an array of significant federal and state tax credits offered for hiring veterans. Businesses can earn up to $9,600 in federal tax credits for each qualified veteran they hire. They can also take advantage of the many state tax credits that are now available as well – For example, in California, an employer can earn over $37,000 in state income tax credits over five years when hiring a single qualified veteran.

  • Increased employer and consumer brand value – Companies that hire and support veterans increase their brand equity in both the consumer market and the talent market. When a company develops a program to recruit military veterans it not only reflects social responsibility, but also results in building goodwill with customers, employees, and the community at large. Veteran households spend 16% more overall than the average U.S. household, and 87% of consumers will support brands that support military causes. Further, 90% of veterans seek out employers that have programs in place to actively engage and hire military veterans.

  • Increased market-share and industry performance – Businesses that successfully integrate and retain veterans within their organization are more likely to have financial returns above their industry medians, as well as capture new market share.

As you can see, hiring qualified veterans offers employers significant financial incentives through a wide range of federal and state tax credits, as well as overall recruitment and employee cost-savings. So, it is no wonder why there is a rising demand for veterans.

However, to be able to hire and retain military veterans successfully, a business must develop a well-structured program that is positioned for maximum impact, benefiting both the employer and veterans, alike. Creating a veteran hiring program is not just something that an enterprise-size organization can do. Any business – small or large – can create a highly successful military veteran hiring program, but it does require planning and preparation to get it right.


A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Military Program For Your Business

Developing an effective military veteran hiring program requires a strategic and phased approach that flows throughout the entire business – it is much broader than merely recruiting. For a company that has less than 500 employees, here are the required steps to create an effective program from the ground up:

Step 1: Plan.

First, you need to identify the needs of your business to develop and align a program strategy to it. Are there talent gaps that exist within your organization that are critical to fill? Do you need to build better brand awareness to drive new customers? Once you can define the goals of your business and identify the gaps that are preventing you from getting there, you can begin planning where and how to integrate veterans to have the most significant impact on your business. You will also need to establish goals for your program and identify the resources your business might need to accomplish them. If your company has other business leaders, ensure everyone is working together in full support of the program and its needs.

Step 2: Prepare Your Business.

Next, you will need to take the plan you have created and begin preparing your business, accordingly. This includes identifying the tax credits that are available to your business, as well as the compliance requirements associated with hiring military veterans and Reservists/National Guard members. You should also think about how you currently engage job candidates, as well as the recruiting and HR practices you might have in place to support your employees. There are many ways in which you can adjust your current practices and equip your team with the right knowledge to be better prepared to hire and retain military veterans successfully. This is done by providing team training on critical topics such as military experience, skills translation and matching, and informed best practices to create a better employee experience for military veteran employees. 

Step 3: Launch Your Program.

As you launch your program, you will need to work in parallel to begin attracting military talent to your business. This starts by promoting your company to the broader military community. Ensure your message to veteran job-seekers is authentic and speaks to why your business values their service and the commitment you have in place to hire them.  As you begin promoting your open positions to military veterans, ensure you write job descriptions that use language which references the military skills and military occupations you are seeking. You should also create recruiting materials (print and digital) specifically for military veterans with relevant military-focused content. Just be sure that any imagery or text you use is both sensitive and accurate – as an example, you wouldn’t want to use an image of a service member wearing a “uniform” that is not an authorized U.S. Military uniform, or feature a service member in uniform with facial hair, as this is not allowed in the military.

Hiring and Retaining Veterans:

There are many free resources your company can use to post its open jobs to the military community and as well to find, and screen qualified military job candidates. Federally funded programs and veteran organizations are in place to help employers at the state and local level to help you connect with eligible military veterans in your community.

As you work to attract and hire top military talent, you must also take steps to ensure your business works to keep that talent. While many factors influence employee retention, the key to retaining top military talent boils down to two fundamental actions: ensuring you understand and correctly match military skills to the appropriate roles within your company, and engaging and empowering those military veterans within your organization to be able to unleash their full potential.

Depending on the size of your company and the scope of the military program you intend to build, many other necessary steps and actions need to be taken within these three phases to prepare and support the program correctly. However, the action plan outlined in the three stages above provides a fundamental framework for a business with limited resources to establish a military hiring program positioned for maximum impact.

No matter how large or small your program is, ensure you are always assessing results and measuring them against your goals. Make sure you are also actively collecting feedback from your veteran new-hires on the hiring process to identify and adjust any areas that may need attention.

The Take-Away:

We live in a hyper-competitive world that continues to intensify, and employers must take a new approach to attract and retain top talent that will drive their business forward. For smaller firms, in particular, military veterans offer a significant competitive advantage. However, to realize both the organizational and performance benefits they deliver, those businesses must create a program built with a strong foundation to ensure it will be successful from the start.

Market competition will continue to increase over time. Are you ready to give your business the boost it needs by weaving veterans into the fabric of the organization?

…. Because if not now, then when?

Like what you read? Please share this article with your network to help others that will find value in it too.

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How to “Decode” Military Resumes

Could your hiring team be contributing to military veteran turnover if they are unable to effectively translate military resumes?

Often times translating a military resume is oversimplified for the purpose of simply making a hire. However, an approach should be taken that looks beyond recruiting, and takes into consideration employee performance and retention in order for an organization to achieve real ROI. 

A common roadblock to effective hiring of military veterans is the inability of hiring teams to effectively match their job requirements to relevant military experience. Many employers who seek to hire military veterans are unable to effectively “decode” the veteran’s resume into a narrative that translates to the private sector. When recruiters and hiring managers struggle to effectively translate military resumes, they become challenged to correctly align a candidate with a job requirement. Further, when a military veteran is hired into a role that is misaligned with their skills and abilities, the likelihood for turnover is significantly increased. Why? According to a study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, a clear association was found between job alignment and job tenure with veterans. One of the findings from that study was that 90% of veterans identified the opportunity to use their skills and abilities as the most important aspect of their employment. 

For any organization that looks to be successful in hiring AND retaining veterans, they must take the time to provide the right training and resources to their hiring teams, enabling them to correctly align a military candidate with the right role within the organization. With all the benefits and ROI that veterans bring to an employer, when the employer takes proactive steps to enabled their teams through training, they create a recipe allowing for reciprocal success for them themselves and military veteran candidates, alike. 

Here are a few tips to enable hiring managers and recruiters to more clearly understand military experience found on resumes in order to align a candidate with their position requirements:

Tip #1 – The reality is that not everything a veteran did in the military may directly translate over to your open role, but many things do even if it doesn’t seem that way when you see military experience listed on their resume. Don’t just rule the candidate out if you are simply unsure of their military experience or how it maps to your open position.

Tip #2 – When you see military experience on a candidate’s resume, take a bit more time to thoroughly read the resume. If some of the military wording is unfamiliar to you, see if there are veterans within your organization that can assist in decoding the resume and provide clarity on how they might translate to your position.

Tip #3 – When you come across lingo you are unfamiliar with, take time to research it. Here are a few areas you should spend a little time researching when you see them listed on a military resume:

MOS or Military Occupation – This is the job the individual did. Take time to understand the role, responsibilities, and training they may have received in the role. They may also have received occupational certifications and/or licenses that are accepted in the private sector. 

Rank or Pay Grade – By learning about the rank or pay grade, you will have a better understanding of seniority, experience, and additional skill sets they may have developed.

Billets – This is a position that an individual held while in their occupation, such as a Company Commander or Squad Leader. By taking time to understand the billet you may see listed, you will get a sense of the level of management, accountability, and experience that an individual had.

Military Medals – Not all military awards are earned for combat related action. Many military awards are earned for competency, occupational achievement, and going over and above an individual’s duties. By learning about the awards an individual may have received while in the military, you will have a clearer picture of their track record and successes they had while in the military.

The above serves as simple and high-level guidance that can be easily leveraged by any hiring team to begin approaching military resumes differently. The success of any military hiring program comes down to the ability of the hiring teams to effectively execute. While there are a myriad of best practices and resources that should be considered by employers as they pursue creating effective military hiring strategy, enabling front-line teams to effectively understand and align military talent to an organization’s needs, is critical.

Military Talent Group has developed the most innovative on-demand tools for recruiters and hiring managers looking to quickly decode military resumes and to align military occupations to private sector roles. To learn more, contact us to arrange a demo of our platform and tools.

Over 3,600 Military Occupations Have Private-Sector Equivalent Roles

Research shows that 99% of employers believe that veterans perform their jobs with equal or greater proficiency compared to their non-veteran counterparts.

The US Government has spent a lot of time and money educating and training our military service members so that they can accomplish their missions across the globe. Those missions require technical skills, authentic leadership, physical fitness, effective communications, and the ability to work in a diverse environment. Naturally, military veterans retain those skills when they leave the military, and any employer putting an effort in place to capture this talent is in a very fortunate position. However, without proven practices and the right tools in place, the ability for companies to hire these talented veterans becomes challenged.

The first step in effectively hiring veterans is to understand how their military skills translate to your company and its open roles. While the military does have many military specific occupations, there are over 3,600 jobs in the military that have direct civilian job correlation. The chart below helps to outline the occupations that exist in the military and the number of active duty enlisted and officer personnel that work in those roles. You may be surprised at the number of trained personnel in the military working in occupations similar to roles you have hiring needs for.

An effective and impactful military hiring program requires a strategic effort across your entire firm.  This includes educating all levels of your organization on the value of a veteran, specific training for HR professionals and hiring managers, and incorporating current veteran employees in your hiring efforts.  Whether you are brand new to military hiring or already have a robust program in place, the Military Talent Group platform provides all the necessary education, data, and processes you need.

Dispelling the Myths Associated with PTSD

A 2012 Society for Human Resource Management survey determined that 1 in 3 HR professionals cited Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or other mental health issues as “challenges” to hiring Veterans.

If you happen to be the 1 in 3 people that feel this way, please allow me to share some important information with you. Understanding the invisible wounds of war is vital to any employer in order to dispel the myths surrounding PTSD and other mental and/or physical health conditions, and to learn more about the benefits of incorporating veterans into the workplace. There are many important factors that can help to reduce employers’ concerns about the work impact related to these injuries as well occasional perceived stigma surrounding hiring veterans.

Despite the awareness that has been raised surrounding combat/service related injuries, several employers still report that they avoid hiring veterans. Why? Because of the lingering fear that these veterans may have sustained mental or physical injuries, and not being well informed about the implications associated.

However, the reality is that the number of veterans who have suffered a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress are just a fraction compared to that of the general US population.

Here are 3 common myths that you may have come across at one point or another:

1) Myth: “PTSD is a ‘Veteran Issue’ and one that no one else can relate to.”

Fact: Post-traumatic stress is simply a normal reaction to an abnormal experience. The reality is that nearly 8% of the US population – or approximately 25.6 million Americans will suffer from PTSD at some point during their lifetime according to the National Center for PTSD. Some individuals may experience PTSD following a natural disaster, a motor vehicle accident, or even from being mugged. While we often associate PTSD with combat and military service, the reality is that anyone can experience PTSD, not just those in the military. You are likely to be working with, or have worked with, someone who has suffered from PTSD and you may not have even known!

2) Myth: “I’ve heard that some Veterans have suffered traumatic brain injuries during combat and that must be a very significant injury.”

Fact: Many people assume that when someone has suffered a traumatic brain injury, they are left with significant brain damage. While this can be true in extreme circumstances, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, 82% of all traumatic brain injuries diagnosed in military members since 2000 are considered mild. To provide further clarification, the most common form of mild TBI is a concussion, and there is typically no functional brain damage associated with this injury.

3) Myth: “A Veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD will struggle for the rest of their life.”

Fact: Like any other medical or mental health condition, there are all different levels of severity. With the advancement in research and evidence based practices by mental health care specialists, symptoms of PTSD can be greatly reduced and possibly even eliminated with early intervention. In fact, according to the DSM 5, one half of all adults diagnosed with PTSD will have a complete recovery within 3 months of treatment.


I hope the information provided above serves to help further dispel some of the fiction associated with veterans in the workplace. In doing so, we collectively advance towards our overall goal of decreasing stigma surrounding veterans and the invisible wounds of war. These men and women bring so many unique skills and sought after characteristics into the professional workforce. Businesses that recognize this value in veterans, often find more productive employees compared to that of their non-veteran counterparts. This type of talent behavior is what drives companies to be more efficient, productive, and profitable. Any employer that puts a value on military service, creates a win-win environment that benefits not only their bottom line, but also those deserving military veteran job seekers looking for fulfilling careers.