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.