6 Tips for Interviewing Veterans

Interviewing Veteran applicants may not be as difficult as you think. These professional, highly qualified individuals possess many traits and characteristics that make them attractive prospects for civilian employers. To help you become aware of differences between military and civilian work place cultures and experiences, here are 6 helpful tips for a successful interview.

1. Do set the right tone for the interview. Many Veterans are used to a more formal communication style: referring to authority figures as Sir/Ma’am, sitting with a straight back, eyes looking forward without smiling, and answering questions with concise, short answers. Depending on your organization’s culture, you may want to start the interview by letting the candidate know it is acceptable to be at ease, and perhaps suggest using first names.

2. Do ask about work experience and ask for examples. Example: How many people did he/she supervise, or what type of supplies and/or material support did he/she oversee on a daily basis? Try to get the candidate to talk about their professional achievements. Many Veterans will act or answer questions in a humble manner, giving credit to the unit or others he/she may have supervised, so interviewers should be prepared to ask follow up questions to obtain additional details and expertise that support the position requirements.

3. Do ask for clarification on any military lingo or jargon used during the interviewing process. Service members are accustomed to using acronyms while serving in the military. If a term comes up during the interview that is unfamiliar to you, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or additional information on the topic.

4. Don’t ask if he/she has a disability, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). As with any other applicant, these types of questions are a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Instead, ask if he/she can perform the job as described with little or no assistance. Employers may also ask questions such as: “Can you meet the physical requirements of this position?” If an applicant volunteers information that indicates he/she has a disability before the interview, interviewers may ask if the candidate will need reasonable accommodations to fulfill the position requirements.

5. Don’t ask questions related to combat deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And certainly don’t ask if he/she has ever killed anyone. These types of questions could be construed as violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Instead, interviewers may ask questions about how the candidate handles stress or stressful situations.

6. Don’t ask what type of discharge the Veteran received from the military. While there are no Federal laws prohibiting you from asking about the type of discharge awarded at the end of service, this information is viewed as private, and should only be asked if required to fulfill a specific type of position (such as positions that may require a security clearance), or if this information is obtained during a background check that applies to all employees at the organization.