For direct online access to VA benefits and resources, create an account here.
During a job interview, an employer asking a military veteran about their service is both perfectly acceptable and … potentially daunting. For the vet.
Because it’s a broad question about an era in one’s life that’s not only deep, nuanced and complex, but emotional and — sometimes — extremely delicate.
That being said, if answered well, it could be the springboard/perfect opportunity for a vet to set themselves apart from all the other candidates vying for the same position.
In other words: if done right, it can land a vet a job.
Per U.S. News, here are a few example questions/answers as well as tips that will help a veteran come up with an effective response (or group of responses). It’s also encouraged that, once written up, it’s recited to friends or family until polished and comfortable. It’ll not only make one more confident heading into the interview, but it’ll help melt away the anxiety, too.
What did you learn?
Good example of a response: “I joined out of sense of national service and to obtain leadership skills and technical training, but one of the most surprising extra benefits of serving was the exposure I gained to Americans from all walks of life. I have heard a lot of colleges and companies talk about ‘diversity,’ but we really lived it. It forever made me a wiser, better person.”
Why did you join?
Good example of a response: “Growing up, I was always proud of my family members who had served, so I wanted to do my part, too. Moreover, I wanted adventure, to see the world, and really understand what it means to lead a group of people — effectively.”
Maybe have a few small anecdotes to bolster any of the points too (have them at the ready in case the employee gets curious and would like to indulge).
It’s also a good idea to have, if not another story, an elevator pitch that can be applied to the interview/conversation seamlessly that answers one big question (arguably, the most important question): how does your experience solve the employer’s needs?
Two tips to keep in your pocket
Always remain positive. There’s a common understanding among most employers and managers that someone who complained about a prior experience is — probably — going to do the same elsewhere. No one wants to hear whining — it just doesn’t help anyone’s case. You can, however, bring up challenges and how you overcame them.
Do not apologize. Be proud. Scratch “I was just a …” from your reservoir of phrases. You don’t have to be cocky or arrogant, but you do have to sell yourself. Tell the employer why you’re perfect for the job.