Like many employers, higher ed institutions are reaching out to military veterans to fill skilled positions. Military service offers rich opportunities for individuals to develop a wide variety of skills that translate to well-paying jobs in the civilian world.
However, deciphering a veteran’s work history is tricky. Resumes may be cluttered with military jargon, acronyms or technical certifications. Without a military background, it’s difficult—if not impossible—for a civilian to assess a veteran’s abilities.
Still, recruiters can implement effective tactics to not only understand military culture, but also to better translate skills and competencies to give veterans a fighting chance at jobs.
If your school doesn’t support any type of veteran’s center, try reaching out to your local chamber of commerce, says Julia Ruddock-Elliott, manager of employer development in the Office of Career Services at the University of Tampa. She served for four years as an Army engineer, managing construction jobs in Iraq.
Some chambers of commerce have committees dedicated to transitioning military members into civilian life. Similar groups can also be found online. Ruddock-Elliott, for example, is a member of several LinkedIn groups that help recruiters translate military terminology on resumes and become more aware of military culture. Just type “military transition groups” in the search box and more than 100 groups appear.
An alternative is Googling the candidate’s rank and number of years served. Again, plenty of resources pop up, including an Army Study Guide (www. armystudyguide.com). Recruiters can develop a good idea about the candidate’s duties, authority and even salary.
“It takes a skilled recruiter to get underneath the layer of what’s on a rÁ©sumÁ©,” says Ruddock-Elliott.
Take an avionics technician in the Army who performed maintenance on helicopters, for example.
“That person is probably good with basic electronics and can maybe work with pumps, pneumatics and hydraulics,” says Michael Arsenault, vice president of candidate services at Bradley Morris, a national military placement firm in Georgia. “They can do maintenance on security systems and perhaps troubleshooting of equipment that’s on the campus of the university or college.”
A candidate who worked on nuclear reactors on a submarine may work well in the campus power plant, Arsenault said. Likewise, those in infantry, who are used to working with people with diverse opinions and backgrounds, would do well in teams, executing plans and coordinating events like student orientation.
“Folks in the military are very adaptable, trainable and collaborative in terms of planning,” says Arsenault. “They move around a lot with the idea of mastering different tasks and specialties and work in different types of environments. That makes a pretty versatile employee.”
Broaden your understanding
The University of Denver plans to form an employee committee, composed of veterans, who can advise HR on veteran rÁ©sumÁ©s, says Edward Lewis, a retired Marine and associate teaching professor in the department of management at the school’s Daniels College of Business.
“It’s important that HR take advantage of the assets it has on its own campus,” Lewis says. “You ought to be able to reach out to veterans already on campus as faculty or administrators, and leverage that relationship to help with evaluations and make the best decisions possible.”
Recruiters should realize that veterans often have nontraditional education paths.
“I’ve been on recruitment committees where my colleagues have questioned why it took someone a long time to complete an undergraduate degree,” says Marc Weinstein, director of the master’s program in human resource management at Florida International University. “Their education will often be disrupted by various deployments or may include credits earned from for-profit colleges that cater to the military.”
Overall, don’t focus only on candidates with industry-specific expertise, because people generally have more than one job during their military career, Weinstein says.
Think of such strategies as a way to reward veterans for their patriotic service. “These people have done so much for us,” Lewis says. “It’s now time for us to do something for them.”
Carol Patton is a Las Vegas-based writer who specializes in human resources issues.