Guest blog: How to break the communication gap with veteran employees
Having military experience gives service members some of the most unique training in the world. They learn the important of leadership and teamwork, they gain an appreciation for discipline and they develop skills that many civilians might not even be aware of. Although these aspects were developed through the service, they can still be applied to civilian work and make them an asset to your team. It does take some time for veterans to transition from military life to civilian life. While veterans adjust to life away from the service, there are probably going to be some communication gaps. Remember they are in the process of learning a completely new lifestyle. Here are some tips on how employers can help break the communication gap when looking to hire and work with veteran employees:
People tend to stick with what they know. It’s their comfort zone. Military members are used to interacting with others in their field and more specifically their division. They have their own lingo that is used on a daily basis and that’s something that can’t simply be turned off. It’s a part of who they are and it’s important to remember that. Many times when veterans are transitioning to civilian life after the military, they are struggling to adjust with everything including communication.
When it comes to interviewing for a new job, they are going to be nervous. Chances are they are going to reference technical jargon that those outside of the military do not understand. Don’t view this as a negative; simply explain you are having trouble understanding because you don’t have the same military knowledge. Most of the time military members don’t even realize they are talking in what seems like an unfamiliar language because it’s natural to them. By having them explain their military terms to you, it tends to help them open and relax more.
The majority of men and women who go into the service do so straight after leaving high school or college. That means many of them have never applied for a job before or if they have it has been on a part-time status and probably happened many years ago. For veterans, applying for a job that isn’t related to their field can be very nerve-racking. Often times they will struggle with translating their skill-sets to something outside of the military.
Because of this common problem, one of the best ways to conduct an interview with a veteran is the use the performance-based interview technique. They are familiar with this approach from their time in the service. This technique helps determine what the person has done, instead of what they do. It also allows the employer to help the veteran expand and share past experiences that can then be connected to the job in a way they might not have thought of.
Do not ask
For people who are not very familiar with military life, having a veteran in front of them provides a person who can answer all of their questions they have about the service. An interview or a meeting in the workplace is the not the right time for those questions to be asked. Keep the questions legal; avoid asking about military status, type of discharge or disability status. Questions involving education, service experience and anything on their applicant/resume are perfectly fine but be mindful on not crossing the line.
Say thank you
Don’t be afraid at the end of the interview to thank them for their service. Although veterans are to be treated just like everyone else, they have put their lives on the line for their country. Saying thank you to a veteran is something they appreciate and is something they deserve. It will also end the interview on a positive note.
August Nielsen is the human resources director for Veterans United Home Loans, and has been responsible for hiring over 1,000 employees in the past five years for a company recently named the #1 job creator nationally in the financial industry by Inc. Magazine as well as making the Great Place to Work top 25. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Google+.