Transition as viewed from the hiring manager’s side of the desk

I keep my finger on the pulse of military transition and veterans affairs, and in my daily search for news and insight into transition I ran across this article a few days ago.  I read it once and then re-read it several more times.  It was included in an Orders to Nowhere Transitionnews post, but it is well worth reposting for those who may have missed it the first time.

The author, Sultan Camp, is both a veteran and a recruitment expert at Orion International.  He squarely pounds the nail through the board with his nine points, all of which I agree with.  If you are transitioning now, will be in the future, or already have, read this and pay attention to what the author is saying.  You can read the original article here.  And here.

The 10th item on the list, should I be so bold as to add to it, would be for military folks and veterans to stop drinking their own bathwater in terms of what they offer employers.  Sure, you have mad leadership skills.  Sure, you have used those skills in the most dire of situations.  Sure, you know how to get people to do things that they don’t want to do.  That said, the military does not have a patent on leadership; the corporate world has been getting along just fine without you by employing the leadership and management skills that resonate in the business environment.  In addition, leadership is a bit different when you can send those who disobey you to the brig.  In the corporate world leadership is not the same as the military, and the differences are such that if you don’t adapt to the outside world then the outside world will ignore you.  Recognize that you have tremendous leadership skills (great!), and that those skills need to be paired with another set of skills that an employer actually needs.  They already have leaders, managers, and employees.  To become one of them, you must show that you can do more than stand around with your chest puffed out and barking out orders.  You need to be a contributor to what the company sells, makes, or otherwise provides to customers.

Anyhow, without further ado, here it is:

Congratulations on Your Military Service… Now Here Are 9 Reasons Why I Won’t Hire You

So, you’ve decided to hang up the uniform after years of distinguished service  to our great nation. You’ve attended a few transition classes and have your  interview suit and shiny new resume as you make the leap into the civilian  world.

You feel confident, because you’ve seen your colleagues leave the  uniform on Friday and come to work the following Monday in a suit and tie making  twice as much salary. You storm the job boards and job fairs. Never mind that  although you’ve drafted a plan of action and milestones (POA&M) for every  significant evolution of your military career, some of you have invested the  least amount of time and effort into your own transition POA&M.

Those of us in the hiring and recruiting business know firsthand  that not all veterans are created equal, and, sometimes, it’s a great business  decision to hire a military professional into our companies. Often, though, many  don’t. Why? Because you’re just not the right fit. A more impressive candidate  captured our attention, or maybe, through no fault of your own, we found someone  internally or received a referral from one of our own employees.

The irony is that many veterans and servicemembers have the  skills and experience to make the cut, or even get the second interview, but  blow it. As a military candidate recruiter, I see  consistent themes in why military professionals don’t get the job. Many may  blame the new Transition GPS, their branch of service’s career center or even  the employers themselves, but here are the top real reasons why you’ll never get  hired:

1. You Can’t (or Won’t) Accept That You’re Starting Over

Let’s suppose that immediately after graduating from college or  high school, I went to work for one of the well-known defense contractors.  During the course of my 20+ year career at that company, I was very successful  and promoted to the position of Program Manager, frequently working with the  military. However, I’m now at that point in my career where there isn’t any  opportunity for further advancement, or I’m simply weary of the industry.

I’m now in my late 30s or early 40s and decide it’s time to leave  the company to pursue a different career. I’ve worked with the military my  entire adult life, so I decide I want to join its ranks. Because of my previous  experience with managing multimillion dollar budgets and hundreds of personnel,  I feel I’m the equivalent of a Commanding Officer or Senior Enlisted Leader.  When I talk to a recruiter about my level of entry, what would they tell me?

The cold dose of reality is that despite all of my experience, I’d  have no idea what the organizational culture is like in the military. I’d be set  up for failure if someone allowed me to don the collar devices and step into a  command position. On day one, something as basic as sending an email to a flag  officer could go very sour very quickly. This is because even though I may have  transferable skill sets, I lack the knowledge of industry norms and protocol  experience to succeed.

A senior military professional transitioning into the private  sector faces the same dynamic. The transition is a bit easier within the  Department of Defense and Federal arenas, but you’re starting anew.  It’s imperative that you understand this. As a result, you should seek ways to  learn the organizational structures of potential employers many  months before you’ll be entering the job market.

Just as I would have been far better informed had I spoken to a  military recruiter before I left my civilian job, so should you be similarly  informed before entering your last year of service. Use recruiters, headhunters,  employment counselors, hiring managers, etc. to gain intelligence and  information so you can be pragmatic in your expectations and planning.  Also, getting a mentor who has successfully navigated into  the private or government sector and is also a veteran will provide invaluable  insight from a perspective you’ll be able to relate to.

2. You Believe You’re Unique (Just Like Every Other Transitioning  Person That Day)

Each and every day, 200 to 300 service members exit the  military. This number will only increase as the nation’s wars come to an end  and forces continue to draw down. In 2012, an average of 470,000 resumes were  posted on Monster each week. Essentially, for every job opening in  the U.S., there are roughly 187 qualified and unqualified job  applicants.

This is the challenge you face in relying on job boards as your  sole method of getting a job. I suggest you think of hitting the “apply” button  as being similar to walking down to the local convenience store and buying a  lottery ticket, then deciding to not do anything else (or continue buying  lottery tickets) until they call your number.

Are job boards still relevant? Yes. However, it’s best to post your  resume to a niche job board that  aligns with your background or industry — and make sure your resume is targeted  specifically for the jobs you apply to.

3. Your Resume Is Longer Than the CEO of Our Company’s (or Shorter  Than a Recent College Graduate’s)

A long resume doesn’t impress me at all. Even worse, a resume that  has neither definition nor clarity is guaranteed to be placed in the trash. I’m  probably going to look at it for six seconds, tops.

Your resume should be a windshield document. That is, it  should reflect the positions you’re going towards. (Click  here to tweet this thought.) It shouldn’t be a rearview mirror which  simply lists all of the duties you performed. It should contain keywords, which  websites such as wordle and tagcrowd can help you identify in both job  announcements and your resume. This is because your resume will most likely be  filtered by Applicant Tracking Software before it even gets to a human resources  screener.

And, while I appreciate that you volunteered to clean up a highway  or had some collateral duties in addition to your main assignments, I’m looking  for candidates who have years of matching relevant experience, the right job  titles and are in the same industry. Most importantly, I’m not looking for a  “jack of all trades”; if I were, the job posting would have said so.

How do you craft a resume that’s forward-looking? Find about 15 to  20 job announcements that match up with your ideal target job title. Incorporate  their language into your resume and make it contextual by inserting your  metrics. Review each bullet point you’ve chosen to use by asking yourself if it  demonstrates a problem you solved or action you took and the results that were  accomplished. The actual length of your resume? It depends on your audience.  Seek out current or former employees at the companies you’ve identified in your  target list and ask them what their company’s preference is.

4. You Didn’t Proofread Your Resume

I would be a millionaire if I got 10 bucks for every time I come  across a candidate who’s an “experienced manger.” There isn’t any substitute for  attention to detail here. Don’t trust spellcheck, and don’t rely  solely on your own review. Have your resume reviewed and critiqued  free of charge by as many eyes as possible. The trained professionals at your  Fleet and Family Support Centers, Army ACAP, and Airman & Family Readiness  Centers are the best resource to catch those mistakes before I do.

After getting your resume reviewed for spelling and substance, take  it to the local university’s English department and have it critiqued for proper  grammar. Seem a bit excessive? Well, if I see misspellings and poor grammar on  your resume, what will I expect from you if I need you to communicate with my  clients?

5. You Don’t Have a LinkedIn Profile (Or, Even Worse, It’s Not  Complete)

In a 2012 JobVite survey, 89% of  hiring decision-makers and recruiters reported using social media sites such as  LinkedIn to find their candidates. If this is the case, shouldn’t you have a  profile already?

Your knowledge of managing your online presence lets me know how  proficient you are in using technology to communicate. It also allows me to see  your skills, even if they’re nascent. If you have an incomplete profile, it may  communicate that you might also expect me to complete your work for you.

Take the time and get your LinkedIn profile set up  right. There are lots of places and resources available  online to get help at no cost, so there isn’t any excuse for not having  one. Additionally, a complete LinkedIn profile allows you to take advantage of  LinkedIn Labs’ Resume Builder to automatically generate 11 different  resume styles based on your LinkedIn profile. Talk about a time saver!

6. You Think Social Media Is For Kids or Sharing War Stories

If you think social media is a huge waste of time and doesn’t offer  real value, watch this video.

The reality is that two out of three job seekers will get  their next job using social media. What does that mean to you? It  translates to lesser-qualified people using technology to their advantage to get  hired. They know how to use each of the social networking sites to the maximum  extent in their transition action plans. If you think Twitter is of little use  to a job seeker or professional, your competition will be happy to land the job  you want because they’re using it and you  aren’t.

7. You Didn’t Prepare For The Interview

During the course of your military career, you’ve conducted  countless boards and interviews. It seems to make sense that you should have no  problem interviewing. After all, you did pretty well in your transition class  mock interviews, didn’t you?

Wrong approach. I’ve seen instances where the most junior  servicemember outperformed a much more seasoned military leader because of one  simple strategy: practice, practice, practice. Practice with  someone who regularly hires or who has hired people at your level recently.

Why do you need to practice? Because you need to be able to be  conversational, convey energy and yet let me know you’re aware of what my  business is, who my competitors are and even who I am. Did you go to the  company’s website to see if we have a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter page? Did we  make the news recently? Google News is a great way to find this out.

I want you to distinguish yourself from the regular job seeker. I  want to know you’re as passionate about my company and what we do as I am, not  just out to get a paycheck and benefits. Make sure you have a set of questions  that I haven’t heard before, and  when we’re about to finish the interview, ask for the job. Don’t worry; I’m not  going to be offended, because I want to see that fire in your belly. Just don’t  overdo it by saying something presumptuous such as, “So… when do I start?”

8. You Wrote a Thank You Note (But Only to Say Thank You)

Sending a thank you note is something that sets you apart from the  competitors also vying for this position. And while it’s appreciated and  infinitely better than sending nothing at all, don’t just send the note to say  thank you; use it to tell me how much passion you have for my  company and the job. Remind me of those things that excited you during  our interview and, if there were any areas you looked vulnerable in, ease my  concerns.

9. You Don’t Know What You Want to Do

When asked what you want to do, the worst possible answer you can  give is, “I don’t know” or “anything.” You have to be able say  specifically what types of positions you’re interested in and how you can add  value to them. If you don’t, you’re essentially saying, “Invest  lots of time and money in me, and maybe it will help me figure out if I want to  do something else.”

If you have no clue where to start, start by looking at colleagues  with backgrounds similar to yours who have recently transitioned. Which  industries are they in? What companies are they working for? Where are they  living? What job titles do they have now? The LinkedIn Labs Veterans App is a great tool to help with this. Be  sure to check it out. Start volunteering to gain professional experience and  seek out internships long before you sign your DD214.

Employers want to feel secure in knowing that you’ll last and that they can  depend on you in your new work environment. Doing an internship or volunteering  will help both the employer and you determine if a position is a good fit.  Additionally, due to the flood of resumes that come in for each job posting,  applicants who have volunteered or performed internships will stand out well  ahead of the others.

Military professionals, especially senior ones, have a lot to offer  our country when they hang up the uniform. The President and American companies are working hard to  ensure that servicemembers and veterans have well-paying jobs with opportunities  to advance. However, no one is ever guaranteed a job, and the more senior you  are, the more challenging the transition can be in terms of education,  credentials, certification and relevant industry experience required. Having a  powerful network is essential and can open doors for you. That said, your  comrades, friends and family can generally get you to the  door, but it remains up to you to be fully prepared when the door is opened.

Well done, Sultan!


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