Interviewing Best Practices

Interviewing Wounded Warriors

Many Veterans tend to have difficulty explaining how their military experience relates to the needs of a civilian employer. While Veterans will be quick to praise their battalion or unit, they may be reluctant to praise themselves in interviews; therefore civilian employers may sometimes miss their outstanding personal accomplishments and work qualities.

It is also important to note that the concept of "professional presentation" is different for military personnel. Military personnel (particularly those recently separated from the military) often present themselves with eyes forward, back straight, and using "Sir" and "Ma'am," often without much smiling. Former military personnel may need permission to "speak freely" to create a comfort level where they can appear in the most positive light. Hiring managers should be encouraged to be patient with these candidates and ask probing questions to find qualities not apparent at first glance.

Questions to Ask

Most interview questions are appropriate for wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans, such as questions related to management style, problem solving, and strengths/weaknesses. In order to best understand how our population’s skill sets apply to a civilian position, employers should consider phrasing questions so that the interviewee understands the reference to both civilian and military work experience, such as:

  • "Tell me about the type of training and education you received while in the military."
  • "Were you involved in day-to-day management of personnel and/or supplies?"
  • "How many people did you supervise?"
  • "If you managed resources such as supplies and/or equipment, what was the net worth of these resources?"

By asking these questions, employers are not asking the candidate to disclose whether or not they have a disability, but are ensuring they can perform the job.

Questions to Avoid

Questions relevant to experience or training received while in the military, or to determine eligibility for any Veteran's preference required by law, are acceptable. However, some questions should be avoided that make candidates uncomfortable or could be a cause for unlawful discrimination:

  • "Did you receive an honorable discharge?" Only federal agencies or those that assign a Veterans' hiring preference or have requirements related to security clearances should ask questions related to military discharge.
  • "I notice that you're in the National Guard...are you going to be called up for duty anytime soon?" This is similar to asking a woman if she is planning to have a baby soon. It is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of membership in any branch of the military, including the National Guard or Reserves.
  • "Did you see any action over there?" "Did you lose your arm getting hit by an IED?" "Have you seen a psychiatrist since you've been back?" Questions related to deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan may be interpreted as trying to determine if the Veteran has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) and could be construed as violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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