Unlocking the mystery of hiring a veteran, what every hiring manager needs to know.

We’ve all heard that military veterans will make great employees.  The skills they acquire and hone in the service include loyalty, leadership, attention to detail, teamwork, and the ability to work independently.  All of these are highly valued in the workforce.   So why do so many transitioning veterans still struggle with finding work once their military career is completed?

Part of the reason is that hiring managers have difficulty translating military experience into civilian sector equivalency.   Most of us understand that Generals equate to CEO level positions, with critical thinking skills and a proven ability to develop and execute strategy.  But beyond that our civilian understanding of ranks and how they correspond to experience outside the military is murky, at best.

So what is the difference between a corporal and a colonel, and how is that relevant in filling a company position that has industry-specific needs?   Hiring managers and human resource professionals will be better equipped to tap into this tremendous talent pool if they take time to learn a little more about the military culture.

Steven McGugan (@stevenmcgugan) is a former U.S. Army officer, who served as either commander or chief of staff for his last three units before retiring.   As an experienced leader who is now making his own transition to the civilian sector he recently provided Able Force with this concise list of Army ranks and how they equate to civilian skills and abilities:

·        Field Grade Officer, such as Colonel or Major:  These compare favorably with C-level positions and directors, just below the CEO.  Colonels and majors often have multiple degrees beyond their bachelor’s degree, and possess skills including problem solving, operational policy, supply-chain management and financial management.

·        Company Grade Officer, including Captain and Lieutenant:  These are managers and primary staff in the civilian sector, with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.  Skills include team building, training and project management.

·        Warrant Officer:  Veterans with this on their resume are technical experts, often with a bachelor’s or at least an associate’s degree, with four to eight years of enlisted time before transitioning to warrant.  In addition to their technical expertise, warrant officers are strategic level problem solvers and great team builders.

·        Non-Commissioned Officers, including Sergeant Major, Master Sergeant, Sergeant First Class, Staff Sergeant, and Sergeant:  These are staff principals, managers, staff members and subject matter experts, with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, many more with their master’s and a minimum of 4 to 20+ years of military training.  Non-commissioned officers are strategic advisors, primary trainers, tactical problem solvers and recruiters.

·        Enlisted Personnel:  This includes Specialists, Private First Class, and Privates who are entry level technicians, sometimes with associate’s degrees and 1-3 years of training.  Enlisted personnel with a successful military background can be fast learners with personal drive and technical skills.

Of course, military background does not guarantee a prospective employee will be the best fit for any particular position.   But with work experience so important in the hiring process, better understanding what it means to have served in the military can only lead to more frequent and more successful placement of veterans as they transition into the civilian workforce.  This is a win-win for both veterans and employers.

About Able Force:   Able Force is a 501 c4 nonprofit and AbilityOne providing, with services that assist veterans and individuals with disabilities while helping employers connect to a diverse source of talent.  More information can be found at AbleForce.org.

About Steven McGugan:   A U.S. Army Officer with more than 24 years of experience, McGugan lives his life by maximizing people’s potential, so they can be the best that they can be.”  He can be reached at Stmcgugan@gmail.com.



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