A Guide to Understanding and Hiring Veterans

When it comes to hiring challenges, few items often trip up decision makers as the opportunity to hire active, reserve, or retired members of our military.  Correspondingly, non-active duty veterans often find interviews in the private workforce to be one of the most stressful aspects of civilian life. From misconceptions about their active duty job roles to a lack of understanding of the nuanced talents veterans can bring to all levels of employment, let’s delve into our guide to hiring and understanding veteran candidates and the benefits they may add to any organization.

Return From Duty

One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to the term “veteran” is that it refers to soldiers who have experienced combat.  In reality, however, a veteran is anyone who has fulfilled their active duty responsibilities either at home or abroad, in combat, or in a support role.

Regardless of the individual position, however, all military members have undergone the same level of training and conditioning.  This initial induction, as well as subsequent experience in an active military role, helps create dynamic and talented individuals with a range of qualifications.  From culinary to logistics, veterans are uniquely qualified to step into a diverse range of service and leadership positions with their prior training and support already provided courtesy of their previous armed services experience.

Unfair Bias

Veterans exiting active duty are often confronted with a host of unfair biases.  One of the most common is a misconception of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. While PTSD is a common condition facing many of our active duty service members exposed to stressful and violent experiences on the battlefront, it does not impact a person’s ability to contribute to society, maintain a successful job, or lead a team of qualified individuals.  

When interviewing veterans, refrain from asking about specific combat experiences such as whether they were engaged in live fire situations or whether they had to kill anyone in their role.  Not only are such questions prohibited under many federal laws, but they are also a poor method for evaluating individual capabilities and performance in civilian positions. Instead of focusing on military duty, ask for situations that highlight individual traits such as leadership or decision making skills.  In return, you’ll gain not only a quality employee but someone who is able to contribute a unique set of skills to your position based on a wide array of real-world experience.

Alternative Approaches

Need additional guidance in the interview room or beyond for potential veteran candidates?  Here we lay out a few common questions and viewpoints that express unnecessary bias along with alternative queries that will help you identify transferable skills and that will help land you a quality candidate in the process:


Ask these questions

Military personnel only do what they’re told. They don’t have leadership skills and can’t think on their own.

Tell me about a situation when you made a decision that affected your troop. What were the results of that decision?

Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your instructions. What did you do? What was the outcome?

Former military personnel can be rigid in their individual thoughts and actions.

Tell me about a time you contributed to a team when there were different viewpoints being shared. How did the team come to a solution, and what role did you play?

Soldiers are uneducated and do not have college degrees.

What kind of on the job training was provided to you in the military?

Tell me what skills you learned while in the military.

All veterans have PTSD, and won’t be able to do their job reliably as a result.

Ask specific questions related to your job in this situation. For example, will you be able to work between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.? Will you be able to travel 25% of the time?

When evaluating veteran candidates, keep in mind that this unique and diverse talent pool will often have experiences and training that can benefit your individual business and return on talent investment.  A commitment to excellence and discipline and the ability to adapt to the most extreme of conditions are only a few of the benefits of hiring a veteran can bring to your business. Keep an open mind and you will reap the benefits of a candidate who has undergone the most rigorous on the job training program available.

Article Updated from the Original on May 8, 2019