Employers: Ask Veterans about their Brand

Job interview.

Every month, thousands of military service members take off the uniform and join the civilian workforce. Employers are meeting these job candidates, who possess qualities of commitment, resiliency, passion and loyalty. But many employers find themselves stumped to understand how the veteran candidate can fit into their company culture, and what they can offer beyond their military experience and skills.

In addition to learning about the candidate's military training (as it relates to the job for which you are recruiting), I encourage employers to ask candidates about their personal brand. Veterans might not know what "personal brand" means, and this is where the opportunity lies!

A personal brand is the reputation and value proposition someone offers to a target audience. When managed correctly, a personal brand empowers the individual to communicate their passions, talents, and vision to make himself or herself relevant and compelling.

Asking about a veteran job candidate's personal brand enables you to see beyond the tactical skills and training, and uncover their uniqueness and value to your organization.

Sample questions you might ask include:

  1. Who inspires you?
  2. What are you passionate about?
  3. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
  4. What would your friends say you are known for?
  5. What work is most meaningful to you?
  6. What do you wish others knew about you?

In asking about their personal brand, you are encouraging the candidate to go beyond the "what" of their background, and talk about the "why" of who they are as a person.

Challenges You Might Encounter

As you ask these questions, you might encounter some reluctance. Personal branding is part of the civilian narrative, but not in the military (yet!) For instance:

  1. Veterans are not comfortable or skilled at talking about themselves. Don't misinterpret this as insecurity or self-doubt. The military teaches, "Service Before Self," which means taking all responsibility and accountability for an action, but pushing credit and praise to those who serve with you. This makes it challenging for veterans to use "I" in sentences, which is humility and respect, not insecurity.
  2. The military teaches resiliency and adaptability. Service members are trained to do what it takes to successfully complete a mission. For this reason, veterans possess a true "can do" attitude. When you ask a veteran to describe their desired work, they might reply, "Whatever you need me to do." They aren't being evasive, they are used to being supportive.
  3. When asked about their passions, don't be surprised if "service" or "serving" is repeated often. The military builds a commitment to service which doesn't leave a veteran's heart when they take off the uniform. This is a great opportunity for employers who also promote a commitment to serving (clients, their community, etc.), so emphasize it in the interview and on boarding process.

Talk to your veteran candidates about who they are and what they are passionate about. They have dreams, goals, ambitions, and a vision for their career. When you combine these qualities with their commitment and loyalty to service and others, it's no surprise that veterans make such desirable employees!

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