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Do You Know What to Ask During an Interview?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Many employers have admitted challenges when it comes to evaluating a veteran during a job interview. This is often because veterans have difficulty explaining how their military experience relates to the needs of the civilian employer.

Asking the right interview questions can help you determine whether the candidate is a good fit for the position you are filling, as well as how likely they are to succeed within your organization. Most individuals involved in the hiring process are aware of questions that should be off limits in an interview, but you may be in new territory when interviewing a veteran candidate. While it’s acceptable (and encouraged!) to ask questions relevant to experience or training received while in the military, according to a recent article from U.S. Veterans Magazine, there are questions to avoid:

  • “What type of discharge did you receive?” 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 (especially in a pre-employment phase).
  • “I notice that you’re in the National Guard...are you going to be called up for duty any time soon?” This is similar to asking a woman if she is planning to have a baby anytime in the near future. Remember, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of membership in the National Guard or Reserves, a state defense force or another state or federal Reserve unit.
  • “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 PTSD or TBI and could be construed as violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Most of the standard behavioral interview questions should be no different than those you would typically ask any other candidate (e.g., management style, problem solving, strengths / weaknesses related to teamwork, etc.).

Consider phrasing your questions to ensure the interviewee clearly understands that you are referring to both civilian and military work experience. For example:

  • “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, inventory and / or equipment, what was the net worth of these resources?”

Veteran candidates, especially those recently separated or discharged from military service, are likely not accustomed to interviewing. Encourage those involved in the hiring process to dig deep and ask follow up questions to find qualities that may not be apparent at first glance.

View the current issue of U.S. Veterans Magazine for more resources to assist you in veteran hiring.