It’s no secret that the unemployment rate for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is higher than that of the nonveteran population. Recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that more than 1 in 10 vets can’t find employment upon their return.
In a recent poll, 60% of HR professionals complained that vets aren't doing a good job translating their military skills to the civilian job experience when it comes to writing resumes, interviewing, and other job hunt-related communications. As a Vietnam veteran myself, I can tell you that young vets have the very skills US businesses want — discipline, leadership, resiliency, teamwork, loyalty, and self-motivation, to name just a few.
What returning veterans may lack — and aren't learning in the government's Transition Assistance Program (TAP) — are techniques for selling themselves to prospective employers and showing these employers that hiring them will be to their advantage.
Learning professional negotiating strategies can help returning vet job seekers nail the interview, get the call-back, and land the job. Having the right attitude and system in the negotiation (the job interview) helps the vet portray himself or herself accurately both on the phone and in person with a prospective employer, translate his or her raw skills and talents into desirable business assets, and negotiate a fair but generous salary and benefits package.
Avoid the top mistakes returning vets make: Feeling as if they are at a disadvantage. Or going into the interview nervous about rejection, ashamed of their limited job experience, or perhaps feeling needy and overanxious. If you let such emotions and attitudes consume you, you'll be unable to think about the challenges facing this company and unable to articulate why they need you and should hire you.
Instead, be like a still pond: cool and calm. Here are nine other tried-and-true tips to getting hired.
- Do impeccable research on the company and position before the interview. Read recent business articles, visit the company's website, and read press releases and annual reports. Write down anything and everything about this company.
- Don't try to impress the interviewer with your dress, attitude, or speech. It will backfire. Be honest, direct, and authentic. Look decent and be comfortable in your own skin.
- Find out what your interviewer wants by asking questions. Your aim is to discover the company's problems, issues, and needs so you can position yourself as the solution. Example: "What are the biggest challenges facing your company?"
- Ask interrogative-led questions — what, how, and why — to help YOU direct the dialogue. These get your interviewer spilling the beans. Example: "How do you see this position developing and changing over the next three years?"
- Get your interviewer to reveal what a "good fit" means to the company. Your objective is to find out how you might uniquely enhance this company. Example: "How would you describe your employees and the culture of this organization?
- Don't volunteer too much information. You might think your previous working environment is relevant. You might think your family life is important. You might think your hobbies are character revealing. But telling too much gives your interviewer fuel to make assumptions and draw conclusions about you.
- Be a blank slate. Learn to clear your mind of assumptions, fears, and expectations so you will be emotionally neutral and can maintain an open-minded perspective. If you start to feel hopeful or fearful, needy or overconfident, drop your pen, shift in your chair, take a deep breath — do anything to distract yourself and get back to neutral.
- Don't be needy. Neediness kills your advantage in a job interview. You do not NEED this job. You need water, food, and air.
- Focus on what you can control. The only things you can control in the interview are your behavior and your responses. Focus on listening carefully — taking notes if necessary — and on answering questions in such a way that you are always keeping your interviewer's requirements and goals in mind. Your answers should reflect how you fit in with this employer's aims and enhance the employer's objectives.
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Jim Camp is president and CEO of the Camp Negotiation Institute and has trained and coached more than 100,000 businesspeople through thousands of negotiations in more than 500 organizations. His new 6-CD audio program The Power of No has just been released by Nightingale-Conant.
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