Congratulations on Your Military Service… Now Here Are 9 Reasons Why I Won’t Hire You

Congratulations on Your Military Service… Now Here Are 9 Reasons Why I Won’t Hire You

Originally posted on Career Attraction.

So, you’ve decided to hang up the uniform after years of distinguished service to our great nation. You’ve attended a few transition classes and have your interview suit and shiny new resume as you make the leap into the civilian world.

You feel confident, because you’ve seen your colleagues leave the uniform on Friday and come to work the following Monday in a suit and tie making twice as much salary. You storm the job boards and job fairs. Never mind that although you’ve drafted a plan of action and milestones (POA&M) for every significant evolution of your military career, some of you have invested the least amount of time and effort into your own transition POA&M.

Those of us in the hiring and recruiting business know firsthand that not all veterans are created equal, and, sometimes, it’s a great business decision to hire a military professional into our companies. Often, though, many don’t. Why? Because you’re just not the right fit. A more impressive candidate captured our attention, or maybe, through no fault of your own, we found someone internally or received a referral from one of our own employees.

The irony is that many veterans and service members have the skills and experience to make the cut, or even get the second interview, but blow it. As a military candidate recruiter, I see consistent themes in why military professionals don’t get the job. Many may blame the new Transition GPS, their branch of service’s career center or even the employers themselves, but here are the top real reasons why you’ll never get hired:

1. You Can’t (or Won’t) Accept That You’re Starting Over

Let’s suppose that immediately after graduating from college or high school, I went to work for one of the well-known defense contractors. During the course of my 20+ year career at that company, I was very successful and promoted to the position of Program Manager, frequently working with the military. However, I’m now at that point in my career where there isn’t any opportunity for further advancement, or I’m simply weary of the industry.

I’m now in my late 30s or early 40s and decide it’s time to leave the company to pursue a different career. I’ve worked with the military my entire adult life, so I decide I want to join its ranks. Because of my previous experience with managing multimillion dollar budgets and hundreds of personnel, I feel I’m the equivalent of a Commanding Officer or Senior Enlisted Leader. When I talk to a recruiter about my level of entry, what would they tell me?

The cold dose of reality is that despite all of my experience, I’d have no idea what the organizational culture is like in the military. I’d be set up for failure if someone allowed me to don the collar devices and step into a command position. On day one, something as basic as sending an email to a flag officer could go very sour very quickly. This is because even though I may have transferable skill sets, I lack the knowledge of industry norms and protocol experience to succeed.

A senior military professional transitioning into the private sector faces the same dynamic. The transition is a bit easier within the Department of Defense and Federal arenas, but you’re starting anew. It’s imperative that you understand this. As a result, you should seek ways to learn the organizational structures of potential employers many months before you’ll be entering the job market.

Just as I would have been far better informed had I spoken to a military recruiter before I left my civilian job, so should you be similarly informed before entering your last year of service. Use recruiters, headhunters, employment counselors, hiring managers, etc. to gain intelligence and information so you can be pragmatic in your expectations and planning. Also, getting a mentor who has successfully navigated into the private or government sector and is also a veteran will provide invaluable insight from a perspective you’ll be able to relate to.

2. You Believe You’re Unique (Just Like Every Other Transitioning Person That Day)

Each and every day, 200 to 300 servicemembers exit the military. This number will only increase as the nation’s wars come to an end and forces continue to draw down. In 2012, an average of 470,000 resumes were posted on Monster each week. Essentially, for every job opening in the U.S., there are roughly 187 qualified and unqualified job applicants.

This is the challenge you face in relying on job boards as your sole method of getting a job. I suggest you think of hitting the “apply” button as being similar to walking down to the local convenience store and buying a lottery ticket, then deciding to not do anything else (or continue buying lottery tickets) until they call your number.

Are job boards still relevant? Yes. However, it’s best to post your resume to a niche job board that aligns with your background or industry — and make sure your resume is targeted specifically for the jobs you apply to.

3. Your Resume Is Longer Than the CEO of Our Company’s (or Shorter Than a Recent College Graduate’s)

A long resume doesn’t impress me at all. Even worse, a resume that has neither definition nor clarity is guaranteed to be placed in the trash. I’m probably going to look at it for six seconds, tops.

Your resume should be a windshield document. That is, it should reflect the positions you’re going towards. (Click here to tweet this thought.) It shouldn’t be a rearview mirror which simply lists all of the duties you performed. It should contain keywords, which websites such as wordle and tagcrowd can help you identify in both job announcements and your resume. This is because your resume will most likely be filtered by Applicant Tracking Software before it even gets to a human resources screener.

And, while I appreciate that you volunteered to clean up a highway or had some collateral duties in addition to your main assignments, I’m looking for candidates who have years of matching relevant experience, the right job titles and are in the same industry. Most importantly, I’m not looking for a “jack of all trades”; if I were, the job posting would have said so.

How do you craft a resume that’s forward-looking? Find about 15 to 20 job announcements that match up with your ideal target job title. Incorporate their language into your resume and make it contextual by inserting your metrics. Review each bullet point you’ve chosen to use by asking yourself if it demonstrates a problem you solved or action you took and the results that were accomplished. The actual length of your resume? It depends on your audience. Seek out current or former employees at the companies you’ve identified in your target list and ask them what their company’s preference is.

4. You Didn’t Proofread Your Resume

I would be a millionaire if I got 10 bucks for every time I come across a candidate who’s an “experienced manger.” There isn’t any substitute for attention to detail here. Don’t trust spellcheck, and don’t rely solely on your own review. Have your resume reviewed and critiqued free of charge by as many eyes as possible. The trained professionals at your Fleet and Family Support Centers, Army ACAP, and Airman & Family Readiness Centers are the best resource to catch those mistakes before I do.

After getting your resume reviewed for spelling and substance, take it to the local university’s English department and have it critiqued for proper grammar. Seem a bit excessive? Well, if I see misspellings and poor grammar on your resume, what will I expect from you if I need you to communicate with my clients?

5. You Don’t Have a LinkedIn Profile (Or, Even Worse, It’s Not Complete)

In a 2012 JobVite survey, 89% of hiring decision-makers and recruiters reported using social media sites such as LinkedIn to find their candidates. If this is the case, shouldn’t you have a profile already?

Your knowledge of managing your online presence lets me know how proficient you are in using technology to communicate. It also allows me to see your skills, even if they’re nascent. If you have an incomplete profile, it may communicate that you might also expect me to complete your work for you.

Take the time and get your LinkedIn profile set up right. There are lots of places and resources available online to get help at no cost, so there isn’t any excuse for not having one. Additionally, a complete LinkedIn profile allows you to take advantage of LinkedIn Labs’ Resume Builder to automatically generate 11 different resume styles based on your LinkedIn profile. Talk about a time saver!

6. You Think Social Media Is For Kids or Sharing War Stories

If you think social media is a huge waste of time and doesn’t offer real value, watch this video.

The reality is that two out of three job seekers will get their next job using social media. What does that mean to you? It translates to lesser-qualified people using technology to their advantage to get hired. They know how to use each of the social networking sites to the maximum extent in their transition action plans. If you think Twitter is of little use to a job seeker or professional, your competition will be happy to land the job you want because they’re using it and you aren’t.

7. You Didn’t Prepare For The Interview

During the course of your military career, you’ve conducted countless boards and interviews. It seems to make sense that you should have no problem interviewing. After all, you did pretty well in your transition class mock interviews, didn’t you?

Wrong approach. I’ve seen instances where the most junior service member outperformed a much more seasoned military leader because of one simple strategy: practice, practice, practice. Practice with someone who regularly hires or who has hired people at your level recently.

Why do you need to practice? Because you need to be able to be conversational, convey energy and yet let me know you’re aware of what my business is, who my competitors are and even who I am. Did you go to the company’s website to see if we have a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter page? Did we make the news recently? Google News is a great way to find this out.

I want you to distinguish yourself from the regular job seeker. I want to know you’re as passionate about my company and what we do as I am, not just out to get a paycheck and benefits. Make sure you have a set of questions that I haven’t heard before, and when we’re about to finish the interview, ask for the job. Don’t worry; I’m not going to be offended, because I want to see that fire in your belly. Just don’t overdo it by saying something presumptuous such as, “So… when do I start?”

8. You Wrote a Thank You Note (But Only to Say Thank You)

Sending a thank you note is something that sets you apart from the competitors also vying for this position. And while it’s appreciated and infinitely better than sending nothing at all, don’t just send the note to say thank you; use it to tell me how much passion you have for my company and the job. Remind me of those things that excited you during our interview and, if there were any areas you looked vulnerable in, ease my concerns.

9. You Don’t Know What You Want to Do

When asked what you want to do, the worst possible answer you can give is, “I don’t know” or “anything.” You have to be able say specifically what types of positions you’re interested in and how you can add value to them. If you don’t, you’re essentially saying, “Invest lots of time and money in me, and maybe it will help me figure out if I want to do something else.”

If you have no clue where to start, start by looking at colleagues with backgrounds similar to yours who have recently transitioned. Which industries are they in? What companies are they working for? Where are they living? What job titles do they have now? The LinkedIn Labs Veterans App is a great tool to help with this. Be sure to check it out. Start volunteering to gain professional experience and seek out internships long before you sign your DD214.

Employers want to feel secure in knowing that you’ll last and that they can depend on you in your new work environment. Doing an internship or volunteering will help both the employer and you determine if a position is a good fit. Additionally, due to the flood of resumes that come in for each job posting, applicants who have volunteered or performed internships will stand out well ahead of the others.

Military professionals, especially senior ones, have a lot to offer our country when they hang up the uniform. The President and American companies are working hard to ensure that servicemembers and veterans have well-paying jobs with opportunities to advance. However, no one is ever guaranteed a job, and the more senior you are, the more challenging the transition can be in terms of education, credentials, certification and relevant industry experience required. Having a powerful network is essential and can open doors for you. That said, your comrades, friends and family can generally get you tothe door, but it remains up to you to be fully prepared when the door is opened.

Eager to hear your thoughts – please share them in the comments section!

Sultan Camp is a proud veteran, travel hound and Orion International Military Recruiter looking for hard workers to place into rewarding careers within Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Making your military transition successful is his goal.


  1. I am engaged in helping Vets through a program called Edge4Vets, it is out of the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University in New York and we are having some success in Massachusetts helping vets find jobs. The program focuses on helping vets understand much of what you wrote. Both veteran and non-veteran mentors work with vets in a workshop setting and often deliver and discuss many of the messages you shared. I think you nailed it and appreciate you spelling it out as you did.

  2. Absolutely spot-on. As a military veteran who retired almost 16 years ago — and spending a good part of my civilian profession as a employment coach; these are valid points. I remember my first year out of the military, I changed my resume so many times that I could no longer make heads or tails out of it. These pointers, although written with the military candidate in mind also pertains to anybody that is job searching. You’ll hear the word “network” often, but this also is needs to be done productively to get the right leads — or you’ll find yourself on wild goose chases.

  3. I read this with some interest and thought it had some good points, however the problem I have had is that every recruiter on LinkedIn, many private employer recruiters, and similar others, are all saying they are not hiring because of and there advice is all different on how to get noticed or hired, or even interviewed. I personally have read several “help” sites like this with advice on what to do or what not to do and after a while it became clear that each company seems to want a particular type of person and if you happen to be lucky enough to have your resume just right according to how they believe it should be, then you will get noticed. It’s just difficult to keep up and it’s also hard to know what it is that will set you apart from company A because it might not set you apart at company B, even though the job is virtually the same. I think recruiters have become too nit-picky, choosing to over-emphasize resume writing skills over and above actual performance and references. I know several smart people who don’t excel at writing resumes and some whose resumes are stellar yet their skills were exaggerated. If I were a recruiter, I think I would interview based on what is written, not on HOW it is written — within reason obviously. I do think you had several really good points, however, that I hadn’t seen before.

    • Sorry — my laptop keyboard skips keys if I don’t give enough pressure, so I had some errors in my post, and I meant to say “their” in my first sentence, a pet peeve of mine normally. In my defense, the comment area to type only allows one to view one line at a time, so I didn’t catch it. I just didn’t want anyone to think I was being careless.

  4. Interesting point on the resume. I have built many resumes, some built by others. I have the short one page and the long 4 page. Granted the 4 page is excessive. Nevertheless, I’ve been told to submit my short one page (which doesn’t even fit nearly the information pertaining to experience, being most my work has been short contracts to no fault of mine)and to submit the 4 page. Of which, I always ask why they want my 4 page (master) when I know very well the length is too much. Yet, the detailed summaries and bullet statements are demanded for the job I’m seeking. This has presented me with a two fold problem. One of excess nonsense (which most can be summarized to reasonably related experience) and one of not enough information. I haven’t had anyone tell me what the correct balance is. All I do know is that soft skills are as biased as the wide love for sociopathic CEO’s.

  5. I have mixed feelings about the online presence aspect of this article. While it may be an avenue one could use, why should we be expected to sacrifice our privacy for the sake of an employers search for dirt on someone. That’s not right. I purposely don’t have an online presence because all it does is cause problems. If people get angry at you, they can track you down and embarrass you in front of your employer. My job, or even my future jobs are not going to sacrificed because of my public online profile. That’s just this day and age, employers are looking for reasons to fire people, why give them more ammo..?

  6. Well written and spot on. Thank you! I successfully transitioned from the military last summer, and heard (and experienced) each of these great lessons repeatedly. Although I accepted an offer with the Dept of Defense, the author’s points are true in transition to civilian positions in private or public sectors. Don’t confuse respect for military service with an obligation to hire. Vets don’t need charity, we need solid transition advice like this. The good news is that the skills and character traits that we’ve developed are valuable to corporations. So, we’re better served when we choose to focus on how we can translate and communicate that to our potential employer. Hire me because I’m value added to your team — let me explain how.

    • Anthony, very well said.

  7. Great article and after reading it, I thought you were talking to me directly. It is worth spreading around. I was favored to have met Sultan Camp and he is a master when it comes to teaching people how to use the social media to look for job. Once more, great article. Thanks.

    • Thanks Oliver!

  8. The fact that someone served is not reason enough to hire a vet. If we are owed anything it is gratitude and respect. Neither of those should be expected to be given in the form of a job. These 9 pieces of advice are some of the best I have read. Thank you for summarizing the “must-dos” so well. –John Young USN (Ret)

    • John, Thank you for saying that! You are right, being a vet, or a boomer, or a Gen-y or anything else doesn’t entitle us to a job.

      Some of the most resourceful, hardworking people I know are vets, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It’s my wish that employers will not approach any candidate with bias. But’s that’s simply not reality.

      Glad these tips help!

  9. I have 9 reasons you should hire a vet, 1.Valley Forge, 2.Gettysburg,3.Bataan,4.D-Day, 5.Pork Chop Hill, 6.Ia Drang Valley, 7.73 Easting,8.Panama, 9.Anaconda 10. Fallujah and many more. Shame on you. if you would take the time to read some of those long resume’s you might just see a hero sitting in front of you instead of just a number. I am ashamed of you and many other recruiters for your idiocy.

    • Dan, first off, this is a guest post, written by a veteran.

      Second, the article provides real-life tips for vets to overcome the “idiocy” of recruiters.

      I agree with you that our vets need more respect for their sacrifices. However, this blog is a forum for helping people achieve their goals. Not cast blame.


      • I am grateful to you for sharing these comments. I retired in 2007 and I promise you had I read these comments earlier I would have started out on a higher plain. I am well into my 2nd career now as a Human Resources Director with a masters in Management & Leadership. I offered to give advice to the ACAP service on an Army based near where I work and they basically told me no thank you……I hope that some of those veterans will see this post because ACAP is useful to a point but once you walk out of your retirement ceremony and leave the installation, it is a whole new world out here and as was stated in the article; most are not prepared for the journey. Keep up the good work disseminating ( I had to through in an old army jargon) the information that you have here and it will be a benefit to veterans.

  10. LotsoLouis I am glad, I thought it was a great down to earth article with good advice! Are you changing career?

  11. emmapublicwords Emma, thanks for the link. Although not leaving the military, still excellent & timely advice for my context…

  12. deboreilly Happy Saturday and thanks for the shoutout! #Gratitude


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