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2 Questions to Ask EVERY Veteran Candidate

In previous posts I’ve mentioned the language and culture gap between the military and civilian workplaces. In my experiences, job interviews are where we feel the gap the most. As always, when trying to understand how to close a language barrier, I go back to trying to learn a language as an adult. 

When I was learning Russian the hardest part of class was conversation practice. It required us to do so many things at once - listen to someone else speak (usually too fast), translate the words, understand what they were saying, formulate a response, translate that response into Russian, then speak it with as few pronunciation errors as possible, then repeat the process while your partner responded. YIKES! It hurts my brain now just thinking about it! 

Interviewing veteran job candidates is the most challenging part of the hiring process for the same reason. The language barrier feels the most pronounced during interviews because it requires us to converse in real time in “another language”. 

What’s the magic to break through? How do you create a place that is safe to open up? How do you make the divide smaller so your candidate speaks in a way that you understand? In Russian, our teachers would ask about things they knew we had the vocabulary for. As an interviewer, you can do the same thing. Ask about something your candidate knows how to express. For the military, that’s leadership. 

Here are my “Must-Ask” veteran interview questions:

Question #1: Tell me about your most proud leadership moment.

The beauty of this question is that it helps military candidates overcome their biggest civilian interview challenge - speaking in the “We” versus the “I”. The answer to this question will give you insights into the way the individual works, what matters most to him/her (their core values), and into the way they may fit within your organization’s culture both as a leader and a follower. 

Question #2: Tell me about your greatest leadership failure and what lessons you learned.

I consider this a more informative version of “What’s your greatest weakness” because it invites the interviewee to not only share a challenge, but inevitably how he/she overcame it and the lessons they learned. It shows you how the candidate thinks in a situation, as well as their learning agility, which is being proven more and more to be a key to success in the workplace.

My team uses these questions for every candidate we work with. We complement these with a discovery session on the candidate’s “Why” and that information guides our recommendations to our partner companies or for career coaching sessions for the candidate. 

The next time you interview a veteran, try using these questions as a jumping off point for the interview. Use them to dig further into your candidate’s work personality and way of working to see if they are a value add for your organization. 

Our team would love to hear what you learn along the way!

Jean SouthComment