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Questions You Should (and Shouldn't) Ask a Veteran During an Interview

Recruiters might think interviewing for a veteran job placement is just like any other interview. In some respects, it is. There are certain questions you should always ask, to get a measure of the candidate in front of you. With veterans, however, there are some you should actively avoid. We’ve broken out the differences for you here.

Questions You Should Ask Candidates

Why do you believe you’re the right person for this position?

The answer to this tells you many things about the applicant, including whether they have read and understood the job description, and what their level of self-esteem or confidence is. It helps you determine whether they can speak objectively about both their skills and the job requirements.

What did you do in the military, and how will it be useful in this position?

Veterans are absolutely the most qualified people to explain how their experience in the military relates to a civilian position. Often, recruiters may not understand how a skill is transferable, but the candidate can see the correlations immediately. Research shows 76% of employers want to hire more veterans, but only 38% understood how skills gained during service were transferable to civilian work. Realistically, however, 95% of what military personnel do is planning, operations, and logistics.

Can you perform the requirements for the job?

There’s nothing wrong with asking outright whether the candidate you’re interviewing has the ability to do the work. Don’t assume just because they applied it means they think they can—ask them to tell you why they can. This elicits a commitment from the candidate as well as giving you the chance to evaluate their understanding of the position a little more, and gives them the opportunity to tell you about any accommodations they may need to perform effectively.

Tell me about your education and training.

This takes the candidate back to before their military service, and gives the recruiter a sense of what the person was like and what their ambitions were at that stage. By evaluating the prior education against the work they did in the military, you can determine how adaptable they are and how well they’re likely to adjust to a veteran job placement.

Questions to Avoid Asking

Believe it or not, there are recruiters out there who still believe it’s ok to ask some of these questions. Make sure you aren’t one of them.

  • Do you have a physical or mental disability?
  • Have you ever had PTSD?
  • How many people have you killed? (Yes, it really happens!)
  • What type of discharge did you receive?
  • Will you be deployed again at any point?

Some of these questions aren’t just undiplomatic and potentially hurtful, they are actually against the law to ask potential employees. Even a recruiter who is professionally unfamiliar with military issues is expected to be mindful of their approach when dealing with veteran job placements. Be understanding about military jargon, especially with newly-discharged veterans, and ask them to explain terms you don’t understand rather than assuming you know what they mean.

In addition to asking inappropriate job interview questions, take care not to say the wrong things. Here’s a list of faux pas veterans wish civilians would stop saying to them.

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