Most of us leaving the military worry about our lack of commercial experience. This is rarely the obstacle we believe it to be. This is because employers value the hard and soft skills of ex-military candidates. They are recruiting you for these skills; a mix of good training and mentoring by the employer and your active enthusiasm to learn will quickly overcome any perceived inexperience.
But, and it’s a big but, you will need to work hard at the 3 Ps of planning, preparation and presentation (especially of your skills and experienced) to succeed in finding the right job for you - and in the organisation where you will thrive.
The biggest barrier facing ex-military candidates is the translation of your skills, and the context in which you’ve developed them, to employers in their language - not yours. You can’t expect companies, and especially their HR departments, to interpret anything other than language that is already common (e.g. mechanical engineers, roles in medical services etc).
We spend too much time, often at too late a stage in the process, improving CVs, helping with research and interview preparation. My advice is to work hard on the 3 Ps throughout your resettlement and job hunting phases and to deliver them to the same high professional standards you’ve achieved in the Services. Do your very best to be imaginative, honest and realistic (i.e. don’t oversell your skills) to capture the interest of employers.
So here are the SaluteMyJob team’s Top 10 Tips to help you succeed:
1. Do your homework - Time in preparation is never wasted
- Make sure you understand the company's business, how it is performing and where the job you're applying for fits in.
- Be ready to answer questions about the company.
- If you don't know the answer, say so.
2. Translate your skills and experience into the company's language
However much the company might wish to employ ex-military people, they need to understand the skills and experience you will bring in their own terms. Skilled trades (engineering, medical, logistics etc) translate easily; 'soft' skills are more difficult. Companies like SaluteMyJob help candidates by using commercial assessments but these are only an aid; you will need to draw on your experience to illustrate your skills. For example:
- Illustrate your depth of experience as a project manager, gained as a patrol commander in Afghanistan.
- Demonstrate your skills as a client relationship manager and negotiator with examples of managing rival Afghan 'stakeholders'.
- Show how your military training and experience have developed your 'creative problem solving' skills.
3. Polish that CV
CVs don't get you a job, but they can certainly stop you getting one. The standard of CV we see is generally poor. So, take advice and:
- Conform to the convention in format (profile, skills, job history - most recent first - interests) but don't worry about stuffing it into 2 pages - take more space, provided it is relevant to the role that you are applying for. Keep it short, simple and relevant. Also do not put reference to your age, marital status and whether you have children or not. You want to be judged on your ability and not your personal circumstances.
- Adjust the CV to the job description of the role you're applying for.
- Show responsibilities and achievements in the job history section; avoid a list of job descriptions.
4. Rehearse, preferably with an experienced interviewer.
Don't use job interviews as rehearsal time for other jobs. Be succinct (i.e. brief but clear), always use examples, be straight and at all costs, don’t try to be clever, funny or macho. Always be word perfect on:
- Why you want that particular job.
- Why you want to work for that particular company.
- How you will add value (i.e. what you will bring, how you will do the job and your fit to the culture and values of the company)
5. Be confident, not scary
- Try to display confidence in your ability to do the job but be realistic about your commercial experience.
- Put yourself in the employers’ shoes; be aware that they may be nervous about hiring a military person.
- But don't hide your military experience.
6. Talk to a human
- Persistence pays dividends. It's easier said than done, but try to stand out from the crowd by talking to the recruiter.
- Find out what it's like to work for the company (e.g. sites such as Glassdoor.com or people you know who have worked for the company)
- Insist on feedback - at any stage of the process.
7. Avoid military speak, acronyms and war stories.
Make sure recruiters and interviewers understand what you are talking about. Keep it simple and understandable to all levels and backgrounds.
8. Ask questions
Prepare a couple of questions to ask at the end of the interview about the role and/ or company. However, be prepared that they may be answered during the interview. Don't ask a question for the sake of asking it, such as "how many days leave do I get?". Do not ask "have I got the job?".
9. Accredit and improve your military qualifications
This will not only strengthen your CV but also help you focus on what you want to do.
- Your education centre will be able to help with accrediting your military qualifications.
- Use the resettlement courses to improve your skills - and keep the training relevant to your job aspirations.
10. Get some work experience
It can be difficult to convince an interviewer you are right for the company. Prove it to the business first in order to gain their trust. This will also help you find which role would suit you best.
- Find out which businesses run apprenticeship schemes in your preferred sector. The 'Apprenticeship Vacancy Matching Service' is a good place to start.
- Ask for some work experience.
- Don't discount Fixed Term Contracts. If it is with the right Company, it will give you the 'in' that you need.
Good luck from the SaluteMyJob team and please get in touch if we can help.