I continue to hear a drumbeat from employers that says, “Military job candidates can’t translate their previous work experience into civilian terms, and our recruiters can’t do it for them.” I have lots of thoughts about this but, lest I contribute to admiring the problem rather than solving it, I’ll spare you.
There’s no one right answer – there are many things employers can and should do to overcome the language barrier and I write about them extensively in my forthcoming book, “Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing & Retaining Veterans.” And, I believe, there are a few things military job candidates can do to remedy the situation as well. One such remedy is to quickly educate yourselves by doing informational interviews.
An informational interview is completely different from a job interview, in part, because you are the one asking the questions. Think of it as a data gathering exercise in which you seek intel about a job, industry, organization or career path by asking the questions you wouldn’t ask in a job interview. For example, you can ask about the downsides. An informational interview is low threat for both parties because nothing is at stake – you’re not asking for a job and they’re not assessing you as a candidate – and both can be more relaxed and candid. The person you’re interviewing gets to feel like he or she is helping by sharing insight and expertise. As they say, everyone likes to talk about themselves.
Here are some things you could ask in an informational interview:
> How did you get into this line of work [or this company]?
> What do you like and dislike about it?
> What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
> If you were hiring for such a position, what would you want to see on a resume?
> If you were hiring for such a position, what would impress you in an interview? What would make a candidate stand out?
> Are there key skills, certifications or experiences a person has to have to get into this field [or job or company]?
There is a set of “big money” questions that makes informational interviews priceless for job seekers. Part 2 of this post will lay out those questions and make the connection between informational interviews and landing a job. Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week.