{Guest Post} Why being a highly-trained leader is not helping you get hired

military-unemployment-benefits-Today I am sharing a guest post by Lisa Villont. She and I were discussing some VERY interesting feedback she received by civilian employers as to why they are not hiring veterans. If you are a veteran who is having trouble finding work, this will give you some incredible insight, ways to optimize your resume, plus resources to help you in your employment journey. I want to sincerely thank Lisa for being so willing to share this with you via my blog!

Why being a highly trained leader is not helping you get hired:

You’ve cited your training, you’ve listed your decorations, you did your best to describe how being in charge of up to 60 high value communications devices at one time makes you a highly skilled individual with leadership skills, ready to enter the civilian IT industry. You’ve hit “enter to submit your resume” 42 times this month on a well known national job search site, and you’ve even landed a couple of interviews.  You showed up looking crisp, you’ve re-engaged your military bearing, and you shook the heck out of the hiring manager’s hand. So why aren’t you employed yet?

At an employment summit held by the Arizona Coalition for Military Families (Total Force Team) last week some surprising information was shared by civilian employers. The purpose of the Summit “[was] to identify challenges and promote best practices for hiring and retaining service members, veterans and their family members in civilian workplaces. The event [was built] upon the extensive collaborative and capacity-building efforts that have occurred over the past four years. The goal (of the summit) [was] to engage leadership, human resource and supervisory personnel from employers who seek to hire those with a military background or affiliation, address the challenges they encounter, develop best practice models for hiring and retaining those with a military background, and [connect] employers with programs that assist military and veteran job seekers with finding employment:”

In Arizona there are over 625,000 veterans (WWII-current era) and the unemployment rate for veterans in Arizona is an incomprehensible, and totally unacceptable 27.5%. This is obviously a complex and multi-faceted issue, but there were a few easy answers that came out of the summit that can be used to your advantage RIGHT NOW. When asked WHY businesses are not hiring veterans there were some common responses. 

Please take note:  this is what real employers with real jobs, looking to hire real people are saying about why they are not hiring veterans:

-Resumes are poorly written and do not cite relevant experience for the civilian job. Military jargon, awards and citations may impress your peers, but if the experience, awards, and citations do not relate to the job description you are applying too, chances are good your resume won’t even make it through the first computerized search for candidates, let alone get read by an actual human being. What can you do about this? Try replacing words like “personnel” with “team members”, don’t cite numeric job descriptions, (Sally in HR doesn’t know what an 0621 is, and probably won’t look it up.) and consider omitting awards and citations and including relevant education and training.  Not sure what’s relevant, or how to “civilianize” your last job description? Try using 0netonline.org and plugging in your military MOS to discover which civilian jobs are terrific matches for your military experience.

-Pay expectations are wildly out of line with civilian pay scales. For example an E-5 with 4-5 years relevant experience might be asking for $45-$55k a year. A similar civilian candidate is expecting closer to $30k per year for the same job. HR managers wanted to know, “why do veterans have such high expectations for civilian pay?”  They were presented with the following example:  An E5 with dependents earns $2662 p/mo base pay. We can agree that’s not much to live on. But…That E5 with dependents also gets free medical and dental with free prescriptions, and as of March 2013, a housing allowance of $1461 tax-free.(Arizona BAH).  Add in commissary privileges, and account for the price those benefits would have cost a civilian, an E5’s income has a civilian world value of $55,200 per annum. Unfortunately, it’s a “buyers” market out there for employers  and civilians are lining up to take the jobs at the posted rate. There are two ways to manage this up front: Use your post 9/11 GI Bill 2.0 benefits or other applicable education funding to bolster up your skills and experience in ways that allow you to command the higher price, or (and this is the part that’s as difficult to write as it will be to read) accept the lower pay rate.

-There is a disconnect between training and leadership expectations. Companies are communicating they are looking for candidates that are easy to train and work well in teams. Military personnel are communicating that they are highly trained leaders.

See the difference?

When you sit down tonight to make a few changes to your resume think more along the lines of “highly adaptable team oriented individual” and save “Skilled leader” for professional level jobs where the hiring company is clearly looking for management staff. When applying for management positions, communicate in clear, non-military terms the level of leadership in which you engaged and how your team benefited from your leadership style.

Now is the time to take a careful look at how you’ve been approaching employment in the civilian world and to take control of your future by bringing your communication style and expectations in line with what civilian employers are looking for.

For additional information about hiring a veteran or getting hired, take a look at these resources:





Are you a military spouse looking to re-enter the job market? Many of the above resources serve you as well. Still need help? Here are two more:

http://www.militaryonesource.mil/12038/Project%20Documents/MilitaryHOMEFRONT/MyCAA/SpouseFAQs.pdf (pdf pamphlet)



Lisa Villont is a Career Advancement Specialist at Training to YOU Career College in Phoenix Arizona, and Peer Mentor for Wounded Warrior Project. She cares for her husband, a USMC combat veteran, 4 kids, 3 lizards, a cat, and a dog. Connect with Lisa via LinkedIn or by e-mail at lvillont@trainingtoyou.com


About The Author

Torrey Shannon

My name is Torrey Shannon and I am a writer, author, blogger, movie consultant, speaker, veteran's advocate and Blue Star Mom. I am also a full-time caregiver and spouse of a wounded warrior. My husband survived a gunshot wound to the head in a gunfight in Iraq in 2004 after serving in the Army for more than 23 years. We spent three years of his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has severe PTSD and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Dealing with the invisible wounds of war first-hand allows me to bring a human element to the problems our military communities face. Blogging gives me the chance to do what I love the most: write about life after combat and help create awareness and solutions for military members and their families. When I am not writing here, I freelance for a variety of publications and media outlets and am currently writing a book.