Student veterans: Do you think you know them?

Posted October 04, 2016 by


Most organizations say they are interested in recruiting student veterans, and many large companies have whole teams dedicated to veteran recruitment. Yet we often see a disconnect between these teams and the college recruitment teams.  Some college relations teams don’t know what to do with student veterans so they refer them to the military recruitment team. The military recruitment team often doesn’t know what to do with students and so they refer them over to the college relations team.

Value of hiring non-traditional students

You will find student veterans stand out above othersWhy should your company care about getting this right? First, you are likely to encounter more student veterans in the future as more service members return home from deployment. These students have characteristics that are attractive to employers, but civilian hiring managers may not have much more than stereotypes of military experience when they consider recruiting a student veteran.

 “The U.S. military today is gradually becoming a separate warrior class… that is becoming increasingly distinct from the public it is charged with protecting.” (LA Times special report)

While the student veteran must learn to articulate his or her qualifications, recruiters should become more familiar with what military experience can mean. As a group, service members offer an incredibly diverse set of skills. A quick visit to shows ten categories of jobs available in the Army alone, from engineering and legal careers, to admin support and the arts. To educate yourself further, ask any veterans already working at your company about their experience. Absolutely ask your candidates about the specific jobs they held, training they received and leadership skills they developed (translating military to civilian). 

The majority of veterans on college campuses are “non-traditional” students. They are not entering straight from high school and are generally not dependent on their parents, so they are more independent and experienced than other students you’re recruiting (Veterans and College). Because of military culture, veterans may espouse a set of characteristics that are appealing to managers. For example, service members are already used to regularly being evaluated on their performance. How many Millennials can say that?

Interviewing student veterans: Do’s and Don’ts

When interviewing a student veteran you should know what is legalAre you interviewing a student veteran? Congrats! Veterans bring a set of skills that may stand above the other students you are interviewing.

If you are like many hiring managers, you have limited experience interviewing vets, and are not extremely familiar with what military experience looks like. It’s important to make sure you don’t ask anything inappropriate. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your interview while remaining sensitive and legal.

What NOT to ask while interviewing a student veteran

  • Unless you are hiring for a Federal agency or work with Veteran Preference Points, don’t ask about their discharge status.
  • You cannot ask if they will be deployed in the future, even if their resume says they are in the Reserves.
  • Do not ask about potential disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that an employer may only ask disability-related questions after the applicant has been offered a job.
  • “Do you have PTSD?” (First, check your biases about vets and PTSD, and second, any question that relates to their mental health is legally off limits.)
  • “Did you get hurt in combat?” or “Do you expect your injury to heal normally?”
  • “Have you ever participated in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program?”

Instead, you can ask…

  • Behavior-based questions that help you truly understand their previous experience
  • Questions about their goals (be smart and avoid the cliche “Where do you see yourself in the future?”)
  • “How did you deal with pressure or stress?”
  • According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, you may ask, “Have you ever been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol?” The answer to this question should direclty relate to their ability to perform the job.

To include student veterans in your entry-level recruitment, reach out to student veteran groups on campus. You may be impressed with what you find, and your bottom line might thank you.

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Posted in Advice for Employers, Diversity, Employers, Military Service Members, Uncategorized | Tagged Tagged , , , , , , ,