This past weekend I attended a veterans’ job fair with nearly 40 employers in attendance. I spent several hours speaking with both veterans and company representatives. When speaking with employers I asked what information I should pass on to job seekers to help fill available positions. Here are the three things I heard most often:


Are you kidding me!! I couldn’t believe I was hearing this. For the record, I was told this doesn’t seem to happen as often with former military. However civilians, especially younger ones, are doing this. “If they aren’t going to take this seriously,” one representative said, “I can’t take them seriously. They’re just wasting my time.” No college degree, expertise, or skill overrides the need to adhere to basic professional protocols. Not every interview requires a suit and tie, but at the least, it does require khakis and a button down shirt.


Most applications and resumes today are submitted online. I was told by several employers that applicants seem to believe that since the information is in their resume they don’t have to fill out the online application in its entirety. Huge mistake! I learned that some systems are programmed to dump any application that is not filled out completely. In addition, typing “see resume” is not sufficient. Don’t trust the highlights that say certain fields are required and others are not. Fill out EVERYTHING completely, professionally, and proofread carefully.

This is part of the reason a shotgun approach to job seeking isn’t effective. If you’re applying to 10 jobs a day you’ll go crazy filling out all those forms. It’s far better to have just a couple of well researched target jobs and put your full campaign efforts into acquiring each position. This includes meticulously filling out applications, following up with phone calls, mailing resume and cover letter hard copies, connecting with current employees, requesting informational interviews, joining industry associations, attending networking functions, and anything else you can possibly think of.


Every employer I spoke with said there are opportunities to move up within their organization.  Ask to hear the stories of those who’ve risen through the ranks and find out if you can connect with them. Find out how they did it and how quickly they did it.

In my own career there have been two cases in which I took an entry level position and was promoted within a couple of months. On one occasion I received the promotion after a Regional VP petitioned corporate headquarters to override the human resources policy that stated an individual had to work for the company for at least six months before they could be promoted and had to stay within the department they were hired for at least one year. I was promoted into a different department in less than three months.

One marine services company I spoke with seemed particularly discouraged by this. The representative told me former military tend to adapt well to the work and corporate culture, but often won’t agree to come aboard in the entry position all employees are required to start in. He further explained the benefits package and that those employees who complete the training can move up within nine months; that move comes with about a $10 thousand a year pay raise. Furthermore, those who continue to train, meet standards, and move up, can find themselves making six figures in six years!

I loved what one gentleman with this company said to me about promoting. He told me the key was one word – when. “When will I have this position?” “When will I take on these responsibilities?” “When will I manage my own region?” He said no one should say “is it possible,” “can I ever,” or “is there any chance”; instead say “when.”  This shows confidence and commitment to the organization without arrogance or entitlement. Such great advice!

This can be a huge cultural shift for many veterans. Try to keep these things in mind when contemplating job opportunities:

  • Everything is negotiable.
  • Job titles, labels, and designations can be very mushy. They don’t have the same significance as military rank and title.
  • Only some policies and procedures are law. The rest are just guidelines that can be shifted and overridden when in the best interest of the company and its profitability.
  • When in the right context, you don’t have to take “no” for an answer.

Thanks to Linda Gibson from Career Helm

Go to, click on the “Looking for People” tab, then view “Veterans Solutions” to see more for information on our Veterans Solutions for Employers. Please join our LinkedIn group, Veterans Hiring Solutions for Veterans and Companies at If you have specific questions about hiring veterans or the incentives for doing so, contact me at [email protected].