Why Employers Are Not Hiring Vets

July 17, 2013 |

While this may be very difficult to read for some Vets it does rings true – especially #1, Skills Translation:

1. Skills Translation - Unless you’re applying for a defense contracting job, you have to translate your military skills into civilian terms. Civilians don’t understand your acronyms, MOS, and military terminology, and they aren’t going to take the time to learn. Seek out someone from the desired industry and have them review your resume. Or, use a job skills translator such as the one on Military.com. Many companies use software to screen the applicant pool. If the software finds words that don’t align with the industry, like military jargon, your resume will get kicked out. The bottom line is: if your resume doesn’t contain the right key words, you most likely won’t make it through the screening process!

When an employer posts a position they are looking for specific skill sets: 1. Knowledge-based skills – learned through education and experience. These may be challenging for you to transfer your learned military skills to civilian needs.

[to translate your military skills into civilian equivalents, use the Military.com Skills Translator.]

2. Transferable skills – these are skills that you can take with to any job – these skills will be very important for you to emphasize during your transition. They are broad-based and usually learned or acquired through experience: Communication; Listening; Decision Making; Judgment; Initiative; Planning; Organizing; Time Management; Leadership; Work Ethic; Interpersonal Skills; Common Sense; Social Skills; Creative Ideas; Sees Big Picture; Analytical; Accountable; Reliable; High Standards; Resourceful; Action-Oriented; Intuitive; Problem Solving; Good With Numbers; Gets Along Well; Articulate; Handy; Artistic; Envisioning.

3. Personal Traits - are the qualities that will determine a fit in the company, the department or the position. These are attributes that define a person’s personality:

Dependable; Strong; Team Player; Versatile; Patient; Friendly; Energetic; Formal; Loyal; Self-Confident; Dynamic; Practical; Sociable; Persuasive; Responsible; Sense of Humor; Cheerful; Good Attitude; Aggressive; Assertive; Determined; Honest; Humble; Productive; Conscientious; Curious; Enthusiastic; Precise; Detail-Oriented; Compassionate; Efficient; Emotional; Rigid; Open-Minded.

Changing careers or reentering the workforce can feel very intimidating to someone who is facing a tough job market plus a tough sell. Employers are in the driver’s seat with so many applicants to choose from, and this can put you in a position of feeling less qualified than others.

The first thing to do is to stop focusing on what you don’t have and start focusing on what you do have. Reading through a job description and doing a “compare and contrast” exercise between what is needed in the new job and what you did in your former jobs will be one way to convince yourself that you have something to offer. Jobs are often more alike than they are different as far as skills required. Another confidence builder will be to focus on your strengths by doing an inventory of your transferable skills: these are the skills that you can bring to any company. And sometimes it will be your personal traits that will make you unique. You will have to feel confident that you have something to offer and that you are not a beginner. You bring experience—that is either rusty or in a different field.

Check out this article posted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


To get some assistance in setting up a transition plan, you can also visit the Military.com Transition Center.

About Carole Martin

The Interview Coach, Carole Martin, is a celebrated author, job coach, and speaker on the subject of interviewing and recruiting. A contributing writer at Monster.com and featured on talk radio, Carole is using her proven methods for coaching job seekers on competitive interviewing skills in technical and non-technical industries. Learn more about her Federal Agency Interview Coaching and Coaching for Business Interviews at www.interviewcoach.com.
I've updated my website and products - more for your money, new free bonuses and Skype Interview Coaching. www.interviewcoach.com
Interview Fitness Training ebook and audio are on sale NOW! 50% off www.interviewfitnesstraining.com


  1. Alex says:

    Even government agencies are discriminating against veterans. It does not matter if you as a veteran have done everything you were told to do to succeed , like going to school and get yourself a degree. There is an unwriten rule to place veterans at the end of the list of elegible employees because the hiring authorities find it anoying to consider someone else other than their preselected choice to employ (preselection is illegal). The FDA is probably the most notorious about this. If you are a veteran no need to apply with FDA and many other agencies. These goverment agencies have a hidden saying, VETERANS NOT WELCOME!

    • Jim Schaefer says:

      I applied to every job I could find, and went to every job fair I could get my hands on. Talked to every representative I could at the job fairs. I collected phone numbers and email addresses, made follow up phone calls and linked with everyone I possibly could on LINKEDIN. Then I, point blank, asked them for a job! I finally got hired after being out of work for 4 months by a representative at my 7th job fair. He hired me on the spot! Never give up until you get what you want!!! NETWORKING is the key and also, try to stick to what you know!

    • Nissi says:

      Alex, this is hitting the nail on the head! And many of those are vets who never deployed and were involuntarily separated during the “cold war” and are taking it out on todays veterans! Even the VA won’t hire veterans on this era of OIF/OEF…its sad!

  2. Ted Daywalt says:


    While there is no doubt that some companies do discriminate, I think your article overly hypes the issue. If it is as bad as you say, why has the unemployment rate for veterans ALWAYS been lower than the non-veteran unemployment rate?

    The unemployment rate for ALL veterans in July 2013 was 6.3%, which is very favorable when compared to the national unemployment rate of 7.6%. So again, your thesis does not hold.

    While the five problems you mention are real, I think the issue of attitude is much larger.

    Contact me if you would like to discuss.

    • Stan says:

      I have never seen any stats where vets unemployment was lower then national average. Last summer it was 12 when average was 9. As for federal agencies I tried to volunteer with the NRCS to increase my experience and was told they did not want to be responsible for a disabled vet. I could apply for a job though. And don't even bother applying if you are a reservist.

    • MikeH says:

      Many times a veteran is too proud to be enrolled in an unemployment program and may not statistically show up as being unemployed.

  3. Ted Daywalt says:


    You are very correct when pointing to the federal government. Interestingly, two of the worst violators of USERRA has historically been DOL and DOD, the very two agencies that are charged with enforcing USERRA. That would be like having your local police department lead the numbers is rapes, murders and auto theft. To see DOD’s response when challenged about being one of the leading USERRA violators, see the 60 Minutes program http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/10/30/60minut…. The show highlighted a very interesting case involving a nurse and the VA hospital in August, GA!

    • Terrance Hicks says:

      Hey Mr.Daywalt, do you have any connections in Charleston, South Carolina? I am retired Navy.
      Terrance Hicks

    • joe says:

      Can you help I’m a air force vet and I’m in the army reserves

  4. david says:

    Wamart and sams club have military priority hireing systems… #1 reason, sam walton , a military veteran, founded sams club and walmart… he recently passed away and left in his will that ealmart hire a minimum of 2000 veterans a year

  5. Gary says:

    In the past employers did not want their health insurance rates to rise, as the employers insurance comes to the head of the line, before the VA pays.

  6. George says:

    Since leaving the Army in 2011 I have applied for 300+ jobs and the response is always the same, " your overqualified". I have attended 8 job fairs put on by recruit military, hire a hero, hire a veteran and others. Most of them are "companies" started by former officers trying to make a name for themselves. Those job fairs do have jobs with priamerica and other scam operations.
    Seems every business in America says "we hire veterans" it's baloney. Have submitted to AAA of So Cal, Edison, Verizon, Kaiser Permanante, Dept of labor, the VA, and lots of others. Plus several of my friends can't find jobs either at these companies, they are overqualified too. At the dept of labor I was denied an entry level job because I have Masters degree, they said I am overqualified. Verizon said I was overqualified for an entry level job, yet I passed the HR interview, the computer assessment, however the manager with the job opening said I would be better off with higher level job and overqualified for the entry level job….So do I get in a company if I am overqualified? Just act like a slug?
    Seems there is discrimination against veterans, period.

    • hangfire says:

      I'm a retired Navy aircraft engine mechanic. I also have a degree in Computer Information Systems. I applied for many computer jobs and was turned down for lack of experience. I was turned down for many mechanic jobs as over qualified. When I left my CIS degree off my resume everybody wanted me. If you look over qualified employers think you won't stay. Only give them enough to think you will be a good fit for a long time.

    • NBA says:

      Take your master's degree off your resume and try again. If a job doesn't call for it and your master's is not related to the job it doesn't need to be on your resume. You need to present yourself to an employer the way you want them to see you. If you keep being told you're overqualified – take the advanced degree off your resume and don't mention it in an interview.

    • Eddie says:

      Look into cable companies. I work for Time Warner Cable and they hire and actually love vets. Vets you don’t have to babysit, constantly tell wha to do.

    • tim ski says:

      well if you guys want to put on a blue collar and work like an E-3 then any and every place is a veteran friendly place oh and by the way get the same wage as an E-3 in the 80's ….. like me i'm a reservist and make 12 bucks an hour in michigan and almost double my pay when i get deployed as an E-5 now !!!! but no matter what you make you have to live with in your own means !!! so if that means selling that big house that you can no longer afford ….. well just like back in the day " you do what you gotta do "

    • been there says:

      You need to dumb down your resume my friend. Take your time and read the job requirements in the posting they put out. make your resume fill their needs, nothing more nothing less. Once you get your foot in the door, don't over do it. Take your time to let the cat out of the bag.

  7. Rick says:

    The COSTCO hiring rep for San Dimas, Calif said they prefer not to hire Veterans. Is that criminal or what?

  8. Frank says:

    I was lined up for a job as a account manager,but think I blew the interview when I asked about career advancement within there company. The hiring manager at the end of the interview made me feel so confident that I was the strongest candidate(with only one other to interview).Never heard from him again!! After I though about it….if hired he and I would be competing for the next higher level!!! Now I never ask about career advancement!!!

  9. Mark says:

    Don’t appear to be over qualified. You might get hired! Duh!

  10. Dave Fitzpatrick says:

    To get hired at almost any large company you must first make it past the HR screening process. Unfortunatly most HR departments have decided that their job is to “thin” the application pile, not find the best person. You need to understand that the HR person screening applications does not usually know the actual job. They will often reject a persons resume for poor grammar, poor spelling, poor structure or any other nit picky reason they can find. This is regardless of whether or not you have all the perfect skills. I have seen the HR department throw out medical doctor application packets after they found one miss spelled word. Make sure your resume is current, professional and accurate; have a very qualified friend review it or send it to a company that specializes in resumes. FYI, a person with a masters or even a PHD may not be able to write so don’t assume they are the best person to review the resume. If you have a masters or PHD don’t assume your work doesn’t need to be reviewed. If at all possible, find out who is doing the hiring and contact them directly, sell yourself to them and let them know you are applying; that will increase your chances dramatically.

  11. W Davis says:

    I've been retired for 12 years now after a 30 year career. It appears there are a many companies pushing the vet hire for politics. My personal experience is many do not wish to hire you as you are a threat (better qualified, without being degreed). Some will accept you, but very few.

  12. joe says:

    I have been unemployed since 2004 vets are not welcome anywhere. I get told that I am overqulifed or I need a cert or license then I get them and its no. I joined the reserves to get something . The VA is useless . Being unemployed is destroying my family. I have no power,gas,and phone and my rent is do in a week or so I’m fucked

    • Robert says:

      I feel you Joe! Many years ago I got divorced lost my house to taxes ,paid child support and worked for a county entitiy that didn't give a dam! Hang in there man ,it might take a while but If I can make it ,you can to!

  13. Karla says:

    I'd like to encourage everyone to watch the job posting web sites for colleges and universities in your local area – or wherever you would like to live. Until recently, I worked in the human resources department (yes, I'm one of "them") for a university in Washington state. At job fairs, I'd have to really "sell" my services to job fair attendees. Most people tried to walk by without talking to me; they assumed I was trying to recruit students or was only hiring faculty. Remember that colleges and universities (especially "brick-and-mortar" facilities) are like a small town or city; they need staff to run and manage the infrastructure in addition to the “traditional” university jobs (faculty, researchers, lab techs, etc.)

  14. USMC 1 says:


    and I agree with most of what the article states, although companies have a priority to hire Vets, these are the same priorities given to the incarcerated or disabled. (and most give tax credits)

    Most companies looking for Vets are not usually hiring Vets to anything other than starting positions, even if you are more qualified or have been to college and are a Vet you are looking at starting positions more often than not.

    This is fine for the 22-28 year old or those who have not attended college since leaving the service, but when a E7 or O3 with a family is hired to start at or near the bottom, the company is not looking for qualified leaders or key personnel they are looking to check a box "I hired a Vet".

    We can't give up, but we must face the truth, most companies looking for Vets have no idea how to employ or relate to that Vet, we MUST NOT GIVE UP but we must also not be blind to the facts.


    • Biff Beluga says:

      22-28? Age discrimination much? I got a great job at 28 (after 10.5 years of service in the Corps) because I was qualified for it. It wasn't entry level either.

      • USMC 1 says:

        I'm not sure you understood what my point was, there are thousands of veterans qualified to be hired for more than entry level positions.

        the 22-28 is the demographic which currently sustains the entry level positions at most companies. This does not mean that all 22-28 year old employees should only work at entry level.

        I am however curious, what non military MOS related job did you get hired for and with what company? I would be glad to hear/know that a non GSA company is hiring Vets into mid level positions directly from the service.

        As a transitioning mentor I try to stay positive with my fellow Marine Vets, however I have to also realize that statistics do not lie and the article proves it… along with the 40 additional comments in this feed.

        Hope you continue to be successful

  15. Don from Colorado says:

    I've been retired since 1999…although I was helped with converting my resume all those years ago…this has not helped. I've been to over 2 dozen Job fairs, bring resume's with cover letters and was told to go the the company website and apply. Thus the hand carried resume was not needed. Also since 1999 I've applied to over 500 Federal Government Jobs. I've had 3 interviews. I still think the "Good Ole Boys" club is still in place. Or otherwise known as it's who you know. It's to late for me, but I sure hope the younger returning Veterans have much more success than I have encountered.

    • USMC 1 says:

      Hey Don,

      I hear that all too often from younger service members as well, and worst is that many of the companies at job fairs may not be hiring at all. Or if they are they are not looking to train a Vet into a position, instead we are treated like any other person coming into the work force for the first time.

      Please give me your email and I'll write you to send me your resume, allow me to take a look at it… if you want

      • Don from Colorado says:

        USMC appreciate the offer…but a little hesitate of providing my email address…if you are on Linkedin…you can find me…and then we can correspond…Thanks

  16. Glenn Robinson says:

    FYI all: when you get a chance to do a face-to-face job interview; DO NOT tell the interviewer that you are retired military. If you do the information will be used against you:

    The interviewer will assume that because you are retired, you will not need the job (Money) -resume gets tossed; certainly get pushed to the bottom of the pile.

    I have talked with some human resource folk that seemed to have a problem with military job candidates (Envy perhaps?)

    I have seen situations were job interviewers were not qualified to conduct an interview; I believe a lot of former military personnel applying for jobs get "victimized" by poorly prepared job interviewers.

  17. USAF says:

    After 20 years in the USAF, I retired and was hired by USAA (We know what It means to serve… Yea right) as a total loss representative in San Antonio, TX. I was told they wanted me for my leadership and supervisory experience. What a joke! Myself and other veterans felt like we were just the main attraction at the dog and pony show. Like USMC stated, they checked the "I hired a Vet box". They have a fast track program for former Field Officers that allow them to gain experience in different departments within a short period of time. Several of us (retired SRNCO's) asked about why they didn't have a similar program for SRNCO's and they basically tap danced their way around the question. Needless to say, 50% of the class I trained with lasted less than a year.

  18. Our military have given their lives and limbs to protect this country and I find it unconscionable they way they are and have been treated by this country.
    God bless them all!

  19. Charles Bevell says:

    Maybe more people should just skip joining the military if they're going to be treated this way. Sending people back to multi deployments in combat situations, then giving up on them makes me sick. Am an ex submariner who's gotten the degrees and certs, and going to truck driving school at 53, just to be able to make a grownup's salary.- Charley, Bloomington, IN

  20. eric says:

    This is a bunch of bologna too. Veterans will fit in any organization if they are given a chance. They fit better than some kid who just finished four years of partying at college. Not to knock college, but come on, we all know how our youth was, parties, girls, beer and fast cars.

  21. Chris L says:

    I've read a good hiring tip for us veterans is to not disclose the fact that you're a veteran. smh.

    • ANDRIAN says:

      That defeats common sense, the majority of the jobs require you to submit a resume, so this act of dishonesty is not required, be honest about what you did for your country and God will do the rest

  22. MarvinSRobinson, II says:

    THIS is exactly "WHY" the CONGRESS, Obama Administration, the "K" Street Lobbyist in Washington, D.C. and New York City:
    Need to be collaborating to implement a new 21st century W.P.A. ( WORKING PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION) with live-able wages and meaningful salaries for severely and chronically UNEMPLOYED VETERANS and American Citizens. A new W.P.A. ought to managed by UNIVERSITY Institutions, and be re-enacted just like ROOSEVELT'S Administration did to intercept the GREAT DEPRESSION ERA, with a LIFE-Line for and of EMPLOYMENT.
    The SEWER SYSTEMS, Water Intake Treatment Plants, National Parks Systems and other INFRA-STRUCTURE will have to be addressed and cost into the mega dollars, and DAMNIT !!! ….. NoBODY is discussing massive EMPLOYMENT for VETERANS, everybody's AGENDA has a LOBBYIST Firm representing them except:
    Complaints simply, becaue with all the UNEMPLOYMENT, of MILLIONS of VETERANS who still LOVE our country, JUST like, ME. THANKS alot-

    Marvin S. Robinson, II
    Quindaro Ruins / Underground Railroad- Exercise 2013

  23. Mike says:

    I think the current corporate environment is just not giving extra points to vets. In an interview, you have to be professional, polite, no rude jokes, appear interested, sound confident in your answers, voice you are a team player and report there is no task below your skill set. The Pharmaceutical Industry has many openings, and if you any medical experience with a 4 year degree (any degree) – look for a job there. Many companies in the Northeast, Durham NC area and San Diego area are looking for personnel – just get a foot in the door- better to take a 50k job and get experience and then change to the 80k job in 18months and then 18 mo later chase the 100k job. look at Clinical Trial Associates, Study Coordinators, Clinical Reseach Associate and document specialist -these some of the jobs that are also entry into the industry. All industries have ceritifications – take some courses. the FDA and NIH offer training. There are low cost internet school trainings – learning a little about the industry and adding these certificates training to your CV will show the interviewer that you are willing to self-learn and you are motivated to work.

  24. J Cast says:

    So I shouldn't tell my interviewer that I am an Army vet, Illinois Natl Guard vet Army Resev Vet? Well I guess I'm screwed, those years were the best years of my life. I learned about life and myself in the military as well as several different school trained jobs. I too proud of my accomplishments in the military to not tell some ass—-e who either was too chicken or did feel it was his or hers duty to contribute to defending this great country we live in. Lets not loose sight of the fact that if was not for people like me, those ass—es would not live in in free country.

  25. Avar says:

    Food for thought. How would congress change if every 18 year old must serve 2 years. Mandatory. Congress kids now would be veterans.

  26. Wayne says:

    It used to be a veteran would receive points for special consideration when applying for a job. That gave me the illusion that I was guaranteed a foot in the door. Well many years have gone by since departing from the Military. A job is a job all by itself. A career takes just about a lifetimes worth of nurturing.

  27. AfghanVet says:

    I was just talking to my other Navy Veteran friend today about how I thought that putting my Military experience on my resume was scaring people and that's why no one was calling me back, and then now I am reading this article and all the comments of people. Wow. What a joke this country has become. I feel like vomiting. When I die bury me upside down so the world can kiss my ass!

  28. Paul says:

    I am a military vet with multiple deployments, after reading several of the posted comments, I would have to agree it is difficult at best for a vet to find employment. I have applied to around 200 jobs, sent in my resumes, and only had two interviews in the last year (recently redeployed home from Afghanistan 2012). It can be very frustrating not hearing back from any employer. I feel veterans need stronger representation in Washington from the bottom up. Anyone who has not served in the military should not be elected on any board regarding veterans issues especially employment and health benefits.

  29. USCG says:

    Fellow Vets, When I retired in 96 I tossed resumes out like candy with no bites until I learned to drop the acronyms and word everything like you're talking to an idiot. Write the resume with only the skills required for the job you're interviewing for and leave the rest out. Change it up with each industry you're interviewing for. Once I figured that out things started working my way. Finally got my dream job where only a single aspect of being in the military was used. The ability to get up and hit it early, stay late, attention to detail and give 110 percent.

    For those looking and interested, go into the electrical line worker field. Lineman are always in need and if you go with an electrical cooperative you won't be sorry.

  30. USAF33yrs says:

    First, only list your last 7 to 10 years of experience and skills related to the specific job application. Otherwise you're overqualified. Second, only list that you have the educational requirements asked for in the job application. If you list higher education, you are overqualified. Treat the job interview like an inspection…only give answers to the questions they ask. Don't volunteer information about your additional training, experience, education, etc. Make a positive and professional connection with the gatekeeper in the HR office. Many times that secretary is the tie-breaker in the decision-making process.

  31. moses Howard says:

    I swear I can’t find a job at any career fair what the heck!!!

  32. Ron D says:

    Really, this is still going on? It was going on 20 yrs ago when I got out after doing 10 yrs. There is no excuse for the civilian community to not be able to understand what a military member does and how it translates. Apathy, laziness on those doing the hiring? Hmmmm lets see what that translates into in military verbage