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You have a job opening at your organization. This job requires someone who has good communication and organizational skills and is able to interface effectively with various departments, effectively direct a staff of 15, and follow organizational policies and procedures.

You receive the résumé of an individual who left the military after 20 years of successful service. Upon reading the résumé you find some of the following words: Mission, billet, debriefing, tasking, deployment, subordinate development, team-work, TQL, mentoring, com-mander, readiness, command mission, execution of requirements, lead facilitator, curriculum, base operations support, logistics, exercise coordination, weapons, armory, anti-terrorism programmatics, loss prevention program, strategic planning, authored monthly review.

Since you were never in the military, many of these words are meaningless to you. Should you consider this résumé?

You may want to substitute “mission” with “assignment,” “debriefing” with “reporting the results of an assignment,” “logistics” with “inventory,” “TQL” with “effective people-oriented leadership,” “commander” with “senior department manager”... Well, you get the idea.

Some of these terms are more easily understood. Curriculum, for example, is used in both the civilian and military worlds. However, curriculum is not as often utilized in the business world, as it is applied primarily in the educational arena.

Yet, when a company designs a program for newly hired personnel, would that program content be classified as “curriculum,” and does not that program need a “lead facilitator”?

Overall, the major challenge that former military seem to have in conducting a job search comes down to the recognition of their abilities by the civilian world. Logically, one of the first industrial areas that a former military candidate should consider would be in the area of defense. Often their backgrounds are more readily recognizable, and their skills more directly transferable.

The phrase, “subordinate development” is a concept often used in the military. The idea here is to develop subordinate personnel for greater responsibility and promotion. This concept, not used enough in the civilian world, is one that perhaps the business world should adopt. Mason Smith, senior vice president at Chessmen Career Movers, reports the following observations about former military candidates looking for their first civilian job.

“Former military are able to handle an assignment. You tell them what you want done and give them the timeline, it gets done.”

What? Yes, you give them an order, and they follow it. Wow, what a concept!

“They have a respect for senior management and often

have the ability to view problems from the standpoint of management. Do not underestimate the value of this ability.”

If you are a senior manager, you know how rare this talent is and how much it is appreciated.

“Their appearance, bearing, and grooming is usually well above par. They have received the best leadership training in the world. Many have also received some of the best technology training available anywhere.

“Since their entire career is based on taking and successfully completing various job assign-ments, they usually are very flexible, able to multi-task, and manage projects.

“They often have the ability to work as a liaison between various departments pulling in opposite directions. This talent, coupled with their leadership training, has value to a growing organization.

“Often they have the ability to design and effectively conduct employee training programs designed to get the desired result. They are dedicated to being successful at each assignment. And manners are deeply ingrained in their behavior.”

So to answer the question “should you call this person for a face-to-face interview?”–yes. Be prepared to look beyond some of the military words, and to substitute civilian words. The result may be that you will find an excellent employee.

If you are a former military candidate looking for a new position, you may want to word your résumé using words that are meaningful to someone who has had no military training.

And it is not necessary to always say, “Sir.”


Richard M. Knappen is the president of Chessmen Career Movers, an outplacement, career management, and consulting firm that is one of the oldest and largest locally-owned companies of its type in Southern California.

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