Why military hard skills matter

Hard skills matter more than you might think in your job search. If you don’t have the hard skills required by potential employers, your job search will suffer.

What is a hard skill?

A hard skill is one that can be learned. For example, a hard skill for a warehousing worker might be 3PL Warehouse Manager or Asset Panda. Not to be confused with a soft skill, which is more like behaviors, such as persuasion or collaboration.

Why hard skills matter

When you apply for a job, many employers first filter applicants by hard skills. In fact, most companies have an application tracking system (ATS) that does just that, without any human intervention at all. If your skillset doesn’t match those in the job posting, it’s the equivalent of your resume going straight to the trash.

Even if a company doesn’t use an ATS or prefers to involve a human along the way (perhaps even meeting a hiring manager at a career fair), one of the first professional evaluations to occur is a review of your hard skills. If you have what they need, your chances of getting that job just increased.

Let’s say you get that interview and are a top candidate. Who will get the offer? Most likely, the person with the closest hard skills match.

Converting military hard skills

Your time in the military gave you many new hard skills – perhaps even with products not available outside the military. It’s just knowing how to translate them to your advantage in the civilian job market.

First, find a military skills translator, whether on the Web (Google it) or with a skilled resume writer who specializes in veterans resumes. Even if you have someone do the paperwork, you still need to commit similar products to memory so you can talk about it in an interview. If you are asked if you know a particular product, you can respond with “no, but I’ve used a similar product, and since they are so similar, it’ll be easy for me to learn quickly.” That answer showcases your soft skills, such as confidence and ability to learn. Soft skills that employers desire!


While most employers have told me they seek specific soft skills, the entry to barrier will be your hard skills. Without the hard skills employers need, your job search will struggle. Make the most of your career by staying on top of industry trends and taking advantage of any opportunity to add a new product to your hard skillset.

Why won’t anyone hire a veteran?

It seems a simple concept. In the legal world, it’s called quid pro quo (“this for that”). You fight for our freedom and in return, you should be the strongest candidate for civilian jobs. But why aren’t you getting calls or interviews?

In my discussions with hiring managers, human resource leaders, and even reading articles across the Web, it’s abundantly clear that veterans face tremendous hurdles when looking for a job in the civilian world. Instead of dwelling on the difficulties of the process, here are some things you should know when transforming from the military to civilian workforce.

First and foremost, you are not alone. While it would be easier to simply blame corporations for being so narrow-minded, the reality is, you are a stranger to the hiring manager. We are taught very early not to trust strangers, and hiring managers are no exception. Break down that barrier by giving potential employers something to relate to. One method is to develop a personal brand, which will show your professional values. Employers that share your values are more likely to be interested in knowing more about you. Employers who don’t share your values are those you want to repel. This is a win-win situation.

Hard skills, those that are learned, will be your biggest hurdle. If you are going to apply to jobs through a job board or corporate website, your resume will be submitted to an applicant tracking system (ATS), what I call “the robots.” Hiring managers program the robots to screen out anyone who doesn’t have their desired skill set. Even though you may be an expert on the technology to take out the enemy with a push of a button, an employer might be more interested in your knowledge of JIRA. Find a career professional who specializes in translating military skills to civilian skills. 

When you make it past the robots, you’ll be quizzed on soft skills, or behaviors, in telephone or in-person interviews. Will you get along with your potential co-workers? Do you have similar likes or dislikes? Employers will want to know if you can do the job. In short, if the interviewers see themselves in you, you will be one of the top candidates. Keep your responses relatable. Military or civilian, if an interviewer can relate to your behavior, this works to your favor.

While you may have thrown in the towel on more than one occasion, there are plenty of reasons to have hope. First, many corporations have enacted social responsibility programs, which include efforts to hire veterans. You will have a step-up on other candidates from the get go. Second, there is a growing industry based on serving those who served. They offer you free career services, like resume writing, career counseling, and interview preparation. Organizations who offer job placement services for veterans are your best choice. In addition to being your personal advocate, they are able to bypass the dreaded robots!

Ready to find your dream job? Contact Veterans Job Resources for your free career services and job placement today.

Military Words vs. Civilian Words

Understanding the Transition: Resume Writing

What is one of the hardest aspects of coming back into the civilian world after serving on active duty?
Truth is, that is a pretty loaded question and the answer will more than likely be different for every person.
However, one of the most challenging parts of the transition stage is finding a job or even more importantly, finding a career.
Why is this so challenging?
Well there are a lot of reasons why it is challenging but let’s start with some of the basic explanations.

Communication between veteran applicant and hiring manager

That seems like a simple fix. Well, sure if you know how to translate your military experience into something that a civilian hiring manager with no military experience or background will understand.
Look at this example below:

Military position: First Sergeant

Duty Description: 20 year Army Veteran responsible for the care and welfare of 50 Soldiers. Held timely formations for accountability and daily reports to higher command. Increased Soldier physical fitness requirements by 90%. Receipt holder for over $50,000.00 worth of electrical equipment. Conducted weekly meetings with squad leaders for training and mission planning.

Civilian translation: Operations Manager

Duty Description: Operations Manager with over 10 years of experience. Managed the care and welfare of 50 military and civilian personnel. Fostered a positive career advancement atmosphere by increasing physical fitness standards by 90%. Responsible for the management, maintenance and accountability of over $50,000.00 of electrical equipment with zero loss. Held weekly meetings with subordinate leaders to develop and implement training, time lines and company objectives for employees.
Let’s break it down
Here are a few questions that a civilian hiring manager is going to want to know if all they get is the military example.
  • You have been a manager for 20 years?
  • What is a formation?
  • Who is higher command?
  • What is physical fitness? (is that a standard)
  • What is a receipt holder?
  • Who are squad leaders?
  • What is a mission?
Can you really say 20 year veteran when you are applying for a management level position? From day one in the military were you a manager? Possibly, but not likely. It depends on your position, rank and experience. It is important to clearly and accurately speak on your military experience.
Most people know what a Soldier is, right? Well I hope so. But, we have to still speak in terms that civilians will understand. Saying military personnel is more understandable and still the truth. In the above example we added civilian personnel as well, because based on past military experience most 1SG also manage/direct a Family Readiness Leader, who are civilian. So we are able to add both.
Having a high dollar amount of equipment on a piece of paper with your name on it means that well if you get out of the military and anything is missing they are taking your pay. But, what does that really mean? It means you are accountable for that equipment by actually taking care of it and covering anything that is lost. In the civilian world that is a BIG deal. If you have been responsible for any equipment as any rank in the military and not lost anything, you better have that on your resume.
As leaders in the military you are responsible to lead junior leaders. It is imperative that we stress leading supervisors on your resume as professional meetings held for strategic and detailed planning.
This example of one of the challenges of veteran resume writing is not to scare you or at all discourage you. However, for veterans it is to help you understand why some companies are not calling you back for an interview. For hiring managers it is for you to better acknowledge the reason you cannot understand all veteran written resumes.

ONE in TWENTY veteran written resumes is understandable by civilian hiring managers.

Together we can make a difference, we can have more veterans in the work place and less homeless veterans.