Aug 13

Why Should a Civilian Employer Hire YOU?

AMFheadshotSenior military leaders have spent the better part of their professional lives putting the needs of the service above their personal needs. As a result, there is a tendency for many to approach their current civilian job search with more of a “What’s in it for ME?” perspective.

I recently connected with nationally-recognized job coach and recruiter, Arnie Fertig (www.jobhuntercoach.com), who reminds transitioning senior military leaders that understanding a prospective employer’s needs and being able to specifically articulate how one meets those needs, remains an essential component of the job search.


VSB: What should senior military leaders in transition keep top of mind as they develop their job search strategies and prepare to enter the civilian workforce?

Fertig: While there are some unique challenges to transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce, it is important to bear in mind these tips:

  • Carefully review what you have done, and reframe your accomplishments in terms relevant to a non-military context. i.e. “planning for battle” might become “large scale strategic organization of people, resources, and logistics.”
  • Remember that anytime anyone makes a hire, it is to cure some pain for the organization or business. Some figurative “box of work”, i.e. “the job” isn’t getting done – or done well, and that is the cause of the pain. And only when that is remedied can the larger business or mission come closer to fulfillment. Hiring shouldn’t be an act of generosity to someone in need. Remember that it is ALL about the employer’s needs until the employer figures out that you are the answer to his problems. Only then is it appropriate to talk about any of your needs, wants, or expectations.
  • Going one step further, imagine that you are the “answer” in a Jeopardy game, and figure out what the question is… then you will have a good idea of the kinds of employers and jobs that make sense to pursue.


VSB: How can transitioning military leaders maximize and grow their current network, as well as discard the notion that networking is simply asking friends or strangers for favors?

Fertig:  First and foremost, get rid of the idea that networking is just about asking for a job. If you treat it that way, you are sure to fail both at creating a great network AND getting a job.

Networking, plain and simple, is about meeting new people and creating new relationships. We all are in multiple networks at the same time: family, friends, college alumni, military alumni, neighbors, church or synagogue, professional organizations and more.

When you are networking, take the time to ask about the other person, learn about their background, how they got to where they are, what they do, and figure out ways you can be helpful to them. Only then, should you begin to say something about your situation and ask simply, “Who do you think I should speak with to learn more?”

When you are networking, take the time to ask about the other person, learn about their background, how they got to where they are, what they do, and figure out ways you can be helpful to them. Only then, should you begin to say something about your situation and ask simply, “Who do you think I should speak with to learn more?”


VSB: Given the large number of military and civilian competitors currently in the job market, how can senior military leaders rise above their competition during an interview?

Fertig: Given the very competitive landscape, no one gets invited for an in-person interview unless someone thinks that he or she is fundamentally capable of doing the job – whatever that means in context.

Once you get this point, having a military background is neither a distinct advantage nor disadvantage, and the keys to getting hired are the same for you as everyone else:

  • Take the time to do the research and prepare. Know everything you can about the industry in general and the company in particular. Find out about the people with whom you will be interacting on LinkedIn, and note areas of common background.
  • Listen carefully to make sure you understand the “real” question on the mind of your interviewer before you begin your response, and frame your response to meet those needs.
  • Prepare to tell your unique story in such a way as to highlight your successes and achievements that pertain to the needs of the employer.
  • Pay attention to your body language to show interest and enthusiasm and not anxiety, boredom, or neediness.
  • Ask questions that demonstrate your expertise and experience, focusing on the job and not what the employer can do for you.
  • Show your passion, your love of what you are doing, and make the case for why this is a logical next step in your career development. It’s not just, “I need this job,” but rather, “I want this job because I’m passionate about doing the work that this job entails.”


VSB: What advice would you give to help senior military leaders build relationships with recruiters and how might this be beneficial?

Fertig:  Remember that only about 8% of all jobs are filled by recruiters (aka headhunters). They get paid a significant commission by the employer to identify and introduce “great fit” candidates who are perceived to be in the top 15% of their field. Just like real estate brokers, they get their commission from one side of the transaction, but in order to be successful, they need to be perceived to be helpful by both sides.

Recruiting is ultimately a relationship business, and when you can demonstrate your ability and willingness to help a recruiter today, they will be much more likely to think of you and reach out to you in the future when they have a position that is a good match for your background and abilities.

Don’t try to outsmart or disrespect a recruiter – it will definitely come back to hurt you later on. And don’t worry that you could get a higher salary if you could cut them out of the deal. The reality is, the recruiter’s interest aligns with yours in this regard. The more you get, the more he/she gets. They know the market well, they know the employer well, and will in all likelihood get a better package for you than you can get yourself.


VSB: Any other words of advice to help military leaders in transition increase their marketability to prospective employers?


  • Study the differences in military, civilian, and corporate cultures and be attuned to your environment.
  • Don’t think about your objectives, but rather the incredible value you bring to your next employer.
  • Learn about creating an effective personal brand, and integrating it into your resume, LinkedIn profile, networking and interviewing.
  • It may prove valuable to engage a resume writer, or career / job search coach in order to clarify your value and interpret it for a new audience.
  • Be proud of your accomplishments, and look forward to your future with optimism.
  • Happy hunting!


Arnie Fertig, MPA is a weekly contributor to the U.S. News & World Report “On Careers” column. (www.usnews.com/money/careers) He is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes
his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job
hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation. You can find him on LinkedIn at: www.linkedin.com/in/fertig and
reach him directly at: fertig@jobhuntercoach.com.


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