Five Interview Tips for Wounded Warriors

By , April 24, 2013

Individuals with disabilities make up a significant portion of the workforce and are earning a name for themselves as capable and unique employees. Among them, perhaps underrepresented, are wounded warriors – service members injured in the line of duty, returning to the civilian job hunt with a disability and a resume filled with military jargon.

Think Beyond the Label promotes the business case for hiring people with disabilities – they are proven hard workers, bring unique abilities and perspectives to the table, and even offer tax breaks for their employers. Wounded warriors are no different, but they have a few extra adjustments they may need to make for the job hunt. We have compiled a few extra tips for our service members joining the civilian workplace with a disability.

1. Choose a line of work. You want to select a line of work that aligns with your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Half of the battle is finding your new passion in the civilian world. Heroes2Hired has an excellent function that will pair your MOS to a variety of civilian job fields.  For example, type in 95B (Military Police), and you will generate open positions in security management, police departments and compliance. MyNextMove is another good resource for this translation feature.

2. Craft your resume—no acronyms, please! Craft your resume so it reflects your military experience and connects it to your civilian employment goals (so a non-military employer can understand it). Spell out all acronyms, even the ones that come to you as second nature (NCOIC, SME, and SFC-P do not hold as much weight in the civilian workplace as they do in your NCOER/OER). Also, make sure that after each training listed on your resume, you add a few bullets detailing what you learned. Raytheon’s Operation Phoenix has some great resume tips, including explaining how to demonstrate leadership courses and trainings so their relevance will not be lost on your next corporate boss. Finally, try not to leave any time gaps in your resume. For example, if you were attached to a Warrior Transition Unit during your recovery, make sure to include it as your most recent assignment.

3. Talk up your service skills. Weave the strengths you have developed from your service, your skills and your injury into your interview answers. Wounded warriors are among the most resilient, and that perseverance can springboard your answers to the interviewer’s first question, “Tell me about yourself.” After some practice, that common interview question will become your best ally. You can answer it with your passions, your hobbies, your family, your military career, your injury and recovery, and your strengths and weaknesses all wrapped into one inclusive, incredible answer. Some interviewers only ask that one question, so make sure you do practice the answer.

4. Do what feels right. If you have a visible injury and you feel comfortable about it, it’s a good idea to be the first to bring it up or “break the ice.” If you have an invisible injury that you feel comfortable talking about, be sure to explain to your interviewer how you personally have learned to cope with it. Perhaps you, like many others, have a service related traumatic brain injury with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; if you explain to your boss that you sometimes get anxious and would prefer a quiet environment with a desk that faces the doorway, it is much easier for your employer to stomach than having him or her guess your needs or fear the unknown. However, if you do not want to address the injury, don’t feel obligated to do so. Your resume and responses will speak for themselves.

5. Get more tips online. Check out Think Beyond the Label’s other tips on interviews, weaving a disability into your resume, wounded warrior small-business ownership and dressing for the interview if you have a physical disability. Also, once you have your resume polished and your interview answers practiced, join our next hiring fair on May 21 to network with civilian employers who are already interested in you.

Author: Suzanne Robitaille

Suzanne Robitaille is the founder of abledbody.com, a website on disability issues. She is the former assistive technology columnist for BusinessWeek.com, giving rise to her fascination with technology that helps people with disabilities surmount barriers in the workplace and life space. She is also the author of The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology & Devices. As a writer and blogger, Suzanne is a trusted source of disability information for The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, HealthDay, Media Post, Ability Magazine, Disaboom and more. Suzanne lost her hearing at age four and grew up profoundly deaf. In 2002 she received a cochlear implant, which she credits as "the ultimate assistive technology."