Do veterans lack social skills? A new study finds that many civilian employers say they do.
A Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business study found that based off resumes and cover letters, veterans’ military service is working against them when applying for jobs in certain fields. The study also found employers believe veterans are less suited for jobs that involve social-emotional skills and interacting with people than non-veterans.
Veteran service organizations like American Legion, however, take issue with the study, saying it promotes the stereotype of veterans as brooding malcontents.
The study included answers from employers, managers, and laypeople. The results concluded that employers find that veterans are better suited for jobs that do not pertain to interacting with people.
“When choosing between two equally-qualified job candidates, the average person and even prospective employers show a tendency to prefer the applicant without military experience for jobs requiring social-emotional abilities,” Aaron Kay, a Fuqua management professor and senior author of the research, said in a Duke news release.
Duke partnered with a “large North American restaurant chain” where 265 employees evaluated samples of hypothetical resumes of veterans and non-veterans for a dishwasher, a prep cook, and a bartender.
Employees then rated candidates on a 9-point scale detailing how well they thought candidates would succeed: 1 if they thought the applicant was not at all likely to succeed, and 9 if they thought the candidate was extremely likely to succeed.
The study found that veterans were rated much more suitable for low feeling positions such as a dishwasher and a prep cook than they were servers.
In order to counter some of these perceptions associated with veterans, the study found that editing resumes and “merely signaling one’s ability to feel can reduce people’s biases regarding veterans’ abilities and skills.” A total of 298 participants reviewed veteran and non-veteran candidates for an event planning job, and were given adjusted resumes to indicate the candidates either did or did not have an ability to feel.
When the veteran’s resume did include volunteer work at a humane society where they “calmed animals when stressed,” veterans were ranked similarly to their non-veteran counterparts for their social-emotional skills. The military has a range of occupational specialties — including customer relations and positions that involve interacting with the public. Service members must be articulate when communicating orders.
The study also showed that employers found veterans to be less-suitable for jobs in the mental health field. This is due in part to the stereotype that veterans are all suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues due to their service.
Overcoming hiring biases can be a challenge for veterans depending on the career field. With the proper transition skills, resume editing, and improving interview skills, these hiring biases can be eliminated.
Source: Military Times