Nederlands: Linked In iconThe title of this post might be a bit misleading.  I‘m not saying that veterans leaving the service shouldn’t be recruited; I’m saying that there are many very qualified former military candidates who aren’t getting contacted at all for positions that they would realistically thrive in.  Many veterans experience a great deal of trouble landing their first job after they transition out of the military despite the clear value they can add to a company.

There are a few reasons this may be happening, but the most significant reason is that many companies and many human resources professionals simply don’t know the specifics of what a veteran can offer.  They often don’t understand what veterans have done in the military and exactly how that translates to private sector success.   However, before we blame the companies for this, vets need to first take a look in the mirror to make sure they have done everything possible to make this work.

Problem Number One

One step that every veteran (and every job seeker for that matter) should take is to ensure that their LinkedIn profile clearly states what benefits they can provide for a company.  This must be written in plain English, not military jargon.  The reality is, many active duty military members have horribly inadequate LinkedIn profiles.

The safe assumption that you should operate under is that every company who is seriously considering you for a position is going to check your social media accounts.  The one or two-page resume that you submit to a company for a job opening is naturally limited, and it is highly likely that the recruiter or hiring manager will search for you on LinkedIn to see what else you have done in your professional life.

These companies are looking for more information about you, so give it to them.  Think about how you research a product before you buy.  When you are comparing the descriptions for two similar products, which one do you finally buy, the one without a single piece of information about what it does?  Or the product that clearly explains how it is going to make your life better?

Most of the LinkedIn profiles I have seen for Marines getting ready to separate from the military (and I was no exception to this) don’t provide any information about you.  They don’t tell anyone what your capabilities are, what your experience has been, or where you have succeeded for the last three, eight, or eighteen years that you spent serving your country.   From the profiles that I have seen, many people have listed out the billet they filled, the dates they were there and the unit they served with.  Many of these profiles stop there.  They haven’t taken the time to explain what they did in that job or the skills they gained while filling that role.

With products like LinkedIn’s “Recruiter,” which allows corporate recruiters greater access to search LinkedIn and narrow their list of potential candidates based off of a search for keywords that people have added to their profile, not having any quality information in your profile is the easiest way to get removed from a list of potential candidates.  Let’s assume a company is looking for someone who has your experience and does a search for “squad leader” or “platoon commander.”  When thousands of results come back, I will make the assumption that the recruiter will ignore the thousands that don’t have any amplifying information and will focus their attention on those candidates who took the time to fill those sections in explaining what they did and the success they had, and how that translates to success in other fields.

It Must Be In Plain English

Before you start filling in the job description section of your LinkedIn profile, you need to first consider who you are going to target the information to.  Keep in mind that many human resources professionals and corporate recruiters have no idea what most military terminology means.  If you use job titles such as Fire Team Leader, Squad Leader, Platoon Commander, make sure you explain what that means, the size of the unit, and your general responsibilities.  If you are going to talk about a school you attended, “Infantry Squad Leaders Course” doesn’t mean anything to people who have not attended.  Explain how it improved your ability to plan, lead, and coordinate efforts so that it can make sense to a person who hasn’t served. An approach that I take is to include a “civilian job equivalent” line for each military job to simplify this translation for a company.

This also applies to those veterans who are looking for a job in the Defense Industry, where one could easily assume that hiring managers understand military terminology.  Don’t make that mistake.  Even vets who have military experience may not completely understand the jargon from those outside of their field.

This isn’t something that I really understood until I read the book “Your World Is Exploding: How Social Media is Changing Everything and How You Need to Change With It,” by Chris Dessi of Silverback Social.  I began to realize the importance of  owning your search results.  This goes beyond just a search for your name, which is important, but also needs to include searches related to your capabilities and experience.  To achieve this ultimately requires more than just a LinkedIn page, but LinkedIn is often near the top of the Google Search results page, so it is certainly a good starting point.

You want your page to show as much of your personality as possible to attract the continued interest of anyone reading your page, so do your best to make it reflect your character and personality.  If you want to see an example, follow the LinkedIn button at the top of the page to see my LinkedIn profile.  I don’t consider myself an expert in social media and I don’t think this is the premier example of how to set it up, but it might provoke some thought for how you want to set up your own.

Finally, whether you are ready to get out of the military or still have a few years left on your contract, set the conditions now for your future success.  The more quality information that you can add to your LinkedIn account, information that clearly explains your professional and military experience, can help you get hired or be recruited once you are ready to transition back to the civilian world.  The same way you took charge of your career in the military applies to your new path in the private sector.  If the people you need to get in front of are using LinkedIn, don’t handicap your efforts, use it to show how they need you in their company.

Some Forbes Magazine Articles That Might Be Useful To You:

LinkedIn is Disrupting The Corporate Recruiting Market” by Josh Bersin

“Recruiters Say: Avoid LinkedIn At Your Peril” by Allison Cheston

“How LinkedIn Has Turned Your Resume Into A Cash Machine” by George Anders — (This one is more about the Company, the CEO, and why LinkedIn isn’t going anywhere, and is a good read)