What do Recruiters Look for in Candidates with Military Experience?

When applying for a job it can be difficult to know exactly what employers and recruiters want from candidates.

The OA recently hosted a panel discussion with recruiters to answer questions about the job application process, during the recent OA Employment Symposium in York.

The panel included Michael Sanderson, Siemens Talent Acquisition Partner; Leanne Wood, Network Rail Defence Engagement Manager; Tony Ellender, Balfour Beatty Emerging Talent Manager; Korinna Sjoholm, Berwick Partners Associate Partner, and Sharon Goodall, NHS Digital HR Manager.

Below are some of the questions asked and the panel’s answers.

How can senior transitioning officers, who have a broad range of skills, choose the right career path?

  • Look at company websites to see the skills required in different departments, and see if the job roles appeal
  • Look at jobs in project management, operations or roles that require leadership or a broad range of skills.

What is a ‘competitive salary’?

  • Organisations are often reluctant to declare the salary so competitors cannot tempt talented employees away with better offers
  • Organisations sometimes want some flexibility in the salary they offer, to reflect the exact skills and experiences of the successful candidate
  • Research online what is the average salary for jobs that interest you so you know what to expect.

Should you use military terms in your CV?

  • Only use military terms that a civilian is likely to understand
  • Have a range of CVs for different organisations, using more military terms if they are Forces Friendly.

If you are the successful candidate should you negotiate terms (including salary)?

  • Employers will not usually rescind a job offer for asking for better terms, so be prepared to negotiate
  • Some employers expect the successful candidate to negotiate for better terms, especially in the commercial sector where success depends on getting the best deal
  • You have to be happy with the terms of employment, so negotiate for what you want and be prepared to walk away if this is not possible
  • Always ask the employer what is the salary band so you know how much you can negotiate
  • Always ask the employer what is the salary progress timeline and the professional development opportunities.

Why is networking important?

  • Recruiters and employers are more likely to offer jobs to people they know
  • It puts you in contact with people who can help with your career, so choose relevant networks
  • LinkedIn is vital for networking online, where other former officers can connect you with industry contacts.

How important is sector experience?

It depends on the sector. Employers like many skills officers gain in the military, including leadership, project management, operations and working to tight deadlines in high-pressure environments. However, be aware that requirements can vary in different industries.

For example:

  • Health – sector experience is not important in non-medical roles, as employers look for transferable skills that can adapt to the industry’s shifting priorities
  • Rail – the industry prefers someone with rail experience, but they are exploring how they can change this by hiring skilled people at a lower level and then offer in-house experience.

What are your top tips for a successful application?

  • In your CV focus on your achievements, especially facts and figures that demonstrate your success
  • Avoid abbreviations in your CV, and technical jargon
  • Make sure your application reflects the culture and values of the business your applying for, including the clothes you wear for the interview
  • Research the business, focusing on their purpose and the role you want
  • Only apply for jobs you want.