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Advice for vets looking for work and employers who want to hire them

April 25, 2013 at 3:08 PM ET

The job market is tight and that doesn't make things any easier for the thousands of vets returning home and wanting to re-enter the civilian work force.

According to the Family Work Institute, vets who have served since 2001 and returned to civilian life have higher unemployment rates (men, 9.5 percent; women, 8.3 percent) than their civilian counterparts (men 8.1 percent; women, 7.7 percent).

In other words: Our youngest and most recent veterans are having a harder time finding jobs than the average civilian.

During a TODAY Money web chat on Thursday, Ken Matos, director of research at the Families and Work Institute, spoke with vets who need a job and with employers who want to hire them.

“Our conversations with employers and veteran job candidates have pointed to two big problems,” Matos explained. “First, many employers are just now building up the programs and processes to streamline the recruitment, retention, and development of veteran employees and their families. Second both civilian employers and military veterans can get tripped up by some basic communication issues around understanding the significance and relevance of military experiences to civilian workplaces.”

JT: How can we use military service as a selling point to get a job? Should I play it down or up in my resume?

Ken Matos: That's a common and important question. My answer is yes, you should mention your military service. However, how you present that information is important.

When describing your military experiences, you will want to translate your position titles and tasks into terms that employers can understand. Many military terms are daunting to civilian recruiters.

Some great free online tools for rewriting a military resume to match civilian job descriptions are available at sites like Mynextmove.org, vetsuccess.gov and military.com.

Bobbie: I'd like to hire vets but I hear mixed things about how they do in civilian jobs. What do you think? And where do I start if I want to hire them?

Ken Matos: Some of the common areas where there can be friction is in recognizing that the military is a very different work culture than many civilian workplaces. It emphasizes teamwork and tight coordination.

Yet, a few open and supportive conversations can make a big difference in helping vets and their coworkers understand each other's perspective and smooth out those rougher interactions.

Sometimes it’s as simple as pointing out what their new priorities should be and giving them a chance to make that a reality.

Read the full Q&A:


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