While the overall perception may suggest that those who serve in the military are heroes who deserve the nation’s gratitude, a recent study concludes that such is not the case when it comes to seeking civilian employment. The study, conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, determined that civilian hirers perceive former service members as unemotional and too prone to follow orders rather than act independently. As such, they “are likely to be overlooked for jobs that leverage emotional intelligence and interpersonal and leadership skills,” the study concluded.
On the job market, this means that veterans are less likely to be chosen for jobs that require decision making and dealing with people. The researchers cited the restaurant business as an example. Veterans would more likely jobs in the kitchen as cooks and dishwashers, while their civilian counterparts may be hired as hosts or waiters and waitresses.
The research results were compiled from 10 different studies and experiments involving 3,000 participants. The sample included experienced leaders and recruiters, as well as persons with experience in hiring personnel.
Civilian managers’ perceptions did not necessarily reflect a dislike of veterans. Rather, they concluded that former service members would thrive in environments like kitchens.
“People may perceive a veteran job candidate as brave, calm under pressure and having a get-it-done kind of attitude,” said Aaron Kay, the research project’s senior officer and a professor of management at Duke. “But the way the economy is moving, many new types of jobs also require creativity, interpersonal skills and emotional capacity. 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.”
Kay said that veterans can take steps to allay these unfavorable impressions. A start, he said, would be to tweak their resumes to reflect an “emotional side” — mentioning activities like volunteering to help care for rescue animals, for instance. Describing their skills layperson’s terms and avoiding overly technical jargon can also help, he said.