Re-entering the civilian world after military service can be difficult for many veterans, but it’s not because they lack talent. Military personnel typically have specialized skill sets earned from specific types of engagements, and the difficulty lies in identifying private-sector jobs that are suited to those skills. A military skills translator is a vital piece for employers executing a veteran employment strategy.
We’ve come a long way toward reducing veteran unemployment, seeing record lows since April 2019. But there is always more your organization can do to give former military personnel a better chance of success, and implementing a veteran skills translator is among the most important.
Find out what military skills translators are, what they can do for veteran candidates and how to implement them in your hiring process.
What Are Military Skills Translators?
Military jobs often use different terms from those used in the private sector, and for civilian recruiters, that can feel like another language altogether. Military-to-civilian job translators are tools that help veteran candidates translate the skills and experiences they gained through the military to jobs in the private sector.
Roles in the military are categorized into military occupational codes (MOCs), sometimes known as military occupational specialty codes (MOSCs), nine-character codes indicating an individual’s job during their service. These codes may be referred to as Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs) or Navy Enlisted Classifications (NECs) depending on the military branch the veteran served with.
Since MOCs are just a series of letters and numbers, they won’t mean much to a civilian recruiter. A military skills translator interprets those codes to indicate the experiences veterans have earned and the skills they’ve developed during service.
Military skills translators primarily help three groups: 1) veteran job seekers, 2) recruiters and hiring managers, and 3) people managers.
Benefits for Veteran Job Seekers
Typically, the burden of proving they are fit for a role initially falls to candidates themselves. But explaining your value to a civilian employer can be exceptionally difficult for veteran candidates to navigate. Military skills translators help close that gap by giving veteran candidates the language they need to apply for the right jobs and better express their skills during the hiring process.
Benefits for Recruiters and Hiring Managers
On the other side of the hiring process, recruiters without any military knowledge probably won’t automatically know how to interpret MOCs. Military skills translators help recruiters better understand the skill sets veteran job seekers can contribute to your organization. They can help recruiters direct candidates to the right roles and can assist hiring managers in asking the right questions during the hiring process and in making the best possible hiring decisions.
Benefits for People Managers
For many candidates, the hiring process isn’t the end of their journey with a company. Once hired, military skills translators can help people managers provide the right support to and better develop veteran employees. With a shared understanding of a veteran employee’s skills, managers can manage their performance more effectively, helping them acclimate to the civilian workforce.
5 Ways to Support Veterans Through Your Recruiting Processes
Veteran skill translators are a crucial component of a veteran hiring strategy, but they’re not the only one. They should nest within a larger initiative that includes updating your processes, training your team and leveraging external resources.
Build Translators into Your ATS
Many employers have begun incorporating military skills translators directly on their careers site, typically through their applicant tracking system (ATS). Integrating a skills translator directly within your career site enables candidates to input their military occupation codes (MOCs) to match their military skills and experiences to specific job openings. Look for systems that offer this functionality to integrate the feature on your career site.
Making the most of a job translator, though, requires some work on the backend. Make sure job descriptions and skills requirements are fully updated so the translator can pull the most accurate results.
Assess Candidates for the Skills You Need
The terms the military uses to describe specific skill sets may not line up with the language in your job description. But that doesn’t mean that job seekers with military backgrounds don’t have the skills you need in the role — just that the terms are different.
Instead of relying exclusively on candidates to translate their skills, consider implementing assessments to gain a clear, data-backed picture of what each candidate brings to the table. Skills and abilities speak for themselves, and assessments get to the heart of what each candidate has to offer — even if they struggle to translate their military experience and skills into examples civilian employers can understand.
Train Recruiters and Hiring Managers
Incorporating military skills translators into your ATS and implementing assessments provides tech-based solutions to help veterans translate their skills and find where they belong within your company. Pair this tech approach with human oversight.
Train recruiters and hiring managers to recognize military terms when they appear in a former service member’s resume, cover letter or experiences. Let recruiters know that you don’t expect them to memorize each code but that they should recognize and research them as they appear. Provide links to definitions of each code and, if possible, where employees with that experience have succeeded within the organization in the past.
As candidates progress further down the hiring funnel, make sure that hiring managers know how to interview candidates with a military background by focusing on experiences and behaviors over credentials and job titles.
Partner With Nonprofits
There are many nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping veterans transition into civilian careers. Partnering with these programs can help your business gain a better understanding of what certain skills and military occupation codes might mean in the private sector — and a greater empathy for what job-seeking veterans are going through.
Many of these nonprofit organizations offer free resources to help businesses improve outreach efforts to the veteran community. There are also government organizations employers can partner with or refer candidates to. The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, offers an Employment Navigator and Partnership Pilot that includes resources for job seekers and employers alike. Employers can apply to partner with the organization to provide opportunities such as apprenticeships, networking and referrals to service members transitioning into private-sector employment.
Don't Limit Skills Translation to the Hiring Process
The need for military skill translation doesn’t stop once a veteran candidate has been hired. Carry the program into onboarding, training and performance management.
It’s especially important to equip people managers with the tools to understand how to guide veteran employees as they learn and grow in their jobs. A miscommunication between a veteran employee and his or her manager, for example, could result in that employee focusing on the wrong skills. Start early with manager support by providing educational resources and conversation templates managers can use to probe the skills and experiences their new hires earned during their service.
3 Military Skills Translator Examples
There are several ways to implement military skills generators within your hiring process.
Many organizations integrate military job converters directly into their career search pages, allowing veteran candidates to rank job openings based on how closely they match skills developed during their military experience.
If your organization isn’t able to integrate a military skills translator directly into your career search page, consider linking to a generic military skills translator for resumes. Veteran candidates can use these military-to-civilian resume translators to find the right language to use when applying for roles in your organization.
O*NET OnLine Military Crosswalk Search
O*NET OnLine is a job database sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Employment and Training Administration and developed by the National Center for O*NET Development. The site’s Military Crosswalk Search feature allows job seekers to select their service branch and input their military occupational code to explore roles relevant to their skills and experiences. The most relevant search results are coded with a “Bright Outlook” tag.
Each entry is extremely detailed and provides a range of information, including occupation-specific material, occupational requirements and a profile of suggested worker characteristics. O*NET offers an excellent example of a military skills translator as well as a resource for both veteran job seekers and employers.
DVNF Military to Civilian Occupation Translator
This simple tool offered through the Disabled Veterans National Foundation (a nonprofit) matches specific military occupational codes to potential roles someone with those experiences could thrive in. Each search result links to an in-depth suggested job description via O*NET OnLine.
Amazon Jobs Military Resources
Powered by Vetlign, Amazon’s job kiosk (accessed through the company’s military careers page) asks candidates not only about their MOC but also very specific questions about their rank, the length of their service and how recently they were on active duty. That information is used to bring up job openings relevant to the data input by the candidate.
Open Doors With Military Skills Translators
Without a resource to help translate their skills, many former service members struggle to convert their experiences into terms recruiters in the private sector will find relevant or compelling. But beyond that, having a skills translator on your careers site signals to veterans that they’re welcome to apply at your organization — and that their applications will receive fair consideration.
Will implementing a military skills generator be the first step toward driving a pipeline of veteran candidates to your organization?