About Aaron Kless: With deep expertise in advanced networking and software controls, Aaron leads the team responsible for Digital Lumens intelligent lighting system deployments worldwide. As a nuclear submarine officer in the United States Navy, Aaron served for 10 years of active and reserve duty, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Aaron earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering Systems at the United Stated Merchant Marine Academy. In addition, Aaron is a licensed Professional Engineer in South Carolina, USA. 

Although service members are typically outside the standard hiring pool for startups, Digital Lumens has long seen the value in adding veterans to the team. Since joining the company after completing my own service in the Navy, I have had the honor of helping to hire another dozen veterans into the Digital Lumens family. These men and women have each brought an experience set and point of view from his or her service that has directly contributed to the continued success of Digital Lumens.

A veteran brings needed capabilities to a company, including technical skills, leadership experience, and grace under pressure. However, the hiring process from the civilian perspective can be daunting – as military experience outlined in a resume may lack context, often without direct parallels to the civilian sector.

You don’t need a security clearance to decode a military resume. Here are a few great questions to ask veterans looking to join your company:

Why are you separating and what are your goals for this phase of your career?

Why is he or she choosing to end their military service? Does the retirement come with a pension after twenty or more years? Does the Separation come after completing a service obligation? Maybe something in between? We each separate for our own reasons – perhaps to spend more time with families or to find growth opportunities outside of the military’s often rigid career pipelines. The reasons for leaving can clue in a company on how best this candidate can serve in a company.

What were your individual contributions to your unit?

In the military we train and fight as a team. While this mindset is an asset to any company, it can be hard during an interview to tease out exactly what the candidate specifically did, versus what their entire unit did. Personally, it took some interview skills practice to be able to comfortably discuss what ‘I did’ as opposed to what ‘we did’.

How did you rank among your peers?

As part of the typical military employee evaluation system, service members receive evaluations, or “Fitness Reports” every year from their manager. As part of this process, members are typically ranked amongst their peers. Where did your candidate stand in the rankings? If they distinguished themselves from their peers with superior performance while in the military, they are likely to do the same at your company.

Would you share any Awards, Evaluations or Fitness Reports?

See if candidates would be willing to share any of their evaluation reports from their military service. The specific reports differ for each branch of service, but all help to tell the story of the candidate’s military career. Awards and medals, when earned, can also tell how your candidate stood out during their time in service.

This is not an exhaustive list of questions to ask a veteran – but it should serve to help hiring managers assess how to fit veteran candidates into an organization. This Veteran’s Day, think about where your company can benefit from the diverse skills and experience that the veteran community offers.

And, to those who have served and to those still on duty, thank you for your service!

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