Adding Veterans to Your Restaurant, Bar or Hotel Team
by David Klemt
Do more this Veterans Day by encouraging those who have served to apply and interview for available positions on your team.
There are several benefits to providing job opportunities to veterans, regardless of the country (or countries) in which you operate.
Of course, there are dos and don’ts that come along with recruiting, hiring and working with veterans.
Benefits to Hiring Veterans
Before we begin, a caveat: Remember that veterans are individuals. “Veteran” is a label, a designation, a descriptor. In no way is one person who is a veteran interchangeable with another.
That said, there are some elements of military service that are similar to those of successful hospitality operations.
Teamwork, a strong work ethic, leadership skills, precision in tasks, achieving goals, consistency in results… When a restaurant, bar or hotel team is operating at its best, it can be said they work with military precision.
Generally speaking, veteran job candidates bring experience to the table that can benefit an operator greatly.
Additionally, it’s commonly said that hospitality leadership should hire for personality because they can train requisite skills. Speaking generally again, many veterans are so used to receiving specialized training that they’ll likely appreciate and respond quickly to yours.
If you want your business to operate with military precision, why wouldn’t you hire military personnel who fit well within your team?
Questions to Ask During Interviews
Obviously, there are definite dos and don’ts when it comes to discussing a veteran’s military experience.
As curious as you may be about some aspects of a veteran’s experience, questions shouldn’t be invasive or offensive.
Some examples of questions you should ask are:
- “What did you do (in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, National Guard or Reserves)?”
- “Why did you choose that branch of the military?”
- “How long did you serve?”
- “Do you come from a military family?”
- “Where were you stationed during your career in the military? Did you visit any other countries?”
- “Where was your favorite place you visited or lived?”
- “How do you think your experience in the military will benefit you here?”
As you can see, nothing in those questions should make a veteran applicant uncomfortable.
Questions and Behaviors to Avoid
Speaking of discomfort, there are many questions that you should never ask a veteran. Not just during the interview process, but ever.
Also, if a veteran informs you they’re uncomfortable answering a question about their service, that should be respected.
Examples of questions and topics you should avoid are:
- “Do you have PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder)?”
- “Do you find it hard to get back to ‘real/regular’ life after being in the military?”
- “Did you ever get shot/stabbed/bombed?”
- “Did you ever kill anyone?”
- “What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you while you served?”
- Current military conflicts, particularly if you haven’t served in the military.
- Referring to elements of work through military analogies.
- Insulting branches of the military if you never served.
In short, treat veterans with the respect their deserve, as you should any other member of your staff. Veterans aren’t novelties or curiosities—they’re people.
For too long, veterans have faced undue scrutiny and undeserved stigmatization. It shouldn’t be difficult to turn that around when the solution is simple: Give veterans respect; treat them like people since that’s precisely what they are; and provide equal opportunity.