They Didn’t Hire Me?

"A company culture that does not include healthy debate, is destined to fall behind the competition."
Written by James Rollins
They Didn’t Hire Me?

“They didn’t hire me.  I don’t know why.”  My friend (I will call him John) is a retired Army officer. He sat across looking intently at me.  We agreed to meet over coffee and break down the interview and figure out if he was doing anything wrong. What struck me, was how intently he looked at me.  It expressed confidence and knowledge, a sort of “Yea, I know what I’m doing.” Why wouldn’t an employer want that?

John and I went over the interview and how he portrayed himself.  We took a look at his qualifications (and they were excellent qualifications).  So what could it be?  He and I both shrugged our shoulders and decided that it must have been just a matter of going up against the “ideal” candidate, or perhaps, John was just simply “overqualified.”

Being overqualified is a problem for most veterans. By the time a typical Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman reach their late twenties, they have been in charge of 30 or more people and have been responsible for thousands of dollars of equipment.  In some respects, vets are overqualified because the military prepares young people to be responsible, accountable and technically competent right up front. A person without military experience would likely have to be as much as 10 years older to have equivalent experience.  So by the time a vet retires after 20 or more years, they have deep pools of experience.  Perhaps, in the view of many employers – too much experience? Maybe the resume is just too unbelievable?

Too much experience – is there such a thing?  In some cases, the answer is “yes.”  Too much experience can lead to disruption in the workplace.  People with experience may have, what they think, are better ways of solving problems.  Depending on how you look at it, this can be disruptive.  However, there is a growing list of companies that are actively seeking persons who can provide “disruptive leadership.” 

Disruptive leadership is a necessary component of a healthy company because it provides a way for the company to adapt to and overcome adversity.  Adaptive leaders have the courage to question the status-quo. A company culture that does not include healthy debate (and I want emphasize “healthy”), is destined to fall behind the competition. Disruptive leaders have developed an intuition of what needs to change and have the skills to lead the problem solving efforts.  Military leaders are rigorously schooled in problem solving and have excellent experience applying these problem solving methods over many contexts.

So when you are sizing up a vet as a potential hire, ask them how they approach problem solving.  Ask them to give you examples of how they have worked with teams to solve problems.  And when you look at their resume, if it appears unbelievable that such a young person has done so much, it probably isn’t.


James Rollins is the Managing Partner of Takouba.  Takouba specializes in hiring and placing veterans in companies as talent to meet their client’s emerging needs. 


Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis K. Mendoza