Implementing a program to recruit and hire more veterans into your workforce is a noble, but often challenging endeavor. While many veterans leave the military with an impressive set of hard and transferrable (soft) skills, they often struggle to explain how those skills translate in the civilian workforce.
If you’re thinking of developing an initiative or program to hire more veterans, you might start with understanding their value and learning from other employers who have already started veteran hiring programs.
Many veterans are a leery of civilian employment, some never having written a resume before, and thus establishing trust and a record of supporting veterans (including in the workforce) is essential to recruiting veterans, states Russ Hovendick, president of Client Staffing Solutions, Inc.
Why Hire Veterans
Today’s transitioning military vets are highly skilled, mature, disciplined, and accustomed to following commands (while being adaptable to quickly changing situations). They are also dependable and loyal.
Don’t take our word for it though. Here’s what some of the industry’s most vet-friendly organizations had to say about what makes vets brilliant employees:
“We have always made special efforts to encourage the hiring of vets in our offices,” states Pierre Tremblay, Director of Human Resources at Dupray. “Why? Because they know how to get the proverbial ‘job’ done. They understand the value of hard work. They don’t complain. They are superior problem-solvers. They are loyal and courageous, and never say ‘no’ to any task. In essence, the qualities that make a really great soldier are the qualities that make an excellent employee.”
“We like that veterans tend to be a little more seasoned, more mature, and with more life experiences,” states Stephen P. Jones, director of human resources for Jack Daniel Distillery.
“Leadership, technical skills, teamwork, and focus on mission are all qualities that make veterans very desirable employees to have on our team,” states Marianne Downs, of Lockheed Martin Corporation.
“Veterans bring leadership, teamwork, and adaptability,” adds Sara Slettebo, executive director of the Association of Veteran Friendly Employers.
“Employers can really hit a homerun by hiring veterans. Through the years, I have placed large numbers of veterans with employers. These employers have found veterans to be extremely committed, dedicated, and excellent leaders,” adds Hovendick.
How to Hire Veterans
If you want to begin hiring veterans – or step up your hiring – you’ll want to follow these guidelines to ensure success.
- Start with a commitment from top management to hire, retain, and promote veterans. Trust is an issue that seems to come up quite a bit; veterans are wary of civilian employers and want to see that commitment.
- Post the commitment to hiring veterans on your company’s career page and in job descriptions.
- Consider training both human resources staff as well as key hiring/recruiting managers on military culture, occupations, and translating military skills. “We found that training our recruiters and hiring managers to understand and recognize the specific skill sets candidates had from being in the military had a big impact,” states Amy K. Sheehan, recruiting manager at Hormel Foods.
- Talk with current employees who are veterans – both as a tool to improve any current conditions or processes that might hinder veteran recruitment AND as part of a referral program to enlist your current veterans to refer other veterans to open positions. “We connected with the veterans we already employed and asked them to recommend others… quite successfully,” states Jones.
- If you currently employ a large number of veterans, consider formalizing their standing within the company, such as Hormel does. “We have an employee resource group called Hormel Military Veteran Engagement Team (HMVET) that provides us with opportunities and insights on military recruitment,” adds Sheehan.
- If the jobs you are recruiting require certain hard skills in short supply, consider partnering with a training company to offer scholarships to veteran candidates who are willing to make a multi-year commitment to your organization in return for the training. (For example, Solutionary partnered with SANS Institute to create cybersecurity training opportunities for veterans.)
- Besides posting jobs to your own career site, partner with a respected (by veterans) site, such as Veterans Jobs Mission, Hire Heroes USA, or Military.com, as well as one or more federal resources, such as the Veterans Employment Center and SkillBridge (to promote your opportunities to veterans.
- Attend veteran career and job fairs – both to recruit veterans, but also to build your presence, commitment, and trust to hiring – and – retaining veterans.
Remember too that you should not rush into the process, nor do you have to do all these things to be successful. “My advice would be to start small, get buy-in from top management, and partner with companies/organizations that can help or have successfully implemented programs in the past. You don’t have to implement everything all at once,” states Cindy Reeves, director of human resources at Oldcastle, Inc. She adds, “Along with adding a military [skills] translator, Oldcastle has a Veteran’s Portal located on Military.com, and we updated our career website to include a dedicated ‘Veteran’ tab.”
Finally, do not forget about military spouses as strong job candidates you should also be recruiting. Nick Peterson of DisplaySales states: “Not only are veterans a great asset to any company, but their spouses are too. Military spouses frequently move, meaning they adapt well to new environments and have a large, diverse network. While their spouse is away on deployment, they learn to manage a career and family by themselves. They’re groomed for high-stress, hectic situations.”
Additional Resources for Employers on Hiring Veterans
Two pdf handbooks are available for use by any employer looking for assistance in recruiting, hiring, and retaining veterans.