by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.This article is in two parts. The first part is for employers who are unsure about the added value veterans provide -- and seeks to provide you with the key reasons why you should recruit and hire former military. The second part is for employers who know they want to hire veterans but are struggling to find them -- and seeks to provide you with key tips on how to reach out and connect with military-veteran job-seekers.
Why Employers Should Hire Veterans
Are you on the fence about hiring veterans? Perhaps you've tried, but given up because it was too hard to find them. (If so, skip to the next section.) The other most common reasons employers cite for not hiring veterans is a problem in translating military skills to civilian skills or a belief in outdated negative stereotypes about veterans. In reality, today's transitioning military vets are highly skilled, disciplined, and accustomed to following commands (while being adaptable to quickly changing situations). They are also dependable and loyal. Study after study points to very obvious transferable skills -- from military to civilian -- including:
- Critical thinking
- Work ethic
- Multicultural awareness
- Interpersonal communications
- Willingness to learn
- Working under pressure
- Respect for procedures/accountability
- Willingness/ability to learn new skills and concepts
Of course, transitioning military job-seekers also have hard skills, attained from their military experience, prior civilian work history, and any education and training completed. Finally, another perk for employers considering hiring veterans -- tax credits via the Veteran's Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which provides two types of tax credits for employers. The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides an incentive for businesses to hire unemployed veterans. The Wounded Warrior Tax Credit provides a tax credit for hiring long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities.
How Organizations Can Find, Connect, Hire Veterans
Perhaps the biggest problem is not convincing employers of the value of hiring veterans, but helping them with strategies for finding and hiring veterans. "It's not simply a matter of posting a notice that you're hiring veterans," said Russ Hovendick, a strong advocate who works with transitioning veterans and founder of Directional Motivation, a career-transition site. "Transitioning veterans, in general, are skeptical, and every organization is suspect until they prove themselves." Thus, the first step is making an organization-wide commitment to hiring and retaining veterans. From top to bottom, and across all departments, a commitment to veterans must be ingrained into the culture of the organization, and often, hiring managers and HR staff need to be trained on the intricacies of hiring veterans. In addition, other changes may need to be made, such as support services for veterans and their families, increased workplace flexibility programs, and an employee resource group (ERG) for veterans (see AT&T's group). Once this step has been completed, the next step, according to Hovendick, "is about building trust and a relationship with the veteran community. Organizations need to build visibility among veterans and veteran organizations." Hovendick cites his own organization -- which provides an array of no-cost career tools and advice for transitioning veterans -- in stating that it took more than two years to gain the trust of veterans. Once it happened, though, word quickly spread, and more vets started contacting him because of the powerful word-of-mouth from the vets he helped. How do you build trust? Become -- and state that you are -- a veteran-friendly employer. Use your organization's Website to showcase your commitment to veterans. Create a section dedicated to veterans. Share your vision and commitment, tell success stories, and showcase that the organization welcomes and actively recruits veterans. How do you reach out to veterans' groups? In just about every community across the country, countless veteran-related groups, from the American Legion to Veterans of Foreign Wars, to numerous other service-based organizations and local colleges and universities, offer programs for transitioning vets. If your organization is lucky enough to be located near a military base, try connecting directly on site. How do you find transitioning veteran job-seekers? While Hovendick says there is "no golden key for finding and recruiting veterans," employers cite a number of proven and successful strategies, including:
- Connecting with the Local One-Stop Career Center. Ask to speak with the Local Veterans Employment Representative (LVER) or the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) Specialist.
- Using VetSuccess.org. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it provides the opportunity for veterans to post their resumes, and for employers to post job openings.
- Networking and placing recruitment flyers at local veteran organizations.
- Hosting a booth at a job fair targeting transitioning military vets. Search for them on Google, or use a veteran-friendly site, such as VetJobs.com, or RecruitMilitary.com.
- Posting a job ad on a vet-specific job board. For a list, see our page, Career, Job, and Entrepreneurial Tools for Transitioning Veterans & Former Military.
- Posting job openings on your organization's career/job section. (Perhaps highlighting those vet-specific openings on your veteran-specific page/section.)
Remember to mention your veteran-friendly organizational culture in your job postings.
Final Thoughts on Recruiting and Hiring Veterans
Just do it! Studies and anecdotal evidence all point to the value of hiring military veterans. More effort may be involved in the recruiting, hiring, and acclimating process than for civilian job-seekers, but the benefits from hiring vets outweigh the effort. For more detailed tips, advice, and suggestions on hiring veterans, we recommend these four resources:
- Support from Behind the Lines: 10 Steps to Becoming a Military Ready Employer. Society for Human Resource Management.
- Ready to Serve: How and Why You Should Recruit Veterans. UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.
- Veterans Employment Toolkit. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- The Veteran's Hiring Toolkit. U.S. Department of Labor.
For more employer resources see our: A Resource Guide for Employers: Key HR Tools Related to Recruiting, Hiring, Retaining Employees.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. This article is part of Job Action Day 2013.
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