More than half of U.S. businesses don’t have formal programs in place to hire military veterans, and unemployment among veterans is still higher than in the general population. That’s an opportunity for savvy employers who understand that hiring veterans is a smart move.
Despite research that shows that military veterans are more productive and have less turnover than others, biases persist that are roadblocks to hiring vets. If your company is not actively pursuing veterans to join your workforce, hiring managers might need to overcome barriers like these:
“I can’t tell what they did from their resume.” The military has over 7,000 jobs across more than 100 functional areas. Most of these jobs have a direct equivalent in the civilian job force. Hiring managers need to understand what skills they’re looking for in order to understand how a veteran’s experience might fit. It might be more work for the hiring manager, but if you can uncover fresh talent in the market, won’t that be worth it?
“They don’t have the experience we need.” Are you sure? What questions did you ask? Asking directly about a veteran’s customer service experience, for example, may elicit a brief and unsatisfying response. Asking how they solved problems for teammates may tell a different story about their customer service-related crossover skills. Hiring managers increasingly need strong interviewing skills to get the most out of interviews with veterans, who typically don’t brag about their accomplishments. The need for stronger interviewing skills comes into play when recruiting other non-traditional candidates like career changers and early career professionals. Employers just need to get better at interviewing.
“I need someone who can lead, not just take orders.” This persistent stereotype has deterred some hiring managers from considering veterans. In actuality, the military provides leadership experience and great responsibility at a young age. For example, the average age of a Marine is 19. At 20, most Marines become non-commissioned officers who are placed in leadership positions. In the military, leadership training includes learning how to foster cultural inclusion, motivating a diverse workforce, solving complex problems, and accomplishing goals – all under stressful conditions.
“I don’t want to deal with PTSD.” While combat-related PTSD is a serious issue, it’s important to keep it in perspective; only 2% of veterans will be impacted by PTSD.
On the other hand, here are five reasons why hiring a veteran could positively impact your company and your culture:
- Veterans are adaptable. While on active duty, military men and women deal with varied circumstances that require versatility. Veterans have often traveled, worked for diverse bosses, learned different cultures, and faced adverse situations.
- Veterans take their responsibilities seriously. At a young age, military people learn that there are serious consequences to their decisions – sometimes involving life or death. Veterans have faced trials that most people haven’t, and as a result they learn to be responsible individuals.
- Veterans are loyal. While many workers jump to a new job every year, the military takes a multi-year commitment. With the high cost of hiring and training, a veteran could prove to be the best choice.
- Veterans truly understand teamwork. Their lives may depend on how well they work together. Increasingly, managers recognize the need to hire not only smart, talented people, but those who work well in teams and are dedicated to something larger than a paycheck.
- Veterans have learned resilience. Resilient people bounce back in the face of failure and setbacks; they don’t crack under pressure. Veterans have developed courage in the face of fear, which will help them face up to challenges at work.
Examples of veterans living out those principles are abundant in the work world. One example is well-known businessman and philanthropist Bob Parsons, who enlisted in the Marines in 1968. He credits that experience for his extraordinary success: “I graduated magna cum laude in college after the military. I would have never done that without the Marine Corps. I taught myself how to program a computer. I would have never done that without the Marine Corps. Everything I’ve ever done I owe to the Marine Corps.”
As we observe Veteran’s Day, consider how your staffing challenges might be solved by hiring veterans. One way to improve or increase your veteran recruiting efforts is by participating in BestCompaniesAZ’s Annual Military Career Event. Learn more here.
About the Author
Lee Vikre – Hiring Jedi
A workplace culture maven, writer, and speaker, Lee Vikre has helped numerous companies develop “best company” cultures, gaining recognition at the local and national level. Lee has been called the Jedi Master of hiring because of her exceptional recruiting abilities and friendships with people who love Star Wars. Her favorite activities involve matching people with their dream jobs at award-winning best companies. Lee coaches CEOs but still hasn’t been able to train her three dogs not to bark during conference calls.