Veteran Employment Is Up. Here's How To Hire and Keep The Best

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The unemployment rate among military veterans recently dropped to its lowest level in five years. That means one thing for employers: increased competition for the best veteran talent.

On the bright side, this talent pool replenishes regularly as soldiers transition out of the military. More than 200,000 active duty service members are expected to transition to the workforce in each of the next few years.

Yet a recent study shows that veterans often feel overqualified for the jobs they’re finding in the civilian world. And that may explain why nearly half of veterans leave their first post-military job within a year.

Why Hire A Veteran

Minimizing veteran employee churn makes sense. After all, hiring veterans pays off for businesses in many ways:

Performance. In a recent survey, for example, more than 90 percent of managers said that veterans get promoted faster than nonveterans, and two-thirds said they consider veterans easier to manage.

Civic duty. In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden started the Joining Forces program to raise awareness of “the service, sacrifice, and needs of military families” in three areas: employment, education, and wellness.

Employers have rallied around former service members and their families through the program. More than 50 companies of all sizes have pledged to hire 110,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years. But the benefits of hiring a veteran go far beyond answering a patriotic call.

Diversity of viewpoints and experience. A 2015 report from Bersin by Deloitte called hiring a veteran “both the right thing to do and a smart move to make.” One of the less obvious reasons the report brings to light is that veteran employment helps with diversity and inclusion, a big push in many companies recently.

“Although many veterans may not see themselves as part of an underrepresented or marginalized group, organizations should consider including veterans in their diversity and inclusion practices,” the report suggests.

Fair Hiring Compliance Candidate Experience

Compliance. As the Bersin by Deloitte report notes, it’s illegal to discriminate against employees based on military affiliation. And federal contractors may need to take specific action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain veterans so that they make up a mandated 8% of their employees.

Skills. It’s easy to find lists of skills veterans bring with them into the workforce. VetJobs offers a comprehensive list, which points out that many veterans already have security clearances that come in handy for certain kinds of jobs.

Military.com points out veterans’ adaptability, among other skills, arising from their familiar with making decisions in “dynamic and rapidly changing circumstances.”

And all lists point out veterans’ propensity to “get it done” and their experience working in and leading teams.

Tax breaks. Employers who hire unemployed veterans may be eligible for tax credits of up to $5,600 per vet. Those who hire unemployed veterans with disabilities connected with their service may be eligible for up to $9,600 under The Wounded Warriors Tax Credit.

Resources For Employers Looking To Hire Vets

So you’re convinced you want to hire a vet. Now what?

Luckily, there’s no shortage of job boards and resources for connecting employers and veterans from military-specific sites like VetJobs to general-purpose job boards like Indeed and Monster, which offer veteran-specific resources. State job boards, veteran job fairs, and even LinkedIn offer other recruitment avenues.

With the tightening veteran labor market, though, it makes sense to tailor your recruitment efforts to appeal to veterans. And that starts with the job description.

The US Department of Labor toolkit for employers suggests including specific Military Occupational Classification codes that relate to civilian positions. This helps veterans understand the how their military training relates to your open position. You find the codes through a Military Crosswalk Search.

Other recruiting suggestions from the toolkit include:

  • Consider offering internships, apprenticeships or other alternatives to full-time employment for service members who aren’t fully transitioned to the civilian workforce.
  • Understand what you can and can’t ask during a job interview. For example, only federal agencies can ask questions related to reasons for military discharge (especially in the pre-employment phase).
  • Educate yourself about the challenges former military personnel face in adjusting to civilian work environments so that you don’t misconstrue expected military presentation for coldness or lacking interpersonal skills.

How To Keep Key Veteran Talent

Hiring veterans is only half the proverbial battle. In its overview of how veterans fare in the civilian workforce, Indeed.com cited a  perceived lack of support, which could explain why veterans move on from their first post-military jobs quickly. Only 2% of veterans in white collar jobs felt an executive at their company would advocate for them.

Monster’s advice on Do’s and Don’ts For Employers emphasizes the importance of understanding the working world from a veteran’s point of view:

  • Acquire at least a basic understanding of how the military works
  • Talk to veterans in your organization or in veteran groups
  • Learn from the many examples of companies who are already running successful veteran hiring programs

After all, the best way to honor veterans is not just to hire them, but to invest in their success. You can be pretty sure they'll have your back.   

Kim Moutsos

Kim Moutsos

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Editor in chief of the GoodHire blog The Works, Kim Moutsos seeks out the latest advice on hiring, compliance, background checks, and the future of work. When she’s not reading, writing, or wrangling other writers, she’s likely on one of her daily runs (over 777 consecutive and counting).

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