Military veterans are some of the most highly skilled and highly experienced employees and managers among the U.S. workforce. The jobs within the military are as diverse and varied as in the civilian world.
If your company is looking to tap into this vast talent pool, be mindful of it in order to implement a successful veteran hiring initiative that attracts top talent. Here are six tips to get it right:
1. Ensure top-down support.
Make sure the initiative has support of senior managers. A veteran hiring program affects the entire organization and change is not something that can be done in a silo. Veterans require distinct and ongoing support to transition into a civilian workforce culture.
Be sure everyone is on the same page, including understanding the investment and potentially longer time frames involved in hiring and onboarding veteran employees.
2. Be savvy in translating skills.
The military uses job codes with descriptions of responsibilities and duties. But most veterans do not have the civilian employee background to intuitively know how those codes translate into civilian roles.
Recruiters need to take the initiative to do some investigative work and map out the military job codes that fit the roles the company is hiring for.
3. Learn about the differences in culture.
The military operates from a very cut-and-dried, command and control culture. Requirements for job placement or promotion must be fully met.
Many veterans are not aware that civilian job requirements are often flexible and that their overall experience may count for what they lack in the requirements. Often veterans will not even apply because of assumptions about needed prerequisites.
Military culture also affects how veterans approach interviews. For example, their respect for authority may inhibit them from showing much, if any, personality in an interview and this can mislead hiring managers who take this as a sign of lack of interest or wrong cultural fit. Be sure hiring managers are trained in these cultural differences.
4. Be proactive in reaching out.
Be assertive about putting your company and the job opportunities you have before veterans. One drawback of the popularity of veteran hiring today is that the market is flooded with websites that address it but there remains a lack of a mega site, say an Indeed.com for veteran hiring.
It’s difficult for veterans to know where to start their search. Recruiters should attend job fairs, be present and talk with veterans about their military roles. Be prepared to ask questions, explain, educate and listen. Be sure to send employees and hiring managers to job fairs and not just talent-acquisition representatives. These people can talk about the real nature of a given job and help make a personal connection with veterans.
5. Don’t be scared of PTSD.
The majority of military veterans have not engaged in combat and do not have post-traumatic stress disorder. And even with those who do have it, the condition often does not preclude them from being employable. The American With Disabilities Act prevents employers from discriminating based on a disability, including PTSD.
Be aware that you cannot specifically ask veterans if they have PTSD or how their military service has affected their well-being. You can ask them if they have read the job requirements and if they are capable of meeting them.
Also, be mindful that the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act prohibits employers from asking if a veteran was honorably discharged. You can, however, ask if they have been “favorably” discharged (there are various discharge statuses that are considered favorable).
6. Provide ongoing transition support.
Adjusting from a military to civilian culture is no less intense than adjusting to a foreign culture. It takes time to unlearn habits and ways of being that drove success in the military but are not part of civilian workforce culture. Provide veteran employees with education about the accepted ways and customs of civilian employment and company culture.
Offer mentors and coaches who can help them identify the differences and learn to adapt to new expectations. Veterans can benefit from a community of fellow veterans so consider creating a group at your company.
Lastly, when you hire veterans, be prepared to have employees who work hard, are willing to go the extra mile and get along well with a diverse group of people. Many veterans have strong leadership and managerial skills and were given more fiscal and people management responsibility at younger ages than civilian workers.
Veterans have been responsible for equipment worth millions of dollars and for the lives, safety, and performance of dozens to hundreds of people. Do not be afraid to give them challenging assignments and the weight of being held accountable.