6 Proven Strategies for Hiring More Veterans

November 11, 2015

Every company should strive to hire a diverse staff, as the more unique perspectives on your team, the higher chance of success. And, your diversity strategy should include hiring veterans. 

After all, they bring a unique perspective to any organization. Along with a hard working, disciplined and team-oriented mindset acquired after years of training and proven during service, veterans possess dozens of skills (tangible and intangible) that are valued by today’s employers. As put best by my colleague, Col. Adam Rocke , from the Army’s Soldier for Life office:

Veterans are trained professionals who bring with them the skills and values the military teaches: problem-solving, stress management, loyalty, ambition and more.  What is the best thing you can do for your company? Hire a Veteran. Hiring a veteran isn't just the right thing to do -- it makes good business sense. "

Here’s the challenge though: Chances are, you aren’t going to get a massive budget just to hire veterans. So how do you consistently attract, and more importantly retain, this top-tier talent without breaking the bank?

Here are six ideas any company can use to accomplish this goal. Best of all? They don’t cost very much.

1. Put ‘veteran-friendly’ in all your recruiting collateral and, if possible, build a veteran hiring microsite.

Sounds obvious, right? That said, just by putting “veteran friendly” in your recruiting collateral, like your job descriptions and on your career webpage, you are going to increase the chance of veterans applying to your company.

Of course, if you don’t come through on that promise, it is going to eventually fall onto deaf ears. But the fact is, a veteran is more likely to apply to a company that has “veteran friendly” on a job description than one that doesn’t.

Some companies even go the extra mile by building microsites on their career pages specifically designed for veterans. A great example is this veteran careers microsite by one of my partners, Marriott:

  • hiring veterans

2. Set up a veteran “buddy program” for new veteran hires.

If you plaster “veteran friendly” all over your job posts, it means you have to deliver. One of the best ways to do that is to set up a veteran’s “buddy program” for new veteran hires.

“Buddy program” means pairing each new veteran hire with a veteran who is already working at your company as a “mentor.” This relationship is meant to assist your new hire in acclimating to his/her new environment. Preferably this mentor will not be a co-worker in the same department or the new hire’s manager so that the new hire will feel comfortable conversing candidly.

The simple fact that both share the common bond of military service will allow for the new hire to ask questions about the organization he/she might not otherwise be comfortable asking. And by the way, the branch of service does not need to match (i.e. Army can talk to Navy, just not on the football field).

Have a set schedule for the two to meet, either in-person or over the phone, for about 90 days. This will organically ensure a veteran onboards smoothly into his/her new role, as they can talk through their challenges with someone who has experience going through a similar transition. This will benefit your company by increasing the retention of your veteran new hires.

An additional benefit to the creation of a “buddy program” is veteran self-identification, particularly important if OFCCP compliance is a concern for your organization. Many veterans who already work for your team will choose not to self-identify for a variety of reasons. If, however, you pair a self-identification survey with the launch of a “buddy program,” you will see an increase in volunteering veteran status as service members believe in helping each other by default.

In reality, it is smart to have a “buddy program” for all new hires at your company, not just veterans. But if veterans are a focus for your organization, a program of this sort will help in retention dramatically.

3. Have clear career progression at your company.

Veterans are used to having a very structured path to “moving up the ladder” as it relates to career advancement. In the military, there are clear objectives that need to be accomplished to move up in rank and responsibility, and it makes sense to mimic that process at your organization.

First off, this is going to make veterans more comfortable. But, more than that, it is a good idea for all employees to understand the standards that will provide advancement opportunities.

And please don’t just take my word as fact. LinkedIn’s data shows the number one reason people leave their job is for career advancement. By providing a clear path to advancement, you will retain your employees longer, veteran or civilian.

4. Train hiring managers on best practices for hiring veterans.

The fact is veterans have different resumes and often speak a different language than the average candidate (learn more about that in my previous article here). By training your hiring managers to really know how to read a veteran’s resume and to ask the right questions, you avoid an unconscious bias against them that often exists in the hiring process.

5. Offer scheduling flexibility.

Many veterans have to go to VA (Veteran’s Administration) appointments that are rigidly scheduled. By offering your veteran employees flexible schedules, you ensure your veterans can make those appointments, without having to take time off of work. Little thought of but extremely valuable in the mind of our heroes who need to see the VA for continued care.

Again, this falls under the category of good for everyone, not just veterans. A flexible work schedule is one of the best ways to retain top talent, so a worthy investment that will be particularly appreciated by former members of the armed forces.

6. Reach out to local veteran groups.

In the United States, the Department of Labor has someone responsible for getting veterans hired in every state in the union at our American Job Centers. Specifically, you are looking for the DVOP/LVER who are state employees who’s mission is to assist local veterans in securing employment.

Other resources include Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs), job fairs held by multiple organizations such as my partner, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes, local representatives and more that are committed to getting veterans hired. Plug in with these organizations and let them know you want to hire a veteran. 

That word-of-mouth alone will go a long way to getting more veteran applications and ultimately more veteran employees.

Tying it all together

Looking over the list, the fact is veterans are often looking for the same things other employees want; a clear career path and to know they’re wanted. Doesn’t sound too different from any other population, huh?

Incorporating these six changes won’t cost a lot of money. And, not only will they ensure your company is bringing in more veteran talent, you’ll be more attractive to other prospects as well, and ultimately build a stronger company overall.

*Image from The U.S. Army

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