The Recruitment, Hiring, Retention and Engagement of Military Veterans

Veteran candidates and employees have military service backgrounds that are vastly different from ca...

Posted by Lisa Farrell, Marketing Manager on April 20 2015
Lisa Farrell, Marketing Manager

Veteran candidates and employees have military service backgrounds that are vastly different from candidates from the private sector, but that doesn’t mean that veteran employees’ skills and experiences can’t be translated into roles at your company.

“In the military, veterans must constantly solve problems as they arise and are extremely resilient, displaying leadership skills and teamwork,” says Allison Herbst, director of administration and culture at Hire Heroes USA. “[These are] all valuable skills necessary to succeed in the civilian sector.”

Here’s how to set your company up for the recruitment, hiring, retention and engagement of military veterans.

Attract Vetetan Candidates

Make it clear that your company hires — and values — veteran employees. “Employers need to be intentional about attracting veterans,” says Launia Terry, a diversity, equity and inclusion leader and career-readiness instructor at FourBlock. Companies can showcase their commitment to hiring veterans through the messaging and imagery they include on their career sites and social channels. If you have veteran employees, highlight their stories and their successful transitions from military to civilian jobs at your company.

“Highlight how the company is veteran-ready, not just veteran-friendly,” Terry continues. Veteran-ready organizations have a better sense of how the military lifestyle translates to organizational culture. Advertise the training and programs you offer to help veteran talent acclimate to roles at your company. Lay out the potential jobs and career tracks that align with military skills and talents.

Finally, to attract veteran applications, make it clear how your corporate values align with those espoused in the military, Terry suggests. Making that connection can help veteran candidates feel like they could be at home in your company. 

Design a Veteran-Friendly Hiring Process

Candidates transitioning from military work to the private sector may have trouble with the hiring process. The terms used in military service aren’t always the same terms used in the private sector, which can cause confusion or make veteran candidates feel like they’re at a disadvantage. 

To mitigate this challenge, invite veterans among your employees to help candidates prepare for their interviews. Train all recruiters and hiring managers to recognize and interpret military terminology so they can assess each candidate’s credentials and experiences more effectively. Revise your job descriptions to use language that allows veterans to easily translate their skills into a civilian context. Consider adding a skills translator to your applicant tracking system. In interviews, ask questions about experiences rather than titles. 

Consider alternative hiring models, too, such as internship or returnship programs. “Companies should set up both internships and a veteran training program to recruit new hires,” Herbst says. “Oftentimes, all a newly separated service member needs is to be given an opportunity to use their experience in the corporate sector, and a training program can be that bridge to employment.”

Assessments that give veteran candidates an opportunity to showcase their job-related skills can also improve the experience.

Develop a Veteran-Inclusive Culture

Revise your policies to be veteran-friendly, especially policies and processes regarding leave for active-duty employees. “Companies must be flexible and ready to adjust for leaves for short-term military drills, annual training events and deployments of all types for their National Guard and Reserve staff,” Herbst says. Train managers to help veteran employees manage their workloads ahead of their leave. 

Develop programs to help veteran employees continue transitioning their experiences in the military to on-the-job scenarios. Oftentimes, these can align with cultural values, too. Many veterans are used to tight relationships with their peers that are forged under pressure. “Veterans are looking for that sense of camaraderie,” Terry says. Mentorship programs can help employees acclimate and provide much-needed fellowship.

A veterans employee resource group (ERG) provides a support network and gives veteran employees a voice. If you have veteran employees but don’t yet have an ERG, start by explaining your vision for the group. Then, ask employees who are veterans, military spouses or people who grew up in military households if they would be willing to help develop an ERG to support veterans.

Engage Veteran Talent With Opportunities for Advancement

Military veterans tend to make good candidates for leadership positions. In fact, veterans are 39% more likely than their civilian peers to move into a leadership role within their first three years of employment, LinkedIn reports. Provide training opportunities for advancing veteran skill sets in the context of civilian employment.

But don’t shoehorn veteran employees into leadership roles or jobs aligned with their experiences. Give them opportunities to explore other abilities and opportunities within the company. Cross-functional teams can provide exposure to alternate career paths, while upskilling, reskilling, and learning and development programs empower veteran employees to achieve their goals.

Acknowledge the Benefits Veterans Bring to Your Workforce

Veteran employment brings distinct advantages to the private sector in the form of enhanced skills, talent and commitment. But veterans may not, on their own, see the benefits they confer. Make it a point to recognize the gifts veteran employees bring to your company. “They need to understand their value to the organization,” Terry says. 

By acknowledging the work that veteran employees do, you can support a smoother transition to meaningful civilian work.


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