5 Tips for Employers Who Want to Attract Veteran Talent

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(U.S. Navy/Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Justin Pacheco)

Civilians have a lot of thoughts about military personnel. Some of these thoughts are positive, others are negative and still many may be based on years of news media, movies and television shows taking creative license with veteran characters.

Those same sources give military members some pretty strong misconceptions about the civilian working world, too. These misguided views of a business or industry may be keeping veterans from even considering them.

In “Military Veteran Employment: A Guide for the Data-Driven Leader,” authors Nathan Ainspan and Kristin Saboe wrote and compiled chapters designed to help show employers why hiring veterans is in their best interest.

A chapter written by Eric Eversole, a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of Hiring Our Heroes, talks about who makes up the U.S. military and how employers can work to attract vets while dispelling veteran misconceptions.

1. Sell Your Industry to Veterans

There’s a good chance that young veterans may not know much about what your business or industry does. Moreover, they probably don’t know what a future career in your industry could mean for them or what opportunities exist in the field.

Many service members come from a middle-class, middle-income background. Many joined at a relatively young age with little experience in the working civilian world. It’s important to reach out to this untapped talent pool to ensure they understand what your area of the job market can offer.

2. Train People to Understand the Military

A lot of civilians have had little to no contact with the military. Even when they have experience with the military-veteran community, it’s hard to tell how much they know or understand about the lifestyle, culture or anything else that comes with military life.

Recruiters and hiring managers would be well-served by learning certain things about military culture, rank and the structure of the military (which is also laid out in the book, “Military Veteran Employment: A Guide for the Data-Driven Leader”). Bridging that knowledge gap can affect the ability to hire and retain veterans significantly, Eversole writes.

3. Provide Mentoring and Networking Opportunities

The most successful and veteran-friendly companies will give hired vets the chance to learn from knowledgeable sources within their company or industry. This is critical in the development of the veteran, not just for their duration at the company, but for the rest of their career.

A mentor can help newly separated veterans understand what their near- and long-term opportunities are at any given point in their career. Networking opportunities allow veterans to grow within a group and give them a sense of the community they need to thrive.

4. Manage Veteran Expectations

Just as the military would not take a 20-year corporate executive into the military as a full-bird colonel, separating veterans entering the civilian world should not expect to jump right into their new lives at the same level they worked in the military. It does happen, however, and more often, veterans will decline a good position thinking they should be hired at that level.

Companies, Eversole writes, should be honest with potential veteran employees about why they should be hired at the level for which they’re being considered. At the same time, the company can create realistic expectations about promotion opportunities and tell vets how they can succeed in the business.

5. Don’t Forget Non-Veteran Employees

When your company shifts its focus to attracting veteran talent and accommodating that talent to best foster its abilities in the future, non-veteran employees may start to see undeserved preferential treatment.

A little communication is all that’s needed in this situation. Companies should take time to explain to their entire workforce about their plan to hire and retain veterans and why the plan is good for the company as a whole.

Military Veteran Employment: A Guide for the Data-Driven Leader” is available wherever books are sold, in digital and print formats.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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