How Employers Can Recruit and Retain Veterans

November 8, 2016 –

On this Election Day our sights turn to country, duty, and of course, voting. But we wouldn’t have what we do, and live under the protections that we have, if it wasn’t for our military service men and women.

To that end, military service is probably the greatest honor that any American we can bestow on the nation, but it is also a sacrifice. The trouble comes for some veterans when they try to rejoin the civilian work world. A recent report looked at the topic and arrived at a discouraging statistic: 85 percent of employed post-9/11 veterans are not completely satisfied with their current job. And, according to the iCIMS report, titled ‘America’s Heroes at Work: The Veteran Hiring Report,’ 86 percent of post-9/11 veterans spend time each week looking for a new job.

In collaboration with RecruitMilitary, the nation’s leading veteran hiring firm, the study was conducted to gain a better understanding of post-9/11 veterans’ experience and expectations while job hunting and at work, following their military experience. 

The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans has declined 1.4 percentage points from 2014 to 2015 to 5.8 percent. While the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is on the decline, the iCIMS survey reveals just how tough it continues to be for veterans to build a career in the civilian workplace – and why some employers fail to attract talented candidates with military service experience.

“The results from our survey are eye-opening, and reinforces the need for employers to focus on nurturing their veteran employees and enhance their recruitment efforts to attract veteran job seekers,” said Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at iCIMS. “Although it is encouraging to see the unemployment rates for post-9/11 veterans on the decline, our survey reveals just how tough the transition continues to be for those who are trying to build a career in the civilian workforce and why some employers are missing the mark in attracting talented candidates with experience in the military.” 

Job Hunt Challenges

When looking for a job, post-9/11 veterans might not be finding the right opportunities. In fact, 86 percent of post-9/11 veterans decided not to apply for or accept a job after leaving the military. Disappointment with the salary or benefits offered (56 percent) was the top reason, followed by believing they didn’t have enough education or training to do the job (41 percent), and reading negative reviews about the company’s culture or work environment (30 percent). 

Corporate veteran hiring initiatives and programs make a difference, but here’s some discouraging news from post-9/11 veterans: 74 percent believe it would take them longer to find a job than a non-veteran with the same level of work experience.

Many veterans expressed the fears and challenges they face during the job search process, including a perceived bias and skills gap. In fact, 41 percent of post-9/11 veterans believe hiring managers do not understand their military experience, 37 percent believe hiring managers devalue their military experience, and 36 percent believe job postings require more specialized experience than they have. 

Seeking Equity 

In the face of a perceived anti-military bias, veterans in the civilian job market may downplay their military experience. In fact, 47 percent of post-9/11 veterans have understated or excluded their military service on their resume or online job application. Among those who have understated or hidden their military experience, 44 percent were concerned their military service would negatively impact the hiring decision. 

Even after being hired, veterans can still experience a career slump. Among those who have been employed post-discharge, 59 percent of post-9/11 veterans believe they have fewer advancement opportunities than expected and 58 percent feel their work was less meaningful than their military service, and 54 percent feel overqualified for their position.

According to a recent survey of employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), leadership, strong work ethic, problem-solving skills, and ability to work in a team were among the top six skills employers seek on a candidate’s resume. 

Leadership is something that comes naturally for many veterans – and companies can tap into this if they have a strong mentorship program says the ICIMS study. In fact, 93 percent of post-9/11 veterans would be willing to serve as a mentor to a civilian employee, for example, teaching skills they learned in the military and how they can be applied to the workplace.

Forty four percent of veterans feel they have a strong work ethic, 35 percent say they have good problem-solving skills, 28 percent report they have great adaptability, 26 percent said they work well in a team environment and 24 percent report they excel in organization and discipline.   

If you’re looking for the best and the brightest veterans to join your team, keep in mind the job qualities post-9/11 veterans say would most attract them to a company: salary or employee benefits (67 percent), advancement or promotion opportunities (58 percent) and on-the-job training opportunities (32 percent). 

Where to Find Job-Seeking Veterans

General job boards such as Indeed or CareerBuilder are the most popular among job-seeking post-9/11 veterans with 61 percent looking for jobs on them, followed by government websites (45 percent) and career websites of specific companies (42 percent). While our research has shown that many jobs seekers now use social media to search for and apply to jobs, surprisingly only two percent of veterans said they use these sites to look for open jobs.

Executive recruiters can also help military personnel transition out to the civilian business community to land jobs, especially in an era of tightening labor supplies,” said Scott A. Scanlon, founding chairman and CEO of Greenwich-based Hunt Scanlon Media. “The U.S. military is a workforce similar to any other major corporation that goes through an expansion or contraction. Leveraging their human assets during times of contraction, such as now, is a strategic business move for companies looking to bolster talent reserves in areas as diverse as supply chain, cyber security and logistics to name just a few,” he said. 

What Employers Can Do to Improve

Even when companies recruit and hire veterans, they may be failing to make the most of their talents and experience. Disappointingly, 63 percent of employed post-9/11 veterans believe they use 50 percent or less of the job skills they learned in the military. This could be causing frustration and even boredom for veterans transitioning to civilian jobs. By gaining an understanding of the top skills veterans hold, employers can tap into this talent and ensure they are providing a challenging and rewarding career path. 

Employers are still missing the mark when it comes to building out great veteran hiring programs and continuing to improve them. In fact, 89 percent of post-9/11 veterans who have been employed post-discharge have never been asked by an employer or prospective employer for their feedback regarding its veteran hiring program. In order to recruit and retain veteran top talent, employers need to be asking for feedback about the application, interview, and employee onboarding processes to make sure they are not missing the mark.

Below are three tips on how to put these insights into action with technology:

1.   Monitor and Adjust Sourcing Strategies – In order to make an organization more visible, employers should regularly use multiple channels to discover which sources are most effective. Employers can make open positions easy to discover by advertising where candidates are looking, such as government websites or veteran job boards. Dedicated talent acquisition technology helps companies more effectively build candidate pipelines with automation and ease. Companies of all sizes can explore and test candidate outreach channels to attract more candidates and reduce their time to fill. Employers should partner with a technology provider that allows for a seamless flow of information from multiple vendors into a single talent acquisition system of record.

2.   Encourage Employee Referrals – Leverage your existing veteran employees’ networks and encourage them to refer others to your open positions. Part of the reason employee referrals are considered so successful by employers is because they are effective at attracting talent that easily fits into a company’s existing culture. By capitalizing on employee networks, companies can enhance their ability to compete for veteran talent.

3.   Promote Your Employment Brand – In order to market your organization as an employer of choice for veterans, companies need to build their employment brand in the military community. Allow candidates to sign up for email communications and automate the process with a recruitment marketing tool. Produce veteran facing recruitment marketing email campaigns that highlight the veterans who work in your organization and what they have accomplished while working for you. Address why your company is interested in recruiting veterans and clearly outline how a military background is a good fit for your open positions.

“It is evident that there is a disconnect and a lack of understanding between veterans and employers,” Ms. Vitale concluded. “Our servicemen and women, who have received some of the most sophisticated training and experience and have made extreme sacrifices for our country, are having trouble gaining job security, stability, and a sense of purpose as civilian workers. By gaining more awareness of the top skills veterans hold, employers will be more equipped to tap into this talent and create mutually beneficial relationships with candidates who have served.”

Employers That Are Doing It Right

According to MilitaryTimes, the top five employers for veterans in 2016 were Verizon, Union Pacific Railroad, USAA, PwC, and BAE Systems.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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