Help wanted – how to hire a veteran

The Problem

Unemployment has been a constant topic of discussion in the political sphere, with both presidential candidates discussing how they will fix the problem if given a chance. Individuals in differing sectors of the civilian workforce are searching for new employment, and among these job seekers are veterans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in August 2012 the overall veteran unemployment rate was 6.6 percent. This equates to 720,000 veterans, a decrease of 32,000 from July. The military spouse unemployment rate, which is at 28 percent, is even more shocking. However, the greatest concern is for veterans in the 18 to 24 year-old age group, where the unemployment rate is 19.9 percent, approximately 45,000 veterans. Compared to the 15.6 percent unemployment rate for the civilian counterpart, veterans still are placed in a predicament as they transition from the military to civilian workforce.

Many veterans face obstacles that their civilian counterparts do not have to overcome. One reason younger veterans remain unemployed is largely due to these individuals belonging to National Guard and Reserve units. These troops could be deployed for six months to more than a year, leaving companies without an employee and often having to rely on a temporary worker. Many employers would rather hire someone who can commit long term to their company and therefore purposefully do not hire candidates who are connected to the National Guard or Reserve.

Another obstacle is the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. While talking about this condition allows veterans and service members to seek help, the civilian workforce continues to view PTSD as an unwanted workplace risk. Believing all veterans are ticking time bombs and unstable, employers shy away from hiring them. While PTSD is a legitimate condition that many veterans deal with on a daily basis, it normally does not hinder a veteran’s work performance or commitment to accomplishing goals within a company. However, employers remain in the dark about the truth behind PTSD, relying only on film and media depictions, and therefore turn away qualified veteran candidates.

A third obstacle that is cited by employers as a reason why veterans are not hired is the inability of applicants to translate military skills into terms civilian employers can understand. Service members are accustomed to supervisors understanding military acronyms and deducting what skills and qualifications are reflected with rank promotions and awards. However, employers and companies in corporate America are at a loss when words like “MOS” and “MRAP” appear on a resume. Breaking down specific requirements for a promotion, such as listing “the ability to plan and coordinate training,” or “responsibility for mentoring other service members,” will resonate more with a company than just writing “promoted to Ssgt. In December 2008. ” Employers have a limited knowledge of military training, certifications, promotions, and deployment missions, and veterans must tailor their resumes accordingly if they wish to be hired.

“It was a very difficult transition to see what skills I had in the military and see how they would apply in the civilian world,” said Baskin-Robbins Senior Vice President and Brand Officer Bill Mitchell, who served in the Army for eight years as a field artillery officer. “When I talk to veterans, they underestimate their skills in planning and their skills in training, which are very applicable to corporate America.”

Employers are searching for valuable qualities that veterans innately posses, yet are not promoting during the interview process. Leadership, coordinating missions and troop movements, planning, organizing, and commitment to the mission are all skills that a veteran should be conveying to an employer by relaying their experiences in the military. Veterans often do not promote themselves, being accustomed to advertising the group and mission above one’s self. However, while in an interview the veteran must stand out from other candidates and listing expertise gained while in the military, one of the most diverse and largest organizations in the country, can accomplish this.

Read More at AmVets Magazine

By Brittany Barry

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.
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