Q: My small company recently set up a veteran hiring initiative, tied to our business and branding strategy. We are getting results and veterans are expressing interest in joining our team! But our hiring goals are small: Hiring one or two veterans per year. How can we help those veterans we meet who we can't end up hiring?
A: Congratulations for making the commitment to hire our Nation's heroes, and for building a system to do so intelligently and thoughtfully. I hope your program is a great success. This is a common challenge for many employers, regardless of the hiring quotient you set. You simply can't acquire every candidate you fall in love with, but you don't want to lose touch with them in case another opportunity becomes available. When those candidates are veterans, many employers express a sense of duty to want to help even the ones they can't acquire.
There are many ways to help the veterans you can't hire, keeping them connected and engaged with your company and brand, including:
- Consider modifying your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to create a separate database of veterans who you'd love to have hired, but could not at this time. This system would encourage an ongoing relationship with candidates who aren't immediately hired, and permits information sharing in both directions: You can alert the candidate about events and resources they might value, and they can update their employment status or interest in the company. One client of mine uses this system and has found internal cross-functional teams regularly secure contract resources from the database of veterans who been vetted and who have expressed interest in the company, but weren't immediately hired. This modified ATS database also allows you to nurture their interest in the company, keep them updated about opportunities, and provide additional resources and tools to them as they move through the candidate process.
- Set up a community event in your company name, engaging both your employees and the candidates who impressed you but weren't hired. You could offer on-site coaching, networking, and training to showcase the values of your company. Companies that have successfully done this say that not only does it create a positive impression amongst the veterans, but their civilian employees learn a great deal by interacting with former military service members.
- As an alternative to #2, you might partner up with a community-based or veteran serving organization in your area. Sponsoring their events is great, but you also have a chance to interact with their constituents, sharing expertise, insights, tools and resources these veterans might not be aware of. As your company builds its profile as a partner, you can extend the invitation to participate to veterans in your network who, again, applied for work and were not hired.
- Offer a mentoring program to veterans. In highly competitive industries and companies, the number of applications for open positions is often disproportionate. This creates opportunity for your company to build or enhance a mentoring program for veterans who come through your system. It's possible these candidates could take the learning they gain from your company and work for your competitor, but the net benefit is that you helped a veteran gain employment. That's a win for everyone.
- Consider formalizing an internship program. Internships are great options for candidates who don't make the hiring cut or aren't ready to join your team. Learn more about internships here.
- Give money to a non-profit that supports veterans. While it may not feel as "hands on" as mentoring a veteran, providing financial resources to organizations that serve many veterans is worthwhile and very needed.
- Create or find an opportunity to sit and talk to a veteran. There are groups across the U.S. right now developing events where veterans can gather and have a conversation with civilians. Whether these are veterans of Vietnam era conflicts or Post 911 veterans, they are human beings who sometimes miss just having a conversation with another person. Consider encouraging your staff to explore these opportunities as well.
I admire your desire to help those you can't hire, and hope this short list provides some ideas for you to begin to explore!
About Lida Citroën
Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at www.YourNextMissionBook.com and on Amazon.