Veteran Hiring Pro to Employers: Challenge Your Assumptions

Kerry-Ann Moore, left, an advisor from the Jacksonville Military Affairs and Veterans Department, shakes hands with Army Capt. Jessie Felix during a military job fair (Photo courtesy of DoD).

Ask any five employers why they hire veterans and you’ll likely get five different answers. Every company, hiring manager and team supervisor brings different goals, objectives and perceptions to the process of sourcing, hiring and developing veteran employees.

To gain insight into the employer-side of the veteran hiring process, I recently sat down with Eddie Dunn, a human resources executive and veteran, who has spent much of his corporate career designing and building some of the most successful veteran talent programs in the nation. Here, Dunn shares common assumptions employers should assess and challenge to further the success of their initiatives:

Check Your Biases Biases are the parts of your internal dialogue (in your head and heart) that honestly examine where you are and what you are willing to do. Dunn notes that over his career he has witnessed several stereotypes and perceptions about veterans, including that veterans are:

  • Not intelligent enough to do my job
  • Too rigid to do the job   
  • Not a perfect fit for corporate roles
  • At risk of deployment because he/she is in the Guard
  • Struggling with PTSD
  • Too much work to train and onboard

Not only are these perceptions incorrect, they are harmful to both the employer and the veteran candidate.

Hiring Quick vs. Hiring Better Performance and financial pressures often create competing priorities resulting in hiring someone who can hit the ground running at the expense of the long-term value of hiring a veteran with “potential.” Dunn challenges hiring managers to resist this status quo thinking and instead seek sponsorship and support from their leadership. Taking those extra couple of steps to invest in the long-term value will always pay off, Dunn says. 

Dunn provides an additional insight that if your candidate evaluation only checks 65% of the box, but the “potential” is valuable to you, leverage that new-found leadership support to close those gaps either by training or mentoring for those skills and attributes.

Leverage the Experience of Your Colleagues To better understand the military veteran candidate, seek out colleagues who have direct experience as hiring managers who have hired veterans, advises Dunn. There is nothing like first-hand experience! Learn from them and be encouraged that not only has it been done elsewhere in your organization, but see how it is worth your time and investment to strengthen your decision to hire veterans.

Dunn also suggests some out-of-the-box thinking in leveraging the experience of veteran colleagues in the interview prep.  One suggestion he offers: A week before the interview, ask your veteran colleagues to reach out to the candidate to educate them on the process, culture and “fit for the role.”  Have these veteran colleagues provide “mentoring moments” that give them insights so they achieve a level playing field for the candidate. This out-of-the-box thinking invests in the success of the veteran as they prepare for the interview.

Post-Hire Investment Once you hire your veteran, leverage the veteran colleagues you asked previously to help you prepare the candidate to now act as sponsors during the new employee’s transition into the company. Taking this high touch, high value approach demonstrates how much you care and will increase your retention of that veteran over time.

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