Which companies in the United States are truly the best employers when it comes to veteran hiring. Can you just call yourself “veteran friendly” and put a flag on your website? Or do you need to put some skin in the game?
While hunting down the contenders for our 2022 Military.com Top 25 Companies That Hire Veterans list, our team has been talking a lot about what it means to really stand out as a veteran employer. What are the things that make a difference to veterans themselves?
(If you want your company to be considered for our list, take our Top Employer Survey now.)
Veteran Friendly Is More Than a Feeling
From working with more than 10,000 members of our Veteran Employment Project community this year, we learned that it isn't enough to wave a flag. A true commitment to veteran hiring means that a company needs to have both a deep and practical understanding of veteran and spouse candidates -- then take the steps to hire them.
Here are the top 10 things we think companies do when they are really serious about veteran hiring.
1. Embrace the Truth About Hiring.
Your company probably spends a ton of money listing its open positions on a job site. Good first step. Yet we sociologists know that most people do not land their jobs by filling out an application on a website. They land their jobs through their networks.
This doesn't mean the job candidate's mom is the CEO of the company. It means that most people who get hired have a passing connection with someone who already works for the company. This is a marker employers use for trust, which is fine.
Yet this lack of a civilian network is the biggest reason why veterans have a tough time getting hired. They don't know anyone in your company because they spent 10 or 20 or 37 years defending your nation -- and that can't be overcome with a few messages on LinkedIn.
2. Install a Military Door.
To overcome this lack of a civilian network, the most successful veteran employers install what we call a “military door" in a prominent place on the company website.
A military door could be a formal veteran hiring program, a link to a veteran recruiter, a picture of a veteran and/or spouse employee, or an email address for their veteran recruiting team.
A military door simply indicates to job hunters that you have hired veterans in the past, which is an excellent predictor of future hiring behavior. It announces your willingness to accept their military service as a marker for the same kind of trust provided by a company employee.
3. Be Cool and Add a Tool.
No one expects you to hire someone just because they once served in the military. And the truth is that no veteran wants to get hired as some kind of token.
Yet veterans and spouses often apply to jobs for which they are not qualified with resumes that are full of military jargon and skills you cannot use. This is because they are learning how to apply for jobs. Our military skills translator can help with that.
Be cool and add a link on your website to our FREE Checklist Resume Master Class and our FREE Spouse Resume Master Class. The applicants will learn the skills they need to appeal to your talent acquisition team the next time.
4. Staff Veteran Recruiters -- and Treasure Them
Recruiting is an intense job, especially in this economy. When it comes to hiring qualified applicants who are also veterans, recruiters can feel like they are hunting for the elusive red, white and blue unicorn.
A dedicated veteran recruiter or veteran recruiting team puts in their 10,000 hours learning the nuances of finding and hiring the right veterans. It is a skill.
In the past year, I've interviewed some veteran recruiters who were tough, fair and so well-versed in military and company culture that they are more than subject matter experts (SMEs). They are national treasures.
5. State Your Veteran Hiring Goal.
I'm a coach, so of course I like to see companies with goals and plans to meet those goals. A publicly stated objective for hiring veterans is a tool both for the veteran job hunter and the hiring managers at your firm.
Team with us at the Veteran Employment Project, join a local coalition or reach out to one of the thousands of veterans service organizations that help transitioning military members find jobs.
6. Expect What You Inspect.
In the military, they have this saying that you can expect what you inspect. For veteran hiring, this means that you need to ask applicants to check a box if they are a military veteran or military spouse.
Whether they self-report or not, just asking the question has been shown to change your results. Asking about veteran status means that your recruiters can find those veteran applicants without a lot more work. You can also identify areas of your company in which veterans succeed. Repeating past success is always a cheap way to a win.
7. Privilege Skin in the Game.
I am a believer in accepting reality, so I know that it still feels risky for an employer to make the stretch and hire a transitioning military member.
That's why at the Veteran Employment Project, we are always telling our master class community to take certification with Onward to Opportunity, or find an internship through SkillBridge, the Department of Defense program that provides transitioning military with paid time for internship programs and training programs. (The Corporate Fellowship Program from Hiring Our Heroes is one.)
Not only is the rate of a job offer extremely high after the completion of one of these internships, but the retention rate of those employees is in the 80% range. SkillBridge is another tool that allows the service member to replace the need for a civilian network with their own work.
8. Add Some Bells and Whistles.
I must confess I am a sucker for the bells and whistles of benefits that help veterans in the first year of their employment. Military-friendly leave policies for National Guard and reservists are great. Veterans featured at the C-Suite level and veteran employee resource groups are good indicators of a workplace that wants to retain veteran hires.
9. Remind Yourself Why You Want to Hire Veterans.
I can cite chapter and verse about why diversity hiring initiatives are so important for companies. But when you are the one dealing with transitioning military members who are new to the job hunt, it can get frustrating.
That is when you want to remind yourself why you are looking for veteran hires. This is not a pity party. This is not something veterans think they are entitled to get.
Instead, military service is a marker for a certain kind of employee. Sociologists know that veterans are demonstrably different from their high school classmates from the moment they took the oath. They were all young people who believed they could show up and stick to a job for at least four years in a row. That is something.
By and large, they aren't going to ghost you when the job gets tough on the second day. They aren't going to give up when they run into a problem. They are going to adapt and overcome, because that is what they learned to do. Bring them in for an interview and ask them about it.
One of the things I do as the transition master coach for Military.com is to train teams of recruiters to find, source and hire vets (without spending a lot of extra time or money). Some of these companies have been hiring veterans and spouses for decades; others are just starting to look for veterans specifically now as part of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program.
The key to success for all of us is to persist. The more you interact with veterans, spouses and all the wonderful professionals working with them, the more you can focus on the best hiring tools that work for you and your company.
Yes, it takes time. And the one thing we know at the Veteran Employment Project is that these veterans (and spouses) are totally worth it.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
Learn More About the Veteran Employment Project
To get more tips on how to make a successful military transition, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.