What Do All the Best Veteran Employers Have in Common?

Veteran Employment Project - Top Employers

Here at Military.com, we care a lot about veteran employment -- and talk about it all the time. We don’t think it is enough to give you the bare basics when you are on the job hunt when you have spent your career giving us greatness.

We want to give you the specific, strategic greatness you need to find the post-military job you will love. A big part of that is identifying the top employers with a true heart for veterans.

What Makes an Employer Best for Veterans and Spouses?

I wasn’t surprised when my editor, Zach Fryer-Biggs, pinned me down in a meeting last week to quiz me about our upcoming list, the Top 25 Veteran Employers: What exactly qualifies a company as a top veteran employer?

It was a fair ask, but I was sweating it. Did he think our team was looking for corporate websites drenched in red, white and blue?

  • Did he think we expected every veteran employer to be a giant defense contractor like Lockheed Martin, Boeing or Northrop Grumman?
  • Did he want me to seek out companies with cool veteran training programs like Bass Pro Shops?
  • Were we supposed to pick only that top 2% of American companies with brand recognition like Amazon, Apple or Home Depot?
  • Honestly, did he picture us with clipboards inspecting corporate headquarters for an American flag bigger than an aircraft carrier?

None of Those Factors Define the Best Veteran Employers

After working with more than 15,000 veteran job seekers at the Veteran Employment Project, we thought we knew the factor that would make the biggest difference to veterans for the 2022 Top 25 Military Employers List: a mechanism to bridge the networking gap.

A lack of a civilian network is the biggest obstacle to getting hired at a high-paying job. Specifically, we looked for companies that demonstrated their heart for veterans with a dedicated veteran recruiting team, an internal veteran hiring program or participation in a hiring program or a public partnership like SkillBridge or Hiring Our Heroes.

But was that everything?

What Are We Missing for Top Veteran Employers in 2023?

OK, OK. We all have blind spots. I turned back to my colleagues to ask what factors they thought we should also include. Which of these do you think are essential for a Top Veteran Employer now?

Veteran Retention

Associate editor Blake Stilwell, an Air Force veteran, said we should focus on veteran retention as a top factor since more than half of all veterans leave their first jobs within two years.

“Companies with high veteran retention rates provide veterans with what they need in terms of realizing their potential, being part of a team and earning a living wage,” Stilwell said. “Companies with high veteran retention rates often have special programs, offices, officers or employee support groups designed for veterans, helping them in their first few years after the military, as well as providing fellowship and mentorship in their new lives.

“They are also more likely to support Guardsmen and reservists and focus on veteran hiring, often with a vet on the hiring team, which makes it easier to land a post-military job in the first place.”

No Security Clearance Required

Fryer-Biggs, Military.com’s managing editor for news, told me that he frequently hears rumblings from veterans who notice the top employer lists basically feature defense industry giants like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. It seems obvious those companies would naturally be motivated to hire veterans; their contracts require the security clearances that new veterans often carry with them from active duty and few civilians possess.

“What about featuring employers who have jobs that do not require an active security clearance?” Fryer-Biggs said. “It would seem that if those companies had a strong hiring program, then they were probably motivated to hire for different reasons.”

It is a good thought. The requirement on many contracts to find someone with an active clearance is often a real impediment. It would be impressive if the company displayed more faith in veterans with a lapsed security clearance. In addition to job listings with the phrase “active security clearance required,” phrases such as “must be able to attain security clearance” or “clearable” or “sponsorship available” would be a good sign of a motivated employer.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day as Paid Holidays

Social media editor Joanna Guldin-Noll, a veteran spouse, wants to know whether the business offers any additional benefits to veterans to honor their service, like allowing military certifications and skills to qualify the same way as civilian certifications.

She also mentioned having Veterans Day and Memorial Day as company holidays. Shoot, they could even offer those two days to veterans as paid holidays.

What did we miss? Can you think of a factor that clearly flags a great veteran employer -- or a terrible one? If you are a veteran, spouse, human resources professional, hiring manager or recruiter, message me on LinkedIn with your suggestions.

I’m really interested in what you have to say before we pick our list of Top 25 Veteran Employers for 2023.

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.

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Transitioning military, veterans and spouses may be qualified for the job, but they are missing the secrets of civilian hiring. Find out everything you need to know with our FREE master class series, including our next class. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.

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