How to Take a Tactical Approach to Veteran Hiring

By Pamela Babcock February 21, 2017
How to Take a Tactical Approach to Veteran Hiring

NEW YORK CITY—Former military members often face a difficult transition to civilian life. Companies seeking to hire veterans struggle with identifying skills and integrating veteran employees into the workforce. But with a little understanding and mentoring, both sides can benefit, speakers at HIREconf NYC, a recruiting conference, said recently.

HR professionals who want to launch a veteran hiring program should find an executive sponsor deeply committed to veteran hiring, said Eddie Dunn, director of military and veterans affairs at professional services firm Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. Enlist a core team of veterans to create an awareness campaign that relies on storytelling because executives "love the story of the veteran," added Dunn, who is an 82nd Airborne U.S. Army veteran now working in organizational development.

Why hire a veteran? The military instills traits such as being punctual taking direction; and being values-driven, loyal, hardworking and natural leaders with team-building skills.

"They bring a lot of great qualities that are exactly what you are looking for in a candidate," said Jo Weech, who helps transitioning military service members find jobs in her role as chief people officer for Anthem Engineering, a Washington, D.C.-area software engineering firm.

Show Leadership the Link to the Bottom Line

Evan Guzman, head of military programs and veteran affairs for Verizon, advised HR launching new programs to make a strong business case about how increasing the number of veteran employees can result in increased quality of hire, which can save money and even boost brand loyalty.

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He noted that a 2015 survey from marketing firm For Momentum reported that 88 percent of consumers surveyed said they believe organizations should support military causes, and 87 percent said they would support brands that support military causes. Michele Egan Sterne, vice president of For Momentum, said the statistics were derived from a national public opinion survey with 1,000 respondents.

Today, Verizon's engagement with veterans has spilled over into marketing and business engagement "in ways I didn't even think possible," Guzman added. While Guzman himself isn't a veteran, his team comprises veterans who represent every major branch of service.

It's critical that recruiters and HR professionals understand military skill sets and how these skills translate to the industry they are working in. At Verizon, about 85 percent of military job specialty codes have been converted to a similar or direct civilian counterpart so hiring managers can have a better understanding of a veteran's skills and work history.

Verizon has 16 recruiters who focus solely on military hiring 50 percent to 100 percent of the time and more than 450 total recruiters across the company, according to Eric Wilkens, a company spokesman.

Over the years, both Verizon and Marsh & McLennan have won numerous accolades for their veteran hiring initiatives.

Other Ways to Hire and Retain Vets

Panelists offered other tactical takeaways for veteran hiring:

Get connected. Work near a military installation? Contact the U.S. Department of Labor Transition Assistance Program local director or the Military Officers Association of America. Both often tweet information about support or transition meetings, Weech said.

Try to identify with the military culture. Check biases and don't make assumptions about veterans. Educate recruiters to better understand veteran resumes or to identify possible reasons for gaps. Enlist other veterans in your organization to help.

Don't just be military-friendly, be military-ready. Verizon has a dedicated military careers site and skills matcher tool that matches military jobs to Verizon careers. Its website has a list of recruiter contacts. The company also has a proactive veterans' employee resource group and recently created an intranet where veterans can create a profile and self-identify to locate other veterans who work at the company.

Make sure veterans feel a sense of belonging so they'll want to stay. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the veteran unemployment rate in January was 4.5 percent, compared to the nonveteran jobless rate of 5 percent. But retention is still important.

Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.

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