Companies across the United States have been supporting military veteran hiring initiatives for decades. The support that the post-9/11 military veterans have seen from employers is an awesome response to the attack upon the United States and her allies.
There are still some hidden best practices that employers need to adopt and follow to find, identify, and hire the finest employees that the country produces today — military veterans.
1.) Create job interviews and direct hiring at military career fairs. Military career fairs receive a great deal of coverage, and hundreds or even thousands of military veterans attend. A great way to get the best candidates is to hold job interviews and plan for direct job hiring while at career fairs. Get a jump on other companies seeking to hire veterans by hiring them before they even leave the venue.
The company can have special interview booths along with résumé-review stations to ensure that candidates are prepared to succeed. This is also an incredible way to generate free and positive media coverage by highlighting the “direct” hires at the career fair in news stories.
2.) Modify your standard hiring interviews to incorporate storytelling. One of the ongoing struggles nearly all military veterans have is trying to describe their accomplishments without feeling like they are bragging. For the employer, the challenge is being able to understand the veteran’s unique military accomplishments in a way that allows easy identification of what they specifically did to make the mission or military activity successful.
All branches of the military look down on the traditional ways of filling your interview questions answers with “I” and “me” as bragging. Instead, ask veterans to just tell a story of the mission. Provide an opportunity for the veteran to tell the background, context, purpose for the mission, and what the military veteran did. This allows veterans to discuss their achievements without sounding like braggarts — and gives the company a much better understanding of the veteran’s accomplishments.
3.) Hire military veterans and their spouses together. Companies worry about how to supply the current mix of education, salary, benefits, and challenge to retain military veterans so they do not leave for other jobs. Instead, companies should seek to hire military veterans and military spouses together, not separately. Then the company, like the military, is a trusted partner for both the military veteran and their spouse.
Very few companies do this today, and it is a great hiring advantage to find two employees that will remain together at your company. Hiring spouses together has enormous potential for companies in remote areas along with those seeking unique skill sets.
4.) Establish a leadership program for petty officers and noncommissioned officers inside your company. Petty officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) are the true unsung day-to-day heroes of the U.S. Military. Petty officers and NCOs are the military professionals that teach, train, carry out missions, create practical innovations, and solve the minute-to-minute problems that organizations need to be successful.
The business and operational leadership potential of petty officers and NCOs remains one of the largest untapped human resource opportunities that businesses are missing. Companies that hire, train, and challenge these essential, lower-level military leaders reap the benefits of great leaders that are now firmly tied to their company culture.
5.) Partner with a local state university to create a job with a four-year bachelor’s degree track. Many companies have strict policies to only hire managers into a company with a four-year degree, and that policy misses a lot of great military veterans. Pairing a job with a four-year degree path is another way to enlist great veterans and give them a benefit that they really need, a bachelor’s degree.
Many companies have strict policies to only hire managers into a company with a four-year degree, and that policy misses a lot of great military veterans.
Local state universities offer great educational outcomes, low tuition, and the benefit of large educational offerings that meet needs of both the business and the military veteran student. This is a profound way to fulfill business, IT, engineering, and cybersecurity needs with a great veteran employee.
6.) Stop believing you need only Navy SEALs for your company. The U.S. Navy SEALs have a high-quality brand and are great military professionals. However, they make up less than 0.15 percent of all U.S. military forces. Instead of looking for a SEAL, look for highly motivated soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen from all of the United States military forces, including the U.S. Coast Guard.
A female helicopter mechanic from the Navy may be the perfect fit for your organization. Instead of believing a mythical Navy SEAL is your must-have for military veteran hiring, be open to discovering a wide array of veteran skills and experiences. Companies need to not blind themselves to only one small array of veterans. Instead, companies need to open their eyes to the potential that all veterans possess for their company’s success.
7.) Create a two-month round robin of job exposure for eight to 12 months. Another way to help retain and motivate military veterans is to place them in a job “round robin” rotation. Every two to three months, rotate them to a different position to assess their skills and motivations for that part of the company.
Most military veterans have little knowledge and exposure to civilian jobs and responsibilities. Take advantage of that lack of knowledge by rotating them through different jobs to ensure they find a position that they like. The ability of veterans to try out and select the jobs that they enjoy and excel at will significantly help improve military veteran employee retention. Instead of worrying about a veteran leaving, help them find the job or jobs in your company that they truly enjoy.
8.) Establish an employee mentorship program of military vet to military vet. Mentorship remains one of the best, most cost efficient, and greatest employee engagement methods to develop and retain new employees. These mentorship programs can last several months to a year and must have weekly “check in” meetings at a minimum.
In addition, having mentors help with benefit sign-up, 401K selections, or even a “night on the town” that the company pays for all help solidify a mentor-mentee relationship and the relationship of the mentee with their new company.
Finally, the veteran-to-veteran mentorship starts to build the roots of an Employee Affinity Network (EAN) that can work to improve business skill sets along with promotability.
9.) Use military veterans as teachers/trainers in your organization. An almost unknown skill set that most military veterans possess is the ability to instruct and to teach. Companies need instructors for teaching safety and standard processes to employees, and teaching customers how best to use the company’s technology interfaces, products, and services. Putting military veterans into positions as employee and customer instructors is a profound way for a company to benefit from this hidden veteran skill set.
10.) Create specific career tracks for military veterans for their first two to three jobs. The military has a strict career path for new personnel. Showing military veterans their potential career track at a company is a terrific way to get veterans on board. Instead of hiring for a job, showing veterans a career track that includes their next two to three potential jobs will show them that your company is a career choice and not just a “job” choice. Basic career tracking for veterans shows them that your company is serious about veterans having careers at their new company.
Few companies can follow all of these initiatives for military veteran hiring. However, nearly all companies can follow several of these initiatives to improve the hiring, engagement, and retention of veterans in their new, post-military career. Never be satisfied, and constantly look to see how your company can identify, find, hire, develop, and retain military veterans to create superior results for your company and your customers.
Chad Storlie is a retired lieutenant colonel with 20-plus years of active and reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units, and an OpsLens contributor. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the U.S. and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. He is the author of two books. This OpsLens article is used by permission.