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How to hire veterans

Adaptability. Teamwork. Quick thinking and discipline. These are sought-after attributes in job candidates and most military veterans have them all. So why not try to actively attract veterans to make better hires?

Nikoletta Bika
Nikoletta Bika

Nikoletta holds an MSc in HR management and has written extensively about all things HR and recruiting.

How to hire veterans

To help you determine where to look for these candidates and how to market your company as veteran-friendly, here’s our guide on how to hire veterans:

Create a hiring strategy

Skills involved in military service go far beyond combat training. Depending on their role, veterans may be skilled in computer repair, operating machinery, recruiting personnel or managing supply chains. Or they might be military doctors or engineers. Yet, hiring teams are sometimes unaware that military experience is relevant to civilian jobs. This might get accentuated by veterans’ lack of training on how to present their transferable skills in their resumes.

How do you bridge this gap? Here are a few ideas to start you off:

  • Partner with organizations and use online resources. For example, explore the directory of Veteran Employment Representatives by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS). Through this site, you can find an expert in your state οr nationwide and email them directly to ask for guidance. Also, look for local organizations that support veterans, like the Disabled American Veterans, Hiring Our Heroes and CareerOneStop. Reach out to a representative and ask them to coach your recruiters and hiring managers on how to look beyond the – often imperfect – resumes of veterans and how to evaluate their skills effectively.
  • Set measurable goals and decide on tactics. This is fitting military lingo – formulating a targeted hiring and retention program can help you recruit veteran candidates in a systematic way. For example, BAE Systems, an international defence, security and aerospace company, has set monthly hiring goals and focuses on hiring women veterans through its branded Warrior Integration Program. You don’t have to start big, but having a structured approach to veteran employment programs is a good idea.

Be a veteran-friendly employer

Here’s how you can encourage veterans to apply at your company and help them thrive in your workplace:

  • Consider creating veteran mentoring or support groups. These initiatives are important factors for veterans who’re looking for a job, according to Monster’s survey. Starting an apprenticeship for veterans is also a good option.
  • Ensure you can accommodate veterans with disabilities. Some service members might have suffered injuries. Advocate for alterations to make your offices more accessible, (like installing a ramp or elevator) or offer remote work options.
  • Think about the benefits you could offer. For example, what does your medical insurance cover? If it includes mental health services, it might be an extra incentive for veterans who battle post-service disorders.

Where to post veteran job listings

Posting job ads that reach your target audience brings you in front of qualified job seekers and helps you hire faster. Here are a few places where companies that hire veterans in the U.S. advertise their open roles:

When creating your job ad for posting to one of these sites, it’s important to be aware of your audience. Personalize your job ad to appeal to veterans:

  • Provide a clear description of the role. Veterans might not be familiar with what a civilian job entails.
  • Explain your mission. Candidates who’ve served in the military will appreciate having a purpose.
  • Mention coaching opportunities. Veterans are used to working in team environments and value mentorship.
  • Share your company’s veteran hiring programs or initiatives. They’ll give an extra motive to candidates who are considering to apply.

Job boards often have candidate databases you can look through too. When you find candidates who match your criteria, send them a sourcing email to build a relationship and see whether they’d be interested in working with your company.

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Show veterans that you want to hire them

Use social media to encourage veterans to apply to your jobs. For example, you could advertise a job opening on Twitter using hashtags like:

Similarly, you might find Facebook useful for this purpose through groups like:

If you’ve already hired one or more veterans, you could ask them to share their experience on your site or social media accounts. For example, JPMorgan Chase & Co. has created a series of videos where existing employees explain how they use their military skills in their jobs. Here’s one of those videos:

Attend career fairs

Attending job fairs for veterans is a good opportunity to connect with lots of candidates in person. This will help you build your brand as an employer that supports veterans.

Many job boards for veterans host relevant career fairs, so you could ask a representative to let you know when these are happening. Also, reach out to organizations that support veterans to register to upcoming career fairs. For example, check out scheduled job fairs by the Disabled American Veterans, Recruit Military and JobZone.

When participating in job fairs, it’s important that your attending employees are familiar with military roles. Also, if you’re already employing veterans, invite them to come with you to talk to candidates about their experiences in your workplace.

Evaluate veterans’ skills effectively

When interviewing veterans over the phone or in-person, assess their transferable skills – just like you do with other candidates. You could also ask specifically about skills they gained while in service. Since they might not be familiar with traditional interview questions like ‘what’s your greatest weakness’, opt for behavioral or situational questions instead. (It’s best to avoid asking them about experiences in the battlefield. Questions focused on their day-to-day duties in the military are preferable).

Here are some sample questions to ask veteran candidates:

  • How will your military training help you do this job?
  • Communication skills are very important in this role. How did you hone these skills during your service?
  • What other soft skills did you gain in the army/ marine corps/ etc. that you can use in this job?
  • Describe a time when you had to make a quick decision/solve a problem for your team.

Use a structured interview process, where you ask all candidates the same questions for more objective decisions. Aim to keep in touch with candidates you didn’t hire – they may be the best people for future roles. And, maintain good relationships with organizations that support veterans to keep hiring qualified people and establish your company as a veteran-friendly employer.

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