There’s no time like Veteran’s Day -- which is coming up on Nov. 11 -- to see if your hiring practices are sufficiently inclusive of job-seeking veterans. Many companies aren’t aware of the skills, background, and talent that veterans possess, and how these can be an asset to the organizations. These days, it’s more important than ever for companies to adapt and expand their hiring practices to be inclusive of this talent pool.
2021 has been a big year for companies taking the time to refine their recruitment strategies. Some of this has had to do with the coronavirus pandemic, but an increasing number of Baby Boomers are also retiring, which has contributed to the number of available positions everywhere. While it’s always prudent to keep your recruitment practices up-to-date, it’s crucial to create strategies that are inclusive of all viable candidates -- with a specific focus for this article on veteran talent.
Here, we’ll discuss recent veteran hiring statistics, hiring recommendations, top industries for veterans, why it’s important for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) strategies, and best practices for getting the word out to veterans.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor (DOL), in September 2021, the veteran unemployment rate was 3.9%, up from 3.8% in August. The comparable non-veteran unemployment rate was 4.8% in September. Now, the lower unemployment rate for veterans as compared to non-veterans could be purely anecdotal, but it also could be argued that this is a function of veterans’ tenacity in finding employment and their discipline and dedication to jobs they already have. The non-seasonal jobless rate for all veterans increased to 6.5% in 2020.
Based on information released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2020, 18.5 million men and women were veterans, accounting for about 7% of the civilian population 18 and over. Unemployment rates for both male and female veterans increased. The rate for male veterans was 6.5%, slightly less than that for female veterans at 6.7%. The BLS also reported that unemployment rates for White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic veterans were lower than that of their non-veteran counterparts.
Thus, the September 2021 statistics reported by the DOL could represent a positive trend as regards the unemployment rate for veterans.
Why Hire Veterans?
There are many reasons why recruiting veteran talent is a great idea for businesses.
- Leadership is ingrained in veterans. From the moment they enter the military, veterans learn leadership skills and how to put them into practice.
- Veterans are accustomed to operating and cooperating within an orderly hierarchy -- which nearly all business structures.
- Veterans understand responsibility. Responsibility is a key to success in the military, just like in business.
- The military teaches service personnel how to be intuitive, which can be extremely valuable in many aspects of business.
- Veterans respond well to training, because in the military, they did it all the time. A veteran can get the job done in any environment in which they’re trained to succeed.
- Veterans have a worldly perspective. They come from diverse backgrounds and are often well-traveled as a result of their time in the military, making them more aware of and sensitive to issues related to diversity.
Who’s Hiring Veterans?
According to BLS statistics, the top industries for transitioning veterans in 2020 were:
- Information Technology
- Transportation & Materials
These industries that have a high demand for skilled employees, and are experiencing a surge in growth that is expected to continue through 2026.
The BLS further broke these figures down in terms of the top 5 occupations held by veterans across various industries:
Management, professional, and related occupations
Production, transportation, and material moving occupations
Sales and office occupations
Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Military.com maintains a comprehensive, real-time curated list of employers hiring veterans at every level of education and skill. The list includes companies such as:
Challenges And Barriers To Veterans
Despite the many qualities and skills that veterans possess which make them an asset to any company, there are a number of challenges and barriers that veterans typically face in the job market. Chief among these are issues with skills translation. What this means is that it can be difficult for a veteran to determine how the skills they acquired in the military have qualified them for a job in the private sector. In the armed services, Military Occupational Codes (MOCs) are used to classify the various skill sets used, and these are very different from the titles and job descriptions typically used in the civilian job market. This often results in a sort of “language barrier” in translating military skills into civilian workplace skills.
Preconceptions and prejudices also factor prominently in the barriers to employment that veterans face. Since the post-Vietnam War era, certain stigmas and stereotypes have come about which center around mental health issues. Unfortunately, these often give rise to a reluctance among employers in hiring veterans, the assumption being that all veterans have some sort of mental health issues.
While it is true that some veterans do have service-related mental health issues and/or physical disabilities, these do not represent a compromised ability to perform on a candidate’s part. Thus, such veterans should not be summarily excluded from consideration for any form of employment.
Best Practices For Recruiting Veterans
Here, we’ve included some best practices for veteran talent acquisition. These are based on market factors, changing demographics, and how technology continues to transform the landscape regarding employment.
Military Skills Translation
Back in 1998, the Department of Labor started a campaign to provide veterans with digital Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) translation that would help connect them to civilian jobs based on skills they’d acquired in the military. Obviously, these digital solutions have undergone numerous iterations since then. Today, there are military skills translators that have been specifically designed for the purpose of translating those MOCs into civilian job advertisements and descriptions. Some of these can be found on websites such as YourJobPath.com and Military.com. Additionally, some companies have built their own military skills translators into their careers site pages and internal job search engines.
Job Boards And Career Events
Veteran-specific job boards and career events are among the best ways to get in front of veterans, because you get to meet them where they are. A lot of veterans start their civilian job searches by searching veteran-specific job boards and attending related job fairs. It makes sense, because employers who have taken the time to engage these resources are more likely to be veteran-friendly and have opportunities that fit their military backgrounds.
Some of the websites catering to veterans seeking employment include:
These days, many veterans are active on social media platforms. Additionally, many companies have become heavily invested in promoting and publicizing most of what they do on social media. Dedicated social media campaigns highlighting your company’s efforts to recruit veterans and your desire to attract military talent should be a key part of your talent acquisition strategy. Most social media resources now carry sponsored ads that you can tailor to attract veterans seeking jobs.
Some employers have created short videos for YouTube highlighting their passion for hiring veterans. Many of these videos feature veterans they employ, discussing why they work there, the opportunities they've enjoyed, and advice for veterans considering the company as an employer.
When engaging social media in your veteran recruiting efforts, be sure to tag posts, videos and any other media with relevant hashtags (i.e., #veterans #veteranemployer #veteranhiring, #militaryfriendly), as the algorithms on the back end of social media platforms use these to funnel material to users who want to see it. Finally, make sure that all of your social media posts are relatable and include a call to action.
Communities of veterans are known for being tightly-knit and loyal to each other. Of course, their sense of loyalty can be one of the more attractive assets they bring to your organization, but it can also be a big help in your recruitment process. Veterans are typically eager to help their brothers and sisters in arms in many areas, and that includes helping one another find employment when needed.
Your veteran employees should be made aware of your veteran recruitment efforts on an ongoing basis, and of any new initiatives that you implement in this area. Through memos, emails and other media, you can encourage your veteran employees to share any job opportunities your company is currently offering.
Inclusion In DEIB Initiatives
Demographics, social sensibilities, and modes of communication have changed significantly in recent years, so it’s important for companies to make sure their recruiting policies are up-to-date in this respect, as well as inclusive of everyone in the available talent pool.
This is a chief reason why Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) initiatives have become integral to most companies, workplaces and in recruiting practices. Diverse groups often represent different sensibilities and communicate differently than we saw in workplaces 20 or 30 years ago. This should be considered not only for reasons of parity, but because it makes good business sense.
Veterans are by definition a distinct subset of the workforce and, in some cases, may be members of other diverse groups. Companies need to strategically think about how inclusive their recruiting plans are, with a special focus on veteran hiring practices. Therefore, a customized diversity plan remains essential for any organization.
Sourcing, hiring, and retaining veteran talent does not have to be a high-cost proposition, nor does it have to be overly complicated. Training recruiting teams about the unique attributes veterans possess, their experience and value, realigning recruiting efforts to target the veteran applicant and building in systems to grow veteran employees can provide highly worthwhile returns. If you’d like to discuss refining your recruitment strategies to address veteran hiring, feel free to reach out to us!