The Employer's Guide to Veteran Recruiting

The Employer's Guide to Veteran Recruiting

Veteran’s Day is a great time for businesses to re-evaluate their hiring practices to see if they are sufficiently inclusive of veteran talent. Veterans are an indispensible, unique, and gifted talent source that no organization can afford to miss out on.

In this article, you’ll see the most recent veteran hiring statistics, reasons why companies should hire veteran talent, how to showcase your military-friendly employer brand and best practices to hire veteran talent. By implementing these strategies, you will attract more skilled and talented veteran candidates.

Statistics on Veteran Employment

The unemployment rate for veterans who have served since September 2001 rose to 7.3% in 2020, while the jobless rate for all veterans increased to 6.5%. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these increases reflect the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the labor market as well as other factors.

Among the 2020 data highlighted by BLS:

  • 18.5 million men and women were veterans, accounting for about 7% of the civilian population age 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%.
  • Unemployment rates for White, Black, Asian and Hispanic veterans were lower than that of their nonveteran counterparts.
  • The unemployment rate of veterans with a service-connected disability (at 6.2%) did not reflect a statistically significant change.
  • The unemployment rate of veterans varied across the country, ranging from 2.7% in Nebraska to 11.3% in Michigan.

In March of this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reported that on a single night in January 2020, 37,252 veterans were experiencing homelessness across the U.S., reflecting 8% of all homeless adults. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness increased by less than 1%.


Benefits of Recruiting Veterans

Why should your organization hire veterans? First and foremost, veterans represent a huge talent pool of highly-skilled, highly-trained people.

Veterans possess skills and qualities that can benefit any employer and are always in high demand in the job market -- and they’re eager to apply these in the workplace. Veterans have a wide range of skills that are in high demand in the workforce. They’re dedicated, disciplined, educated, work well under pressure, have a strong work ethic, global perspectives, leadership, problem-solving and decision-making skills that make them ideal candidates.

Jason Anderson works for Soldier Delivery, an Amazon contractor that actively recruits veterans. The Marine, who served in Okinawa and Somalia, is one of more than 400 employees in six different states working for the company.

“We follow pretty much the same values in Soldier Delivery as we did in the Marine Corp: honor, integrity and respect duty,” said Anderson.

Soldier Delivery was started by Travis Smith, an Iraqi war veteran, to help veterans once they get out of the military. Soldier Delivery has the reputation of being one of the safest contractors Amazon has, with over 50 million packages delivered.


Veterans in the Workforce

A 2017 LinkedIn study revealed that the top 5 industries where high-demand veterans are most likely to find success in their job searches are Technology, Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals, Financial Services & Insurance, Architecture & Engineering, and Manufacturing. The study also examined which skills high-demand veterans have that employers want. Business and management skills surprisingly tower over technology and data as the most sought-after.



LinkedIn also offers a way that employers can optimize their LinkedIn use for hiring veterans in the form of a suite of online tools that can be used to search, segment, and connect with 2.4 million veteran subscribers to the LinkedIn platform. Finally, they have military talent branding experts on-staff to help employers make the most of LinkedIn’s talent acquisition and outreach tools.



Challenges in Recruiting Veterans

Unique challenges can arise when recruiting military talent, but there are solutions to overcome them with a solid veteran recruitment marketing strategy in place.

According to a collaborative study conducted by VetAdvisor and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), the top three biggest obstacles veterans face in finding post-military employment are:

  • 68.24% - finding opportunities that match their experiences in the military
  • 58.51% - lack of employment opportunities in their area
  • 53.65% - finding employment opportunities that match their education

A large part of the problem relating to veterans finding opportunities that match their education and military experience has to do with the verbiage involved. Military Occupational Codes (MOCs) are very different from the titles and job descriptions typically used in the civilian world. Thus, both veterans and employers suffer from a sort of “language barrier” in translating skills honed in the military into applicable workplace skills.

The VetAdvisor/IVMF study said that healthcare also factored prominently, with 9% of veterans needing mental health care and 12% needing physical health care. Obviously, not all veterans have mental health or disability-related issues. Unfortunately, one of the challenges associated with recruiting veterans lies in the stigma attached to these aspects of veterans’ experience. A stereotype exists among many civilians that all veterans have mental health issues, making some hiring managers reluctant to hire veterans at all. In other cases, they pass over veterans who have mental health issues or physical disabilities, even if these present no demonstrable impact on a candidate’s ability to perform.


Increase Your Effectiveness in Recruiting Veterans

So, how can employers overcome the above challenges, reduce veterans’ barriers to employment and attract top talent from the ranks (no pun intended) of former military in the job market? Here are four strategies that we recommend:


1. Clearly Articulate Your Military-Friendly Brand

In the post-COVID environment, employers are offering a variety of benefits and resources to attract new hires, and this applies to those who are committed to courting military talent. These employers make it a point to showcase their military-friendly culture and commitment to veteran hiring. Some examples include:


Benefits for Military Hires:

Power Home Remodeling is currently offering a $3,000 signing bonus for veterans and military spouses. Their model boasts “creating a scalable system that hires and develops military veterans, and helps them redefine their identity outside the military.”


Veteran Employee Resources:

Walgreens offers on-the-job training, retail management training, and resource groups to veterans. Boeing has 30 veteran-focused engagement teams that offer “skill development and workforce transition training, supporting recovery and rehabilitation programs that focus on post-traumatic stress.” 

Presenting your company’s military-friendly culture front-and-center within a specific careers site page for military and veteran candidates, or building a full microsite for your military and veteran hiring initiatives can also go a long way toward attracting veterans seeking employment.

Other strategies that demonstrate your organization’s military-friendly culture could include:

  • Military-specific benefits and resources
  • Key messages that resonate with veterans
  • Social media campaigns geared toward veterans
  • Military-specific collateral and landing pages
  • “Success story” videos that highlight current veteran employees

Amazon and Microsoft have great examples of microsites dedicated to resources, success stories, military partners and opportunities. CVS Health has a military-focused careers page that appeals to veterans through their customized copy and values, military-friendly awards, and veteran spotlight video. Capital One displays an array of military-friendly badges next to their veteran benefits and commitment, making it apparent that they’re respected in the military community. Marriott International Inc.’s veteran career page uses key messaging to appeal to military candidates and encourage them to apply with the hospitality giant.


2. Translate Military Jargon into Civilian Skills

Yes, there are actually military skills translators out there, specifically designed for the purpose of translating those MOCs into civilian job advertisements and descriptions. Some of the available options include Google, and

Your company can make it even easier for veteran job seekers by building your own military skills translator into your careers site page or internal job search engine. Companies like Southwest, Kaiser Permanente, and Capital One have already implemented their versions of military skills translators on employment pages to directly communicate with veterans seeking jobs.


3. Develop a Multi-Media Military Recruiting Strategy Online and Offline

A mix of both online and offline media channels can help your organization reach both active and passive military candidates. Offline media strategies such as job fairs on military bases can expand your organization’s visibility. Not only can these increase your number of applicants, but they can help to solidify your company’s reputation as a military-friendly employer.

Sending a currently-employed veteran, a recruiter that’s also a veteran, or someone knowledgeable about military culture and the challenges many veterans face to represent your company at job fairs could be the difference between a successful engagement and returning empty-handed. 

Veteran-specific candidate sourcing and engagement techniques are highly-viable avenues to reaching former military job seekers. In addition to searching through resume databases for candidates with military experience, you can also reach out to the military community directly. Veterans are a tight-knit community who often want to help their peers. Internal initiatives targeting veterans you currently employ urging them to get the word out about events, policies and open positions can also be effective.

You can also contact veteran employment representatives at your state’s offices and organizations that support veterans, such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. They can help get your employment message out to their members via word of mouth, email or their social platforms. This can potentially connect you with hundreds or thousands of veterans.


"How Civilian TA Pros Can Better Recruit Military Talent"


4. Commit to Hiring Veterans & Highlight Your Achievements

The commitment of companies to hiring veterans can be seen in their talent marketing campaigns. Looking at these can help you get an idea for the elements involved, which you can tailor to the culture of your organization.

These elements typically include their:

  • Commitment to Hiring Veterans
  • Recognition in Awards, Rankings & Ratings

Commitment to Hiring Veterans

The 100,000 jobs mission is an initiative that started in 2011, with companies such as Delta Airlines, Verizon, Comcast, and other having collectively hired 547,109 veterans and active duty employees. The Home Depot has demonstrated a strong commitment to hiring veterans, with Glassdoor stating they have employed “55,000 veteran employees since 2012.” In 2016, Amazon pledged to hire “25,000 veterans and military spouses in five years while training 10,000 more in cloud computing,” according to LinkedIn. 


Recognition in Awards, Rankings, & Ratings

Employers can showcase their commitment to hiring veterans through awards they’ve received in this area, and/or getting rated or ranked by organizations that recognize companies’ efforts to recruit veterans. Any recognition you receive -- even if it’s from local organizations (i.e., chambers of commerce, municipal bureaus) -- can go a long way toward displaying your commitment to veterans if used properly in your talent acquisition strategy.

There are many opportunities for employers to be recognized out there. A couple of our more high-profile favorites include Glassdoor and Indeed, who rate the top workplaces for veterans every year.

Others include:   

  • Military Friendly evaluates employers and awards them every year with a Military Friendly badge they can display on their websites, social sites, flyers and brochures. They also have an award for Military Spouse Friendly Employers. You can see the 2020 list here and learn how you can qualify. 
  • MilitaryTimes has a “best for vets: ranking. Check out the 2020 winners here.
  • The Department of Labor, which awards companies that “hire veterans and take an effort to establish employee development programs and veteran-specific benefits to improve their retention.” You can view the list of 2020 recipients here. Application and criteria information are available here.
  • ESRG (Employment Support of the Guard and Reserve) offers several different awards for veteran-friendly employers. Employees can nominate their employers here.


Moving Forward

In the end, it’s up to all of us -- employers, communities, media and the public -- to work on reducing the veteran unemployment rate, as well as dismantling the biases and misconceptions about military culture that create barriers to veterans entering the civilian workforce. If you’d like to discuss hiring veterans or other recruitment strategies for your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

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