The Value of Veterans

The Value of Veterans

Today marks Veterans Day in the United States. Veteran unemployment fell to its lowest level in seven years last year, thanks in part to a strengthening labor market and in part to the success of special programs aimed at recruiting veterans. Not only does a career go a long way in helping a vet reintegrate into civilian life, contrary to some common misperceptions, this cohort has a lot to offer employers that recruiters would be remiss to overlook.

Hilton’s Operation: Opportunity program aimed to recruit 10,000 veterans by 2018 and announced last week that it had achieved its goal two years ahead of schedule. Writing at LinkedIn, Hilton President and CEO Chris Nassetta discusses what Hilton has learned from the program:

We’ve found that veterans don’t always think of a post-military career in hospitality, so we’ve been very proactive in terms of reaching out to them about opportunities in our company. But while a career in hospitality may not always be top-of-mind for veterans, there is significant overlap between our two “industries” – operating a hotel is very similar to operating a battleship or a base. Just like in those military environments, a hotel is a self-contained “village” in many ways, where everything from food to electricity can be produced onsite. By explaining how our business overlaps with their military experience, we’ve been able to help veterans understand that ours is not just an industry worth considering, but one in which they can thrive. …

Just like with any new employee, completing the hiring process is just the first step. We’ve found it’s particularly critical to provide tailored resources and ongoing support for our veteran Team Members who are transitioning to a civilian career, often for the first time. Whether it’s offering reserve pay benefits or creating a dedicated Team Member Resource Group, it’s our responsibility to set them up for success. Even something small, like ensuring every veteran Team Member receives a pin denoting their branch of the military, can help them feel welcome and valued. I’ve been particularly proud of the response from our civilian Team Members, who have welcomed veterans and their families with open arms and deep respect.

Unfortunately, veterans tend to think their military service makes them less qualified than their peers, rather than more. SHRM’s Roy Maurer highlights a new survey of post-September 11 veterans from iCIMS:

Forty-one percent believe hiring managers do not understand their military experience, and 37 percent believe hiring managers devalue their military experience. Respondents also said that job postings require more specialized experience than they have (36 percent), that they have trouble translating military skills to civilian roles (28 percent), and that online applications are confusing or overwhelming (14 percent).

Perhaps consequently, 47 percent of respondents have understated or excluded their military service on their resume or online job application, and among those, 44 percent were concerned their military service would negatively impact the hiring decision.

That’s a shame, because veterans are in fact highly desirable. At SHRM, Karin Orvis, the acting director of the Defense Department’s Transition to Veterans Program Office, and Nathan Ainspan, the program’s research psychologist, list some of the characteristics employers can tend to expect in veterans:

Highly Qualified: The military has strict entry criteria (which 71% of the American population cannot meet), so the fact that a veteran was accepted into the military in the first place is a sign of that individual’s quality. Additionally, all service members must go thorough background checks, maintain security clearances, and regularly pass drug tests.

Advanced Beyond Their Civilian Peers: Most service members have held responsibilities in their military careers that far surpass civilian peers of comparable ages so that a 25 year-old sergeant will have been directly responsible for millions of dollars in equipment.

Technical Skills: Ninety percent of the military’s occupations are directly transferable to civilian occupations. When service members leave the military, your company can take immediate advantage of their technical training and expertise.