Celebrating Veterans Day – How to Hire a Veteran

ASB - Hire a VeteranToday few Americans know any veterans, other than those from the wars of WWII, Korea or Vietnam. Now since much of what we see and read is from the organizations seeking money for those who have disabilities, we tend to think far more veterans have problems than actually do. But the reality is that veterans make excellent employees. Plus veterans are more successful as entrepreneurs than those without military service. So think what they can add to any small business, non-profit or association. While older veterans are employed at higher rates than civilians, those veterans in their 20s and women veterans in general have had higher unemployment rates than civilians over the past decade.

Your organization could benefit from hiring veterans. They have excellent “soft skills” like the ability to work with diverse groups of customers or clients, self-direction, strong communication skills, and dependability–just for starters! Most have had supervisory roles early and all have had extensive training in both their work/career fields and interpersonal skills. Most also are used to doing whatever is necessary for the mission, not an “it’s not my job” attitude anywhere.


How do you find and hire a veteran successfully?

Many of the steps are the same as any other hiring. Small business owners tend to see the big companies and their well-publicized programs and assume that they need a big program too. But you do not. You need a little planning. And you will get far better results with less hassle than blasting your needs out on a job board or someplace like Craigslist.

Here is a simple plan to help you hire a veteran, or lots of them!

First, define the position in detail including both technical/specific experience requirements and those attributes that ensure success in your culture. This is critical to any hiring but also ensures you can evaluate potential veteran candidates effectively.

Second, think about your network. Do you already know any veterans? Talk to them and ask for their ideas and support.

Third, talk with the veterans’ representatives in your local employment services office. Many states also have programs like Virginia Values Veterans ( http://www.dvsV3.com ) to help you learn more about hiring veterans and helping them succeed. Both these organizations can assist you in effectively hiring veterans to meet your needs. In Alexandria, contact the Alexandria Veterans Business Enterprise Center (Emily McMahan at [email protected]) for added ideas and links to local military transition offices.

Fourth, consider reaching out to volunteer organizations locally which work with veterans and informing them of your needs. Consider the local chapter of TeamRWB (http://teamrwb.org/) , local veteran Meet-ups, and others which focus on recent vets. And if you need recent graduates, check out local chapters of Student Veterans of America (http://www.studentveterans.org/)

Fifth, if your positions require specific training or certifications, understand that there are plenty of veterans who have these. There are specific programs to translate military experience into required civilian credentials and certifications. There are non-profit organizations and companies which provide specific training to veterans. I work with several. But a simple online search of what you need, such as energy + veterans or SAP + veterans or any specific credential +veterans, will lead you to resources.

Sixth, military members in transition do go through training about how to write civilian resumes. But the translations of titles, units, and boss’s titles are not really obvious. So when you are looking at a person’s resume, check out their achievements and perhaps training or certifications. If there appears to be an overlap with what you need, give the person a call and talk a bit about your needs and their work.

The right veteran will rapidly learn your organization and culture and make specific contributions to your success far sooner than you expect. If you can offer challenges and the opportunity for increased responsibility, you will find each an excellent addition to your future.

Patricia A. Frame is an experienced management consultant, HR executive, speaker, and author on human capital issues. She is known for her ability to address organizational goals and issues effectively and to create human resource management practices which support these goals without excessive administrivia. Patricia has advised executives and boards on a wide range of human capital and strategic planning issues. She has expertise in organization development, talent management, process restructuring, compensation, and training. She has worked with technology-based companies, government contractors, non-profits, associations, and retail operations. She advises small to mid-size organizations on ways to succeed and to help their employees thrive. Ms. Frame has given seminars for SBDC in recent years on the basic processes of HR management. Additionally, she generously provides one-to-one HR counseling once a month through Alexandria SBDC.

Veterans Day – Make it Count

English: Veterans Day poster for 1997.

Veteran’s Day is barely a holiday in the US, except as a retail sales gimmick. But why should we expect this to be different?

Fewer than 2% of us have ever served in the military. And since we moved to an all-volunteer service, those who do serve come from a smaller slice of the population. So fewer of us are related to a vet or know one well.

And yet…

Our veterans are a terrific resource for your business and our nation. You may think we in the military all served in an environment of senior people ordering junior ones around all day, with no judgement or discretion involved.

But that is a movie version of boot camp, not the reality of military service.

Military folks are used to working in teams of people who are quite diverse in comparison to the statistically typical civilian workplace. Persistence, adaptability, teamwork, and flexibility are not just buzzwords, they are daily reality in the military. We are trained to get the job done, to “take that hill”.

This is one reason that veterans who become entrepreneurs succeed at twice the rate of civilians. And it makes them great employees for helping grow your business too.

My story: It was a base in a war zone with constant high level civilian and military visitors. I was asked to set up a protocol function. Working with the motor pool, the housing staff, communications, and air traffic control, we put together an operation that met and transported and housed everyone from civilians to generals to Bob Hope to Senators with no fuss. The commanders were thrilled that they did not have to figure this out each time, yet no added monies were spent. The junior folks were thrilled that the old ‘emergencies’ of visitors stopped. And our visitors were even complimentary.

Every military person can tell you a litany of such minor stories. These stories offer you insight into how much we can do on our own and working in teams with people we just met to achieve goals that support a larger goal. And your business can use all those skills right now.

Reach out to veterans and you could find your perfect employee.

You may not really understand the work that a specific vet did in the military. And not all of them are good at articulating their expertise in specific areas – or all the training they have had. But veterans bring many specific technical skills and talents to your business as well as all those soft skill areas employers lament are not available.

Locally and at the VA state employment agency there are veterans’ representatives who can educate you and help you hire. There are tax incentives for you to hire veterans, training programs to help vets acquire skills you need, and support services to hire disabled vets. You might even end up on the state’s list of military-friendly employers!

So, this Veterans Day

Raise a flag.

Go to a military parade or veterans memorial.

More importantly: recognize we are just like you – only with some different experiences than a standard business career offers. Think of what we can do to help you succeed!