Hiring Vets: How to Leverage a Valuable Resource

Research has found that the skills and traits found in people with a successful military employment track record make for particularly good civilian employees. A compilation of studies assembled by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University suggest that veterans generally:

A Tax Incentive May Sweeten the Deal for Employers

Thanks to the passage of a new law in late 2015, a significant tax break for hiring qualified veterans (and other targeted groups) has been extended and expanded. The Work Opportunity credit had expired at the end of 2014. But the passage of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act last December gave new life to this credit, retroactive for all of 2015.

The maximum wages that can be used to calculate the credit for hiring a qualifying veteran generally is $6,000. However, it can be as high as $12,000, $14,000 or $24,000, depending on factors such as whether the veteran has a service-connected disability, the period of his or her unemployment before being hired, and when that period of unemployment occurred relative to the credit-eligible hiring date.

This credit applies to qualified veterans and other eligible individual who begin work for the employer before January 1, 2019.

Are entrepreneurial. They have a high need for achievement, are comfortable with autonomy and uncertainty, and make effective decisions in dynamic environments.

Assume high levels of trust. Often a military career gives rise to a strong propensity to trust coworkers as well as a tendency to exhibit confidence in the organizational leadership.

Are adept at transferring their skills across contexts and tasks. Research has attributed this to the fact that military teaching strategies include contingency and scenario-based training.

Are resilient. Veterans generally develop an enhanced ability to bounce back from failures (professional or personal) quickly and more completely than non-vets.

Additional common attributes of veterans identified in the research include experience in cross-cultural environments and strength in problem-solving and team-building.

Matching Jobs, Experience

Naturally, some veterans have skill sets more suitable to your organization as a whole — or to a specific job opening — than others. Many military skills transfer well to the demands of a civilian job, but the transfer may not be obvious. To help employers match their job categories with a vet’s experience, the U.S. Department of Labor has sponsored a website, careeronestop.org, which features a “civilian-to-military occupation translator.”

Here’s an example of how this tool works: The employer enters the civilian occupation title into the translator, and the system finds military occupation titles with similar skills. The civilian occupation “first-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers” generated 98 military occupations that involve the same relevant experience. The translator also identified 14 military occupations that involved a more specialized skill, accounting.

Despite the fact that many military occupations involve the same skills you may be looking for in a new hire, the military has its own culture. If you’re not a veteran yourself, take time to learn about it by talking to vets and with some general research. The Veterans Administration and a host of other organizations that promote the hiring of veterans can connect you with people who are able to bring you up to speed. Also, private consulting organizations specializing in helping private employers recruit and train vets can also be useful resources.

Best Practices for Interviewing

The Syracuse University study compilation includes a “best practices report,” which offers the following tips to use when considering a veteran for employment:

  • Provide opportunities for candidates to be coached on interviewing techniques before the actual interview. The idea is to familiarize the vet with the civilian employment environment.
  • Give candidates ample opportunity to emphasize achievements in the military that you consider helpful for the job at hand, even if the vet might not recognize the connection.
  • Avoid questions about combat experience, injuries or mental health.

Your job isn’t always over, however, once you hire a vet. To maximize the chances that a newly hired vet will be a good fit for your organization, a tailored on-boarding effort is often a good idea. As with onboarding in general, the following subjects need to be addressed, according to the Society for Human Resource Management:

Performance proficiency. Learning and mastering the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the required work task.

People. Establishing successful and satisfying work relationships with organizational members.

Politics. Gaining information regarding formal and informal work relationships and power structures.

Language. Understanding the job’s technical language as well as acronyms, slang and jargon unique to the organization.

Organizational goals and values. Understanding the rules or principles that maintain the integrity of the organization.

History. Learning the organization’s traditions, customs, myths, and personal background of key leaders.

Onboarding for Vets

Not all of the following recommendations from the Syracuse University study compilation will be feasible for smaller employers, but each is worthy of consideration:

  • Create a “career watch” program in which senior-level vets in your organization mentor newer and more junior vet employees.
  • Train professionals within existing employee assistance programs (coaches, mentors, sponsors, counselors) on veteran-specific issues such as deployment, post traumatic stress disorder and veterans’ benefits to provide in-house veteran employee assistance services. This isn’t an easy topic for anyone.
  • Create military veteran networks and councils that will mentor and support new veteran employees. Encourage these councils to connect and collaborate with other veteran networks, groups and veteran service organizations that add value to the veteran community.
  • Develop an assistance program for National Guard and Reserve members and their families to provide assistance and support during the time of deployment.

Making Good Decisions

While patriotism may play a part in a company’s effort to employ veterans, hiring decisions have to make business sense as well. According to the studies cited, the business rationale for hiring vets generally stands on its own. After all, the military has poured enormous resources into training its personnel, and employers can take advantage of that training by matching veterans with appropriate jobs.

You can find a wealth of additional guidance and resources by conducting a simple web search, using the phrase “hiring veterans.”