When military service members leave active duty status to return to the civilian workforce — whether they served on surface ships with the Navy or deployed overseas with the Marine Corps — the transition can be challenging, according to a study from the Families and Work Institute and SHRM.
Veterans have much to offer employers: proven leadership skills, work ethic, commitment, flexibility and experience working with diverse teams of people. Unfortunately, though military service members often have skills and experience that translate well into civilian jobs and are assets to employers, there is an employment gap among veterans. In a study among veterans who served in the military after September 2001, 61 percent said they believe their military experience applied “a lot” or “some” to their most recent civilian job search and a June 2010 SHRM study said over 70 percent of responding HR professionals expressed that they want assistance in identifying and reaching out to qualified veterans.
Yet unemployment among recent veterans grew to 13.3 percent in June 2011, up from 3.6 percent in 2001 and 4 percent higher than the national average. The numbers were even more worse for specific veteran groups: “18.8% of veterans who served after 2001, 18.2% of Black/African American veterans, 21.3% of veterans separating in 2006 or later and 28.5% of veterans aged 18-30 years old reporting that they were currently unemployed.”
This situation is due to challenges that face both veteran job seekers and employers during the hiring process.
Challenges Associated With Hiring Veterans
A preparation gap
Many veterans who have never worked in the civilian world or have been out of it for years feel unprepared to navigate a non-military job search. A 2010 study of veterans found that only 40.5 percent of veterans felt that they were “very well” or “well” prepared to enter the civilian job market when they left the Service. This percentage drops to 34.9% for African-American veterans and 34.1% for 18-30 year old veterans. Employers also often don’t have experience in how to hire veterans or where to look for qualified applicants who have recently left military service.
A communication gap
Veterans may not know how to translate their roles and responsibilities in the military into a context that civilian employers understand. They may be out of practice when it comes to writing resumes and participating in professional interviews. Employers may not know what questions to ask about work experience or qualifications or how to address professional development or mentoring needs for potential hires.
What You Can Do to Facilitate Hiring Veterans
1. Reach out to your local Veteran’s Affairs Office.
Veteran’s Affairs is a valuable resource for employers. Ask about the best ways to reach qualified job seekers, attend a job fair or simply request more information about how to hire veterans.
2. Learn to ask the right interview questions.
Ask open-ended questions in job interviews with veterans because you may not know much about their previous positions. Have applicants give specific examples of how their previous work experience is beneficial in your organization.
3. Make training and professional development top priorities with new hires.
Invest in your new hires with time and resources. Identify valuable job skills in new employees, and find ways to strengthen and exercise them. Round out or refresh skills that need more work through training programs or employee development courses.
Do you have experience hiring veterans? What advice would you give job seekers or employers?