Hiring & Recruiting

Why Aren’t Hiring Managers Recruiting Veterans?

There is a disconnect between veterans and civilian hiring managers that goes both ways. Veterans leave military service typically unprepared and unarmed with the tools to position themselves as viable candidates to civilian companies, and hiring managers are unskilled and untrained in how to recruit military veterans for jobs outside of service.veterans

But the value veterans can bring to an organization should not be overlooked. Veterans are loyal and trainable. They thrive in leadership positions and are excellent problem solvers.

Understanding some of the challenges that hiring managers face in hiring veterans can help companies better recruit from this wonderfully skilled talent pool.

Reading the Résumé

Hiring managers often lack training to read and understand a military résumé and find themselves asking questions like these:

  • What does being an E-6 mean?
  • Did a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force hold more management responsibility than a Major in the Army?
  • What does it mean that he or she did Command and Control Battle Management Operations in the Air Force, and how is it relevant for the position I’m recruiting for?

As long as the military résumé doesn’t match the civilian employer’s job requirement, the disconnect produces a roadblock.

Candidates’ Inability to Sell Themselves

In the military, the focus is on mission, unit, and the person next to you—not on yourself. The culture of “Service Before Self,” means that each service member passes credit and recognition down to those who serve alongside them, but accept responsibility and accountability. Self-promotion and self-focus are unacceptable and discouraged.

Therefore, when veterans leave service, they struggle when answering questions such as, “Tell me about a success you had that you are most proud of.” To the veteran, this would mean being disloyal. To the hiring manager, not getting an answer is frustrating and can arouse suspicion.


Civilian media has not done an adequate job of educating the public about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and the numerous other challenges some former military service members live with. We intuitively believe that someone who has “seen the unthinkable” and lived in conditions of violence, hostility, and stress for a long period of time will undoubtedly have emotional effects long after the situations change.

But what does that mean for a hiring manager looking to add a new team member to their company? When enlightened with information about PTSD, many employers find their biases and misperceptions rectified.

Skills not Transferrable

Without a clear outline of which military skills translate to which civilian job responsibilities, it may be unreasonable to expect that hiring managers with no military experience can understand how someone who worked front lines in the infantry can lead their IT staff through a new project. There may be similar difficulty for a hiring manager to recognize how a combat medic is qualified to hold a sales position in their pharmaceutical company.

Skills—hard and soft—can be easily translated to civilian work, if the right questions are asked.

Fit in the Organization

Hiring managers seek skills, experience, and talent in recruiting new employees, and they look for cultural fit as well. Each candidate is evaluated for the value they bring and can offer to new and existing teams, how well they will assimilate into the organization, and where they will lead.

The perception that a military veteran is used to barking orders, meeting high-stress timelines, and putting feelings aside for execution on mission can deter recruiters from evaluating a veteran candidate.

Businesses investing in human capital are wise to learn how to recruit, onboard, and retain veterans. The small investment in training a hiring and recruiting team on how to read military résumé, interview veterans, and recruit veterans online is returned by employees that contribute to the business at levels that exceed expectations.

As CEO of LIDA360, Lida Citroën is an accomplished keynote speaker, trainer, and writer, often featured on MSNBC, Forbes.com, CBS MoneyWatch, and in Entrepreneur, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, and Inc. She frequently speaks at military installations and national events on veteran hiring, and writes for Military.com  and Entrepreneur.com on the topic of military transition.Citroën leverages her 20+ years in corporate branding to help America’s employers learn how to recruit, onboard, and grow veteran employees to support business and brand goals. Citroën ‘s book, Engaging with Veteran Talent, is available at www.LIDA360.com/EngagingVeterans and on Amazon. Connect with Lida on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.