Diversity & Inclusion

Looking to Hire Veterans? Knock Down Barriers Hiding in Recruiting Practices

With Memorial Day coming up at the end of May, thoughts turn to honoring those who sacrificed their lives in military service. But it’s also a time to recognize the value former military servicemembers can bring to the civilian workforce. That starts with making sure traditional recruiting practices don’t present barriers to jobseekers coming from the military.


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Rob Arndt, senior vice president of business development for RecruitMilitary, an organization focusing on connecting employers with veteran talent, offers advice for employers eager to capitalize on the skills and traits people develop during military service. He also explains why employers should reach out to veterans as a way to bring needed diversity of experience to the workplace.

“Veterans are a ‘triple threat factor’ in the sense that they bring the hands-on skills and work experience needed to get the job done while having the degrees, certifications, and education required for the position that make them great candidates on paper,” Arndt says.

“Off paper, however, is where military-experienced candidates truly shine where they are able to apply intangible principles, such as leadership, teamwork, esprit de corps, and providing complex solutions with sometimes limited or nonexistent resources,” Arndt says. “Veterans know that missions are non-negotiable and will improvise, adapt, and overcome to make it happen no matter what.”

But it takes more than understanding the benefits of employing veterans. It also takes recruiting practices that don’t throw up barriers to jobseekers coming out of the military. Arndt advises employers to develop recruiting programs that will make them attractive to veterans looking for civilian careers.

“Manufacturers and marketers use buzz words like ‘military grade,’ ‘battle tested,’ and ‘mission critical’ metaphorically to sell products, but the caliber of candidates that you find from the military ranks personifies these concepts in the workplace, and intelligent companies understand and embrace this,” Arndt says.

Avoiding Barriers

Even though many employers are eager to attract jobseekers with military experience, they can unknowingly use recruiting practices that throw up barriers, Arndt says.

“If a company is looking for the old square peg/square hole scenario, veteran candidates may never show up in a traditional keyword search because their military experience or resume verbiage may not translate well into surface-level ‘civilianese,’” Arndt says.

For example, workers holding a commercial driver’s license are in high demand, but job postings and screening software may be calling for “CDL drivers.” That language may not be part of a veteran’s work history, as military candidates were called motor transport operators during their time in service, “so they may never pop up on a recruiter’s radar,” Arndt says.

Employers also put up barriers when they require certain degrees without also considering other relevant work experience as an alternate prerequisite, Arndt says. “I always advise the clients that I work with to ‘hire for character … train for skill’ and have never heard a single complaint from anyone that applied that advice,” he says.

Benefits of Veteran-Specific Programs

Arndt also advises employers to develop recruitment and mentoring programs specifically geared toward veterans. “I have the pleasure of working with some of the largest and most intelligent companies on the planet, and it speaks volumes to me that the majority of them recognize the competitive edge that they get by having military talent on their team,” he says.

“These smart companies also take it one step further and fully understand that the only thing worse than not hiring veterans is when they cannot keep them within their workforce,” Arndt says. Retention takes mentoring programs designed with the veterans’ experience in mind, so smart employers “build an infrastructure” to keep former servicemembers.

Recommendations for Employers

Arndt will present a program as part of BLR’s RecruitCon talent acquisition conference will have just been completed on May 9–10 where he will have elaborated on ways to recruit and retain employees with military service. Here are a few of the recommendations for employers he will have addressed:

  • Adopt an individualized approach to hiring veterans.
  • Use mentoring programs that can help veteran employees learn about opportunities within a company that will best align with their skill sets and personal career goals.
  • Make sure hiring managers, HR professionals, and other employees are trained on military cultural competence. This includes knowing how military experience and training translate to civilian employment.
  • Examine how position descriptions are written, and consider if they are appropriate for attracting veteran candidates.

Tammy Binford writes and edits news alerts and newsletter articles on labor and employment law topics for BLR web and print publications.