November 11, 2013

Is This Holding You Back From Hiring Veterans?

Source: Staffing Talk

Journalist: David Gee

Hiring veterans is “patriotic.” It’s the “right thing to do.” On that we can probably all agree. Yet we also hear quite frequently that veterans continue to experience unemployment rates higher than their civilian counterparts, in some cases significantly higher. Why? Is there a specific reason why most employers only hire veterans when there is a specific business-related motivation?

I recently came across this study by Dr. Margaret C. Harrell and Nancy Berglass called Employing America’s Veterans: Perspectives. According to them, nearly 60% of the hiring managers they interviewed mentioned difficulty with skill translation as the biggest barrier to hiring veterans.

One hiring manager said, “Companies really don’t know how job skills translate. More than any sort of resistance, we’re trying to figure out how to translate for hiring managers what military experience means. In some regards, it’s a language. The work that veterans do is not always translatable into corporate life.

For the past several months I have been doing some pro bono PR work for a non-profit group trying to get some housing built for disabled veterans, for which there is a tremendous need.

The retired Marine Colonel heading up the project is still actively involved in Veteran’s Affairs, and he says in his experience many civilian employers don’t realize that military-specific jobs such as an infantryman, or helicopter crew chief, have so many components that are directly comparable – and transferable – to civilian environments.

He says even relatively junior service members may have had big responsibilities using, maintaining, securing and/or moving very large and expensive pieces of equipment. The veteran also has experience planning and executing various tasks in high-stress, unstructured and frequently changing environments.

“They know what it’s like to work in a fast-paced and results-driven environment,” Melissa McMahon, senior director of talent acquisition for tech company CDW, told the American Express OPEN Forum blog.

The Colonel I know noted one company’s HR department that uses internal documents showing what military occupational specialties (MOS) codes are relevant to each specific job this one company hires for. Even at that though, he admits there is often a disconnect between available jobs and the veteran who might be considered for it.

Prudential Financial has found its military recruitment program to be a great investment in human capital, and has hired veterans from entry-level to management.

Still, the company has encountered challenges getting candidates to sell their skills in terms their hiring managers can understand, in part because of the liberal use of acronyms, or similar skills that may be described in completely different terms in the corporate world.

Prudential’s solution? “We work with organizations that help veterans better communicate their skills to employers,” says Toni McDaniel, director of diversity recruiting at Prudential in Newark, N.J. The US Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes campaign is one such program to help companies hire veterans.

Of course there are incentives beyond finding a job candidate who possesses “leadership skills” and other attributes.

In November 2011, Congress passed President Obama’s Returning Heroes Tax Credit and Wounded Warrior Tax Credit, both designed to get veterans back to work.

The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides businesses that hire unemployed veterans with a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers businesses that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran.

In addition to the tax credits, business owners may also be able to get reimbursed for training newly hired veterans, thanks to the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which provides high-quality job training through state and local workforce development systems.


  • Margaret C. Harrell

  • Nancy Berglass

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

    Nancy Berglass is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at CNAS, Director of the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund, and Principal of Berglass Community Investment Consulting. Widel...