6 Steps to transform your hiring process for veterans

You're missing out on exceptional talent – we can help.

5 minutes

November 4, 2022 Adecco

A smiling hiring manager shakes a veteran in uniforms hand across a desk.

In a recent survey, the majority of employers reported that veterans perform “better than” or “much better than” their civilian counterparts, recognizing them as assets to their company. However, despite their advantages in the working world, including developed leadership and other soft skills, veterans in the United States are 15.6% more likely to be underemployed.

This indicates that hiring managers often overlook veteran skills and experiences and may unconsciously be biased against resumes that differ from civilian CVs. We spoke with Ken Hagler, a veteran and Adecco Military/Veteran SEARCH Consultant who specializes in placing veterans, and Rachelle Chapman, a military spouse and Director of the Adecco Military Alliance, to learn how hiring managers can correct these issues and the steps they can take to make great veteran hires.

Correlate military jobs to civilian jobs

Military careers extend well beyond the battlefield. In fact, the US military consists of over 7,000 job types spanning more than 100 functional areas. Direct civilian-job equivalents exist for many of these military positions. “It's something like 90% of the jobs that exist in the military also exist in the civilian world. The reality is that most of the jobs that these men and women do have existed outside,” explained Chapman.

By identifying the civilian equivalent of a military job, hiring managers will be able to determine the skills veterans possess, and how those skills will transfer to their company and open positions. O*NET is a free and easy resource to look up positions by military operational code (MOC) or job title and will even cross-reference the MOC, listing their civilian equivalents.

Expect (and accept) employment gaps

With nearly one-third of veterans facing underemployment, gaps in job history are common in ex-military job seekers. Many veterans hesitate taking on jobs below their skillset in order to find positions that will allow them to take care of their families and allow for career progression.

Hiring managers will need to look beyond the resume gaps and instead be open to hearing explanations on why interviewees may have changed employers frequently in the past: “Just give them a chance to explain why they left those jobs and really listen to the story because in that story, I think you'll find that the person you have sitting in front of you is a person who's going to take advantage of the opportunity to move through the company,” said Hagler.

Look past resumes

With years of working with veteran job seekers under their belts, both Chapman and Hagler stressed the need for interviewers to develop a connection with veteran interviewees, asking them about their service and why they chose to serve instead of just going through their job history. Chapman explained:

“You need to get past the paper, but in an interview, just from a human connection standpoint, people are always interested in knowing or understanding why a veteran joined the military. And that answer tells you a lot about that person. The reality is for some service members it was the only way for them to get an education, others will say I wanted to join a cause bigger than myself. That shows selflessness.”

Their answer to that question can say a lot about who they are as a person and how that will translate into a team member/leader. Asking more about their service will also help the interviewee feel at ease and that their resume isn’t the only thing indicative of who they are as a person. Hagler agrees, saying: “We are more than resumes. We're a collection of events, a collection of life experiences that shape us into the professionals that we are. Sometimes we just need a chance.”

Prioritize soft skills

While many employers still struggle to transfer military hard skills to civilian jobs, military soft skills can easily transfer to the boardroom. Aside from their experience in the military, American employers rated work ethic and leadership skills as the top three reasons they hire veterans.

Chapman, who works directly with veterans, sees these skills first-hand: “Veterans have a host of soft skills, leadership being at the top,” she described. “They also know when to follow and when to lead, they can take direction well, and they have each other's back. They're taught at a very young age to carry each other. They're often the first one in and last one out.”

Stay on track during interviews

It’s not every day that hiring managers interview a veteran. Because of the culture and structure of the military, veterans may answer closed-ended questions with a simple “yes” or “no” and will answer every question directly out of respect. Therefore, it is up to the interviewer to structure interview questions in the most effective way to get thoughtful answers.

Hagler has heard from his veteran job seekers on how interviews can go south due inappropriate questions:

“I've heard some bad interview situations, and it wasn't necessarily that the veteran wasn't a good interviewer. The person who was interviewing didn't do a great job. They led him down a rabbit hole and had a lengthy conversation about PTSD and mental health in the middle of an interview. These things should not be happening. And if they do happen, then the person who took that conversation there needs to have accountability and realize that conversation went somewhere where it shouldn't have gone.”

Use trained recruiters

Veterans have been proven to be an invaluable addition to the workforce. Don’t miss out on great hires because your hiring team isn’t trained on how to find, interview, and retain veteran workers. By using staffing services like Adecco, who have specialized recruiters trained on veteran affairs, you’ll eliminate any unconscious bias towards veterans during the hiring process and have an accurate skills assessment of current job candidates.

In addition to trained recruiters, staffing services also have fostered connections with military organizations to help find quality veteran job candidates. Chapman explains the work she does with the Adecco Military Alliance: “Our recruiters are trained. We are actively looking for veteran workers. We're working with military bases and we're working with military partners like the Wounded Warrior Project, the VA, the National Guard, and the Army Reserves. We're proactively looking for veterans because we recognize their talent. And we want to hire them.”­

Veterans present a valuable yet untapped resource in today’s tight job market. Are you ready to make more great veteran hires? Check out how the Adecco Military Alliance has placed over 100,000 military veterans and spouses in civilian jobs, and how the organization can help your business find great veteran talent. For more resources on how to hire veteran employees, read our research on hiring veterans without four-year degrees and our Military Alliance Hiring Guide.