Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals, April 25, 2012
The Labor Department recently reported that the unemployment rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans was 10.3 percent in March 2012, higher than the current overall 8.2 percent national jobless rate.
Why are military veterans having difficulty finding employment? One reason is a misunderstanding of how they fit into the traditional workplace. The biggest misconception is the assumption that military veterans don’t have the proper skill sets.
“That’s bogus,” says Lisa Rosser, a veteran of the U.S Army, founder of The Value of a Veteran, and author of a guide to recruiting military veterans.
“In fact, 81 percent of the jobs in the military have a civilian equivalent. On one hand, [these military veterans] are college students, but they are nontraditional college students. They are experienced in a setting where they had to develop valuable skills, many of which transfer very well into the workplace. That experience should not be discounted.”
In some cases, it won’t be an exact match. For example, the military’s computer programmers may work with custom software instead of that used by most employers in the private sector.
“Recruiters need to get to know veterans better,” she says. “Employers need to be educated about what is done in the military, and aware of a veteran's strengths or what shortfalls he or she might have that can be overcome with training.”
Rosser suggests making one-on-one connections with military veterans, whether they are face-to-face communications, or via phone or Internet to develop deeper relationships. She also recommends that recruiters connect with individuals (professors of military science) and organizations (Student Veterans of America and ROTC) on campus, and on nearby military instillations (Guard or Reserve members and veterans who will be looking for employment after completing service and college).
In addition, Rosser encourages organizations to develop their recruiters' expertise on how to read military resumes, which, she says, don’t translate well for civilian jobs.
“The typical military resume has problems making its way through employers’ applicant tracking systems,” Rosser says. “If employers have a way to flag military resumes coming into the system or a separate channel for veterans to submit resumes, that would be beneficial to both sides because resumes could then be screened by people who understand military acronyms and job titles.”
Employers can assist their new military veteran hires by matching them with individuals who have similar backgrounds and can serve as resources for successfully entering or reentering the civilian work force.
“Coming into a civilian work environment is a big cultural change,” Rosser says. “If an employer has employee resource groups and doesn’t have one for military veterans, it should consider starting one. Experienced employees who are military veterans can provide new military veteran hires with coping and mitigation strategies, and better help them understand what it takes to be successful with their new employer.”