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Grow Your Business Your Team

Hiring Veterans? What Employers Should Know

Hiring Veterans? What Employers Should Know
Credit: Rafal Olkis/Shutterstock

When you're looking to expand your workforce, you may want to start turning to veterans first: More and more organizations are realizing the unique and valuable skills this group can bring to the civilian workforce when these individuals leave the service.

"From world-class technical training in their occupational specialty, to the intangible skills such as discipline, leadership and the ability to think on their feet, veterans are able to continue their service to the country in a different way when they make a successful transition," said Kim Morton, communications senior associate of military & veterans affairs at JPMorgan Chase and former spokesperson for Hiring Our Heroes.

Here's why employers should be considering military veterans for their open positions, and what they should keep in mind about hiring candidates in this highly skilled talent pool. [The Best Jobs for Veterans]

Veteran unemployment in America is a problem that today's employers need to help solve. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a drop in veteran unemployment last year, this group historically experiences a higher unemployment and poverty rate than nonveterans.

"This is not only an economic issue, but a national security issue," Morton told Business News Daily. "If this generation of veterans believes that there won't be employment opportunities for them, the next generation for the all-volunteer force will be hesitant to answer the call to service."

But hiring veterans isn't just good for the country — it's great for employers, too. Service members are well-equipped to handle the modern business world because of their military training and background. In fact, Army veteran and entrepreneur Jerry Flanagan, of JDog Junk Removal & Hauling, said he offers his franchise opportunities exclusively to military veterans and their families because they "encompass the military-bred qualities of respect, integrity and trust."  

Some of the key strengths a veteran can bring to an organization include:

Adaptability. Joe Cecin, a former Army Ranger and president of Pinnacle Wireless USA, said that veterans are trained to deal with a dynamic landscape, and are taught to "adapt, improvise and overcome." They're built for an ever-changing business environment and are prepared to face its challenges, as any strong candidate should be.

Transferable skills. Veterans possess skills and competencies that meet the needs of today's employers, therefore making them viable candidates in today's job market, said Jennifer Renee Pluta, assistant director of veteran and military families for Syracuse University. Problem solving, teamwork, performing under pressure and the ability to work with others from diverse backgrounds are just a few of the practical skills veterans bring to the table, she said.

"Many of the employment opportunities that are available in the civilian workforce are represented in some way in the military," Morton added. "As such, veterans have not only received high-level training in their specific job field, but [also] the discipline that is instilled in them from day one of putting on the uniform. [This bolsters] their abilities in organizational and project management, as well as leadership and accountability."

Dedication to a team. You're not likely to find a veteran who wants to push others down or take all the credit for a group effort. Service members know that it's the combined strength of a team that gets the job done, and everyone's role is equally important.

"One thing veterans all have in common is a commitment to a purpose bigger than themselves, and a willingness to push through adversity," said Kate Jackson, a partner at HR executive search firm Hanold Associates. "When people first join the military, they raise their right hands and swear to uphold the Constitution and commit to following lawful orders. In this act, they are putting a larger purpose ahead of themselves and ahead of the pursuit of their own comfort and safety. They bring this commitment to 'completing the mission' and a wonderful sense of teamwork to their employers after the military."

Cecin noted that veterans know how to follow directions well, which also makes them a great addition to any team.

"Military leadership begins with being a good follower," Cecin said. "Before you are given a position of responsibility, you must demonstrate that you can take the leadership of others."

Although veterans can and will adapt to post-service life, employers need to realize that this group is making a major change. It's important to be respectful of the extreme cultural shift veterans have to undergo when re-entering the civilian workforce.

"The first post-military job is the hardest transition," Jackson said. "The civilian work world has a different culture, vocabulary and expectations which will need to be learned. These transitioning veterans have already shown they can learn a new language and culture — military jargon, dress, behavior. There is a steep learning curve, but this is a talented and agile demographic." 

To expand their understanding of military culture and experiences, Pluta advised hiring managers to read articles on the subject, or to simply ask a veteran.

Employers should also recognize that seemingly unrelated military skill sets can in fact be translated to a business environment. While veterans' skill sets might not be a direct match for your open position, their technical aptitude will allow them to develop the skills quickly, said Pat Dean, director of recruiting at Advanced Technology Services (ATS), a supplier of outsourced factory maintenance, industrial part repair and IT services.

"Many military specialties are 'combat'-related, [but] there are many skills and experiences that every veteran possesses that translate well to the business world," Cecin added. "Try to discover the specific duties veteran [candidates] performed in the service — they may surprise you with their versatility."

Ready to find your newest employees from the veteran talent pool? There are a number of different places where you can begin your search. Many higher-education institutions have special programs and initiatives for veteran students seeking degrees after they have completed their time in the service.

"Employers who wish to create or strengthen their veteran recruiting pipeline should look to colleges and universities," Pluta said. "This could be with existing institutions or [they could] seek new relationships with colleges and universities that strongly support veterans."

There are also countless local and national nonprofit organizations dedicated to connecting veterans and employers, so be sure to research the ones that serve your area. Larger government-sponsored resources include the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) and Hiring Our Heroes, which is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce affiliate. Morton noted that her organization's Employer Roadmap is a one-stop shop for employers who are interested in developing their own military hiring strategy and learning best practices on how to relate to the military culture.

Once you've hired a veteran, dedicate extra time and effort into molding that person's career and skills within your company.

"Be patient," Dean said. "The time spent developing veterans' skill sets will pay off with highly competent, responsible and loyal employees."

Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Nicole Fallon Taylor

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the managing editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.