Military Matters: Why Hiring Veterans and Their Families Should Be Top Priority for HR Leaders

Jul 16, 2012
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

As a U.S. Navy veteran and talent acquisition professional for America’s leading physical security services company, I commit each and every work day to pursuing gainful employment of our country’s military. My organization partners with a number of military assistance groups including The Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, and the Wounded Warrior Project, to name just a few. We also keep an open line of communication with veterans, reservists, and their families and caregivers, to help ensure our career opportunities are visible. Our company-wide military hiring program, Hire Our HeroesSM, is an essential part of our recruiting strategy.

It is time for human resource leaders, from every sector, to salute our military’s service, value their skills, and welcome their unique experience and talents into the civilian workplace. These individuals make a positive contribution in every civilian profession and will continue to do so with your help. These are the men and women who we trust to defend our freedom. Now is the time to return the favor with career opportunities that will benefit the veteran and your organization.

Following are my top 10 reasons to hire military:

#10 — Battle-Tested Real World Experience: Today’s human resource directors are interviewing warriors who may have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan and who have done everything from coordinating ground and air support during combat, to hiring local contractors, and restoring schools and hospitals. “Human resource professionals need to develop their own ‘military to civilian decoder’ systems to help explain the significance of how military skills and experience translate to the employment landscape,” says Johnny Dwiggins, Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces, contract program manager.

When counseling veterans transitioning from active duty to the corporate world, I advise them to use civilian terms when describing military experience. Not every corporate employer understands what a battalion, platoon, or brigade is. By repositioning the responsibilities into language that non-military can understand, more hiring managers will be able to relate the experience to the duties they are hiring for.

#9 — Trainability: There are numerous types of training in the military and they vary from service to service. The unifying factor is that training is a crucial component for all branches of the military beginning from the first day of enlistment. Training, which generally focuses on the skills needed for the divergent occupational specialties, varies widely and may include weapons training, leadership development, administrative management, and much more.

What does this mean to human resource managers? It may mean a reduction of up to 50% for training costs to onboard a new hire. It also translates to a ready-to-work employee who understands the importance of training and is willing to go the extra mile to ensure their skill-set and experience is updated and relevant.

#8 — Adaptability: The famous science fiction author H.G. Wells once said, “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” This quotation, which was written decades ago, rings just as true today and particularly resonates with our nation’s military who personify adaptability in all its glory. Military personnel continually adapt to changing environments and new responsibilities and thrive in a highly divergent variety of settings. Today’s companies are not static and most are continually evolving to meet the demands of the 21st century. Who better to staff our new economy companies than our adaptable warriors?

#7 — Military Produces Outstanding Leaders: An article in the Harvard Business Review by Colonel Tom Kolditz, head of the department of behavioral sciences and leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, correlates how military leadership translates to great civilian sector leadership. “The best leadership — whether in peacetime or war — is borne as a conscientious obligation to serve,” writes Colonel Kolditz. “In many business environs it is difficult to inculcate a value set that makes leaders servants to their followers. In contrast, leaders who have operated in the crucibles common to military and other dangerous public service occupations tend to hold such values. Tie selflessness with the adaptive capacity, innovation, and flexibility demanded by dangerous contexts, and one can see the value of military leadership as a model for leaders in the private sector.”

#6 — High Dependability: Military veterans don’t show up late for work, can be relied up on to perform their duties properly, and will always put forth their best effort to achieve the highest standards of performance. What does that mean to the rest of your workforce? They’ll be inspired and invigorated by their veteran co-workers who they will look up to as an example of excellence.

#5 — Quality Job Performance under Pressure: When seeking a pool of workers who have a reputation for performing well under pressure, military veterans are No. 1. Military veterans deliver a quality under pressure in the corporate world just like they did when their lives depended on it. Some employees fold under pressure or turn down positions and responsibilities that may be pressure-filled while veterans survive and thrive.

#4 — Expand Your Job Pool and Redefine Employment Horizon: When looking to support our military personnel through employment, also consider the veterans’ families and caregivers for positions. Think outside of the traditional box to ensure that all veterans and family members who need a job get one. I recently interviewed a nuclear scientist who was taking care of his son who was injured in battle. He needed a job that would allow him flexible hours while letting him to support his family. Today, he is managing other security officers and taking care of his son.

#3 — Background Checks and Security Clearances: As reported by, “over 90 percent of those in the military have had extensive background checks for various levels of security clearances. When you hire a veteran, they are less likely to become a risk to your operation.”  

#2 — Hire a Hero and Save Costs: Hiring military personnel can mean cost savings for your organization. In addition to saving on training and background screening costs, you can also reduce your recruiting costs. Through partnerships with military assistance groups, your recruiting efforts can be easily expanded, without adding HR personnel. These groups exist to help veterans find civilian employment and their representatives will work to identify appropriate candidates for you. Tax credits, which range from $3,000 to $9,600 per hire, are also available to employers that hire military veterans. Work opportunity tax credits (WOTC) can help off-set recruiting and training costs, resulting in additional savings.

#1 — It’s Just the Right Thing to Do: Hiring veterans, their families, and caregivers is simply the right thing to do. The men and women who have chosen to serve our country are patriots who have made enormous sacrifices to ensure our safety and freedom. Their families have worked hard to keep the home and hearth intact while the veteran is at service. By employing military veterans, their family and caregivers, we are thanking them for their service and for protecting us from terrorism and other threats.

Whether hiring veterans exiting the field or active personnel looking for a great job between deployments, human resource directors can be confident in the quality and success that results from on-boarding military veterans. Today’s companies are appreciative of the skills and values former and active military personnel bring to their civilian jobs.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.