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What top companies do to attract and hire veterans

A Monster and Military.com survey reveals what veterans want from employers—and our Best Companies for Veterans winners share their secrets.

What top companies do to attract and hire veterans

Veteran employment has been on an uptick over the past decade—going from a post-9/11 unemployment rate of nearly 10% to a historic low of 3.7% in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is very good news, both for veterans and for the companies who are benefiting from hiring veterans. But there’s still more that employers and staffing firms can do to make veteran transitions to civilian jobs easier—and also to attract more veteran job candidates—according to a new Monster and Military.com survey.

Our survey—which polled 300 veterans—revealed that, in spite of improving conditions, there remains a communication gap between employers and job seekers. Surprisingly, a majority (55%) of respondents felt that recruiters and HR professionals didn’t understand their experience and a whopping 63% were disappointed in the support they got in their job search.

For employers and staffing firms, this miscommunication has serious consequences, namely that you may miss your diversity and veteran recruitment goals and lose out on an incredible talent pool. 

In addition to surveying vets, we also compiled our fourth annual Best Companies for Veterans list in advance of Veterans Day. These businesses’ best practices, combined with our poll, reveal top strategies for creating enviable veteran hiring programs.

Here’s what our nation’s bravest told us they want from you:

1. Accept military training in place of civilian credentials (79%)

Military training equips veterans with a unique toolbox of hard skills, from coding to project management to health care; and soft skills, which include leadership, teamwork, and working well under pressure. But many former military personnel find they don’t have the specific certification, credential or degree listed on a job posting, having gained their skills in military training, so they might not apply.

Because there’s so much crossover in relevant experience (especially in industries such as IT and defense), top veteran-friendly companies often accept military training as an equivalent for some civilian credentials in order to capitalize on hiring candidates with strong backgrounds in jobs they’re eager to fill. For example, BAE Systems (#9 on our list) honors several military training credentials in lieu of formal certifications in areas such as welding, intelligence analysis, and project management.

It can pay for recruiters to take the time to understand what veteran training means. One of the simplest ways to determine if a candidate's skills match your needs is to simply ask them to explain their background. A simple conversation can prevent missed opportunities to discuss how their military experience can be an asset, if not for this job perhaps for a future one.

2. Demonstrate a track record of hiring veterans (74%)

With candidates of all stripes increasingly assessing companies for cultural fit, it’s no wonder that veterans want to see that you have welcomed other veterans. This is why two of the biggest factors that we look at when evaluating winners for our Best Companies for Veterans awards are the percentage of year-to-date veteran hires and the percentage of total employees that comprise veterans.

Together, these numbers tell us that a company is making a short-term and long-term commitment to veteran hiring. Our winner this year, ManTech, had a tremendous showing of veteran talent—47% YTD and 47% total hires.

If your company has strong numbers (they don’t need to be this strong!), and you’re comfortable with being held accountable, you could consider going public with your results as part of your veteran recruitment marketing. But even if you’re newly committed to veteran hiring, you can demonstrate it through employer branding. For example, you could share a video on your career page or social channels of a recent veteran hire talking about his or her experiences at the company. 

3. Have a dedicated veteran recruiting team (58%)

All of the ten winners of our Best Companies for Veterans awards have recruiters who are specifically focused on veteran hiring. The fact that these companies also have had results for their programs shows the benefit of a strategy that includes segmenting your talent acquisition professionals to increase diversity, in this case, in the area of veteran hiring.  

If your company or staffing firm is too small to have a person or team that's 100% dedicated to veteran hiring, you could still benefit from giving the responsibility to one person as part of their job or having a committee that works toward the goal together. Recruiters can use resume search tools to find candidates with military experience who also meet other qualifications in your job description. Technology has made this kind of pinpointed candidate search much more efficient than in the past, so even smaller companies without the resources of an enterprise-level organization can actively search for veterans to hire. 

Another strategy to consider is outreach. At PRISM (#5), they make a concerted effort to educate their recruiters and hiring managers on developments in the local veteran community as a way of strengthening their relationship with a valuable talent pool.

4. Have recruiters who are veterans themselves (64%)

To alleviate the communication gap between veteran candidates and recruiters, some companies are taking the next step beyond simply having dedicated veteran recruiters in their workforce. They’re hiring recruiters who are veterans themselves. Then, as part of your employer branding, you can advertise to the veteran community that your team has first-hand knowledge of transitioning out of the service.

The top-ranked companies on this year's list all have veterans on their recruiting teams—and some, such as CACI (#2) and Booz Allen Hamilton (#4) have more than ten, sending a clear message to veteran candidates that they are not only valued candidates but that their experience is understood.

If you don’t currently have veterans on your recruiting team, you can still benefit from this approach, by making sure to connect candidates and new hires with any former military personnel on staff as part of the hiring process.

5. Offer special veteran onboarding programs (60%)

Onboarding can mean different things for different companies. For some, it starts on day one with a new-hire orientation, whereas for others it can start earlier in the hiring process.

For a company such as PRISM, the "onboarding" process starts with the first contact with a veteran candidate by offering resume writing advice and interview techniques and continues through a veteran performance management system with day one, week one, and monthly check-ins with a career counselor.

Even a small TA staff can develop a program that involves the entire team and incorporates periodic check-ins, mentoring with senior staff, or a buddy system that helps new hires acclimate to your company culture.  

If your company doesn’t already have some kind of onboarding or mentoring program in place, consider adding one, and make sure prospective candidates know about these programs by promoting them on your career site, the benefits section of job descriptions, and any other employer branding materials you create.

Even if your company can’t commit to every single one of these actions, adopting just one or more can make a big difference in your veteran hiring results, and much of the framework can be applied against other diversity hiring as well. For more inspiring best practices on veteran hiring, check out our 2018 Monster and Military.com Best Companies for Veterans list.