How to attract and hire America’s military spouses
5 ways to make your company more attractive to the highly engaged and talented military spouse job candidates available today.
While you might already be familiar with veteran hiring and military-friendly branded companies, the effort to hire military spouses is an initiative that is starting to gain momentum. Organizations that are implementing a military spouse hiring program agree that they’re tapping a talented group of dedicated people who bring great value to their organizations.
What you need to know about military spouses
Like their partners, military spouses often do not have traditional resumes because they move frequently. According to Monster’s 2018 Veteran Spouses Survey, 74% of military spouses said they have found it difficult to get hired into a new job where they moved.
What’s more, two in three respondents believe it is difficult to find a job that takes their military lifestyle into consideration, and half of military spouses who are currently working feel underemployed.
Despite the nation’s sub-4% unemployment rate, this group also faces much higher unemployment numbers in the 20-30% range, says Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO and Board Presidentof Blue Star Families, a national non-profit which supports military families through a variety of programs.
But here’s the thing: “Military spouses are really talented, educated, skilled, experienced; an excellent source of talent,” says Roth-Douquet, and companies that don’t realize that are missing out.
In fact, military spouses represent one of the most underappreciated and overlooked talent communities, says Susan Fallon, vice president of global strategy and business developmentfor Monster and Military.com.
“Around 33% have college degrees, and if you look at the cohorts under 34 years of age, their education levels are really high,” she says, thanks in part to the free training and education benefits that many military spouses have access to.
Military families are also known for their strength. “There is a level of resiliency, leadership, and grit that this particular part of the workforce represents. You can train and educate on skills, but you can’t train on those leadership attributes that many military spouses bring to the table,” says Fallon.
Here’s how to get started:
Read resumes with a different lens
“It’s important for recruiters to understand that resume gaps are usually due to a commitment to a national mission, not an inability to hold down a job,” says Douquet. Whether it’s successfully reintegrating into new communities, creating structure out of chaos, maintaining calm in stressful situations, or doing volunteer work, pay attention to those skills. “People attached to a mission-driven focus can bring a lot of benefits to the workplace,” says Douquet.
Show that you’re a military spouse-friendly employer
To reach this segment of the workforce, you need to let them know that you’re interested in hiring them, says Fallon. The best way to do that is to say so, while also showing spouses in your workforce and highlighting positions that have flexible structures and portability.
Have a point person who understands this population.
“Many companies that are successful in reaching this pool have a military spouse as a point of contact who can appreciate unique family situations and can help them navigate through hiring and onboarding,” Fallon says.
Discuss a long-term career path
“Most spouses want to get into a career, not just a job, but because of the likelihood that they will be moving every three years, military spouses need portable jobs,” says Fallon. That way, they’re not losing seniority, not losing pay, and the company can retain that talent and investment.
Walk the talk
Douquet recalls only getting one week’s notice that her husband was going to be deployed for a year. “When something like that happens, you have to allow the family to take some time and make accommodations for that situation,” she says.
Partner with military spouse organizations and programs
There are a number of organizations that can help companies connect with military spouses. These include:
- Military.com and Monster.com
- The Military Spouse Employment Partnership Programfrom the Department of Defense
- The Chamber of Commerce Foundation
- Blue Star Families’ Spouseforceprogram
Can you combine your veteran and military spouse hiring efforts?
Just three years ago, Booz Allen didn’t even have a count of how many military spouses they employed, says Andrea Inserra, Booz Allen’s executive vice president and chair of veteran’s agenda. But with one third of its workforce being military connected already, and the fact that it has 80 locations worldwide, it clicked that a military spouse-specific initiative made sense.
“We had to step back and understand who are the military spouses at Booz Allen so we can help them in their transition,” she says. Today, Booz Allen has over 400 military spouse employees, and a recruitment team that is dedicated to that segment. “As soon as they have orders to move, we can help them identify work they can do in their new region or telework,” says Inserra.
More important even than giving a military spouse a job is creating a corporate culture where hiring managers understand the value military spouses bring to the table and where those employees can find accommodation for their unique challenges, says Amy Bushatz, executive editor of Military.com.
“Understanding that a spouse may not have flexibility when it comes to which days to take as vacation thanks to deployment schedules or homecomings, or offering ways for employees who have built trust to either work remotely or, if possible, transfer to a new location, are great examples.”
Some companies like Starbucks and Walmart have really strong veteran and spouse hiring programs, says Douquet. And Prudential has taken their efforts a step further by helping to create policy that reduces barriers for military spouses who work overseas.
Just as with veterans, recruiting military spouses can be a worthwhile investment that helps you fill your talent gaps – and you’ll be doing something good for the nation.