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Veteran Recruiting Strategy

Hiring veterans is not an act of charity. We all want to be patriotic and support our military members, but choosing to hire veterans must be a “strategic talent initiative,” designed to bring fresh perspectives and great employees into your organization. You’re not in this just to do veterans a favor or because it’s the “right thing to do”. Why does it matter? Your hiring goal must be guided by a talent acquisition perspective or you run the risk of hiring the wrong people for the job.

Putting together a veteran hiring initiative must have buy-in from the top. It should cascade from the top executives down to the hiring managers. What success looks like depends a lot on where the directive is coming from. For example, is “success” hiring a specific number of veterans per year or adding a certain number of veterans to your talent community? It’s important to gain buy-in and to clearly communicate the purpose and the goals to everyone involved in the program.

Veteran hiring requires commitment, time, and long-term support. There are multiple pieces of the puzzle that should be considered when you launch your veteran hiring initiative. How will you put your company in front of the veteran community to attract veteran applicants? Once you hire a veteran, how will you provide the necessary training to bridge any skill gaps they may have? What kind of ongoing support will you offer to create a veteran-friendly environment? What kind of cultural messages do you need to develop to be supportive? These should be addressed. Outstanding examples of companies who have put together great veteran hiring programs within their organizations include Walmart Careers with a Mission, Home Depot and Union Pacific Railroad.

It’s important that you become familiar with Veteran issues. Learn how to translate military jobs and transferrable skill sets. How the military categorizes jobs and service members’ responsibilities feels foreign to civilians, but the underlying skill sets and responsibilities will be very similar. Hiring managers needs to be educated and provided with tools to translate those skills, experience, and salary expectations into civilian language. There are multiple online resources available to help do so, such as Hiring Our Heroes, Veterans' Employment & Training Service, or The Value of a Veteran.

As a recruiter, it’s hard to imagine that for many veterans, their interview with you may be their first civilian interview ever. Update your interview training approach. You can help make the process easier by providing as much interview preparation to the candidate as possible, such as, letting the veteran know it’s all right to ask questions, to show personality, to smile, etc. It’s also important to know what you can and cannot ask legally during an interview. There are specific questions that you cannot ask, such as, whether a veteran was honorably discharged or you risk violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

Veteran hiring may be new for everyone involved; be patient. Most companies have not focused on this type of program long enough to have mastered it. It’s important that we all continue to share best practices in your industry and across industries. Collaboration is highly beneficial. The more educated you become on the challenges veteran candidates face, as well as the depth of skills and leadership experience they have, the better you can create a program that works long-term. Remember, the goal is to hire great employees and help them transition their military careers into successful civilian careers that will increase your company’s competitive edge. Good luck!