Camaraderie. Resilience. Discipline. Critical thinking. Veterans come with a wealth of sought-after transferable skills. Masters of navigating uncertainty, veterans often perform at higher levels and have lower turnover rates than their civilian counterparts. Many spend years managing large numbers of people and expensive equipment. And their sense of responsibility means they are often the first on the job and the last to leave.
So, why do so many veterans face unemployment and underemployment after they hang up the uniform? Below, we explain what stops veterans – and their spouses – from getting the job offer, and what employers can do about it.
Recruiters don’t speak military
Often, recruiters won’t recognize military job titles, ranks, and acronyms, never mind military credentials. They might have low expectations of veterans’ skills and fear that they won’t be a good fit for their workplace. Consequently, they’re more likely to reject veteran candidates or push them into specific fields, like security or trucking, for example. Indeed, 38 of the top 50 industries employ them at a lower rate than nonveterans.
AI weeds out qualified veteran candidates
Most military jobs have a civilian equivalent, but veterans don’t screen like civilians because their job titles are different. AI-based applicant tracking software can put candidates in the reject pile if they lack industry keywords or have gaps in employment history. This disadvantages veterans and exacerbates the talent crunch by rejecting millions of candidates straight off the bat.
Job requirements exclude veteran experience
Compared to others, veterans with an undergraduate degree have nearly three times more experience. Still, job descriptions can deter many before they even get to the application stage. Civilian terms for certain skills don’t always align with how veterans see their skills sets, leading them to rule out roles they are very qualified for. Moreover, postings often demand specialized hard skills that veterans will struggle to attain during their military careers.
Veterans aren’t linked in with civilians
Who you know matters. Veterans often haven’t had the opportunity to build a strong professional network, which can become a problem as they transition to the civilian workforce. (Plus, civilian workers usually lack strong connections with the veteran community.) Unsurprisingly, this leads many veterans to underplay or exclude their military service from job applications.
Military spouses suffer, too
Most military spouses are well qualified for any number of careers, and want or need to work. Yet, the unemployment rate among this group is 24 percent. At the same time, wages are 25% lower than among the civilian population, mainly due to frequent relocations, childcare issues, and an inability to transfer occupational licenses from state to state.
What employers can do
Empowering veterans in the workplace isn’t charity. If you’re not hiring veterans, you’re missing out on a uniquely qualified talent pool of skilled leaders, technicians, and innovators. Here’s what you can do:
Use data as your strategic asset
Dig deep into your hiring data to pinpoint where veterans are dropping out of your recruitment funnel. Regularly review your employee data to establish which roles veterans tend to fill at your company. Delve into departments, seniority levels, and contract types. Ask yourself whether unseen barriers might be causing veterans to languish in roles below their experience level or to drop out altogether.
Level-up internal awareness
Don’t make veterans do all the heavy-lifting in translating their skills. Invest in training to elevate hiring managers’ understanding of the roadblocks and eliminate any preconceived opinions. Train recruiters in when it might be appropriate to waive industry experience requirements. And consider including veterans for ‘top of the funnel’ candidate engagement through recruitment and onboarding, and in promoting internal knowledge transfer.
Institute a dedicated veteran hiring track
Veterans themselves tend to believe that civilian hiring managers will devalue their military experience, and with good reason. Counter that by setting up veterans-only recruitment processes, careers sites, and internal referral programs that cater to their unique needs. Encourage veteran candidates to speak with existing veteran employees. And recraft job descriptions to focus on relevant skills rather than specific degrees or years of industry experience.
And take care of military spouses
Lack of childcare, frequent moves, and the demands of supporting a partner in the military make finding appropriate work intensely difficult for this group. Let them work flexibly, and from home, where possible. And be vocal in your support for military families so military spouses feel seen, included, and welcome at your company.
Considering the escalating stress and financial pressure wrought by the pandemic, we need to do more than thank our veterans this Veteran’s Day. Companies must support them in meaningful ways year-round.
Adecco can help. Our Military Alliance program has been working to address the high unemployment rate for vets and their spouses. To help open doors, we provide job placement, career counseling, resume enhancement, interview training, and much more.