Two strategies for hiring veterans in the next phase of their career

Facilitate the progression of student veterans from military and campus life to their early careers.

November 11 marks Veterans Day, a moment out of the year to pause for reflection and pay homage to the people who protect and serve our nation. In times of deep national polarization, this day also serves an opportunity to break away from what divides us and salute the values that bring us together.

For employers actively working toward hiring their future workforce, Veterans Day is a convenient reminder to rethink ways to engage this underserved working population. While 61.4% of all civilians currently participate in the labor force, underwhelmingly less than half of veterans currently do, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But that’s not to say that veterans aren’t qualified to work. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As a result of gaining professional experience through the military, veterans bring a plethora of hard and soft skills to the table. And despite the majority of veterans in school being first-generation, veterans often graduate college with more work experience than the average college student. 

Employers can do their part to hire more veterans into the workforce by learning more about what this student base looks for in a prospective employer, and ways to support their progression from military and campus life into their early careers (hint: it starts with your sourcing practices).

What are the benefits of hiring veterans?

According to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI), the majority of student veterans are between 24 and 40, with the average age for a veteran starting postsecondary school at 25. In fact, only 15% of student veterans are traditionally aged between 18 and 23. Veterans are beginning college after years of leadership and professional development in the military, enabling this population to learn competitive business skills before they even consider schooling.

In addition to launching their civilian careers with prior work experience, veterans have been responsible for disrupting some of the largest traditional industries, including Founder, Chairman, and CEO of FedEx, Frederick Smith, and Founder of Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company, Jack Taylor.

Considering that employers can even receive tax credits for hiring an eligible veteran (up to $9,600 per year), the business case for hiring veterans is pretty clear. If you need additional reasons, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families does a good job of outlining a few of them—supported by research:

  • Veterans are entrepreneurial, with advanced team-building skills under their belts
  • Veterans have served cross-culturally, allowing them to thrive in diverse work-settings
  • Veterans assume high levels of trust, resilience, and a strong organizational commitment
  • Veterans are adept at skills transfer and are comfortable in discontinuous environments

With a deeper understanding of the business benefits of hiring veterans, employers can create opportunities to support this underserved population in their transition to employment.

How can employers support veterans in their early careers?

Only 18% of employers believe that veterans are more likely than the average American citizen to obtain a bachelor’s degree, according to SHRM. There’s a deep-seated myth that veterans bring a set of challenges with them that outweigh the benefits of hiring them, contributing to an employment pattern ripe for change. One common misconception is that veterans will require extensive and expensive mental health programs, but the truth is that veterans suffer from mental health issues no more than the average college student.

Also, veterans are substantially more likely to be students during their prime working years and to combine labor force participation with continuing education, according to Brookings. As a result, employers looking to recruit this group should note that, similar to our recent findings from other underrepresented groups, including Black and Latinx students, your current sourcing practices might be hurting the progression of student veterans.

GPA cut-off requirements, for example, aren’t accurate predictors of performance and can decrease access for veterans because veterans are more likely to have part-time jobs and struggle to balance coursework with the need to support their families or themselves. A better indicator are the soft skills and experiences veterans bring to the table.

Another common challenge employers report is that veterans have difficulty assimilating into civilian work life, but leading employers have demonstrated true excellence in creating programs that enable their entry into the workforce. Employers that succeed in bringing more veterans into the workforce recognize rifts in their recruitment strategy and partner with HR leaders cross-functionally to develop meaningful veteran-inclusive programs.

Handshake Premium partner, JPMorgan Chase, created the Military Pathways Development Program for this very reason. By recognizing the needs of veterans, the company provides training, mentorship, and commitment through partnerships to show veterans that they’re included in the process. Equally as important as understanding how to better support veterans is knowing what veterans look for in a prospective workplace.

What attributes do veterans look for in an employer?

Veterans most commonly major in business, management, and marketing (27%); science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM (14%); and health professions (10%). So the next time you’re looking for a sales representative, marketing manager or software engineer, consider tapping into this cohort.

Understanding where your program falls short with veterans is another way to re-evaluate your pathways for enabling a student veterans’ transition into your company. According to Handshake’s network of 163K+ active veterans on the platform, we know that the majority of veterans (58%) want company resources that are tailored to their needs. And innovative employers are proving that these strategies are scalable and feasible.

Handshake Premium partner Fiserv, Inc. a global provider of financial services technology, created a veterans engagement strategy aptly named Fiserv Salutes to incorporate inclusive business practices, like solutions for veteran-owned business, and provide the military community with career opportunities and resources because “it’s good business.”

“Fiserv’s team designed a comprehensive onboarding and training program to assist in the transition from the military life into the civilian workforce, along with a company-wide military awareness training to educate the entire organization on the value the military community brings to their global company.”

Meanwhile, Handshake Premium partner and multinational professional services network, EY, is dedicated to supporting veterans through their Veterans Network—a professional resource dedicated to helping veterans connect and support one another across the organization. The program includes a peer mentoring program, which matches new veterans to a peer mentor to help with transitioning into their role.

What make’s EY’s pledge especially unique is that, through their Veteran Jobs Mission, they’ve set a goal for hiring 100,000 transitioning service members and military veterans by 2020. That’s no small feat, even considering the organization’s size. So how’d they do it? By proactively tapping into pools of veteran talent through online networks like Handshake and at veteran student workshops and conferences (we’ll highlight a couple of them in the last section).

Another attribute veterans look for in an employer is flexible work environments. Veterans are actively considering companies that recognize and support their possible deployment. If an employer isn’t inclusive of these considerations, veterans may decide to look elsewhere. U.S. Bank makes these intentions to support active military on deployment clear on their website.

Thinking back to your program, is there a similar level of transparency you can foster through your careers page and employer brand?

One way Handshake Premium partners do so is by enabling testimonials from veterans on their Employer Page, so if a veteran student or alumnus views their profile, they’ll see their testimonials first. If you have a dedicated veterans employee resource group (ERG), share that in your profile. Veterans want to see themselves represented and know that there’s a place for them.

By offering up authentic, personalized experiences, you’ll empower more veterans to truly see themselves thrive at your company.

Where to find qualified veterans

Employers are recruiting and engaging with qualified student veterans at industry workshops and conferences throughout the year, including Student Veterans of America’s (SVA) NatCon and Hiring Our Heroes’ Fairs, Panels, and Workshops.

Proactive employers are getting a leg up by tapping into Handshake’s network to find and engage with qualified student veterans throughout the year, from 163K+ active veterans from across our network of 1,400+ partner schools including 180 minority-serving institutions and 170+ student groups.

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