Insanity, as famously defined by Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.

Analogously, employers who are frustrated by their inability to attract, hire, retain and develop veterans must revisit, and re-vamp their hiring strategy. What works for recruiting a civilian workforce definitely does not work for hiring (and then retaining) the roughly 2.8 million men and women who have transitioned from military to civilian life in the last dozen years. Good intentions are also not enough: surveys* show that employers – particularly federal contractors who now must meet an annual OFCCP benchmark of 7% for protected veterans – WANT to hire more veterans. The problem is that they don’t know HOW.

Why is hiring veterans so challenging? According to numerous studies, the biggest challenge for many organizations is translating military skills into civilian career opportunities. As employers look beyond the fundamental critical issue of matching candidates to opportunities as they seek to identify and implement solutions, they must ask themselves the following questions to establish a high touch candidate experience throughout the hiring process:

Does your job posting/resume review process work for veterans?

Veteran experiences and specialized skills generally don’t neatly fit into all the boxes on the online job posting “Must Have” requirements list. A supply sergeant’s skills, for instance, are comparable to that of a purchasing manager but that individual may be overlooked because either keywords won’t surface his/her resume or for other reasons lost in translation. Corporate recruiters and hiring managers need to re-assess and re-write jobs to highlight their needs for specific competencies and transferable skills.  Examples:  “Demonstrated leadership and team management skills”; “able to make accurate and timely decisions in crisis situations”; “aptitude for numbers and data analytics”, etc.

Are your hiring managers trained?

It’s critical that your entire team, including hiring managers, not only understands what roles are best suited for veterans, but are also educated in how to review and assess the resumes, career interests and potential transferable or developmental skills and abilities in order to better match veterans to job opportunities. A common pitfall is to limit training to frontline recruiters and/or HR professionals only to have ill-informed hiring managers reject candidates because they mistakenly perceive that he/she lacks specialized skills or industry experience.

Is your outreach as targeted as possible?

Every recruiter knows that you need to look for candidates on their home turf using the optimum employment branding, messaging and outreach strategy to reach candidates with the desired skills. So, go high-touch and look to the hundreds of veteran employment service organizations (VSO), employment / career coaching programs  available and ready to help.  Doing so will yield pre-screened and career “transition ready” veteran referrals which is key to improving your hiring ratios and, for federal contractors, meeting requirements for demonstrated outreach.  In fact, federal contractors will get stung the hardest in the new OFCCP requirement as a high volume of veteran resumes from various sources, but not making it through your hiring process is BAD. Quality and FIT, over quantity, is most important as the government compares the ratio of job applicants to those moving forward in the recruiting process. If your recruiters or hiring managers screen out a high number of veteran applicants, you could be at risk of an OFCCP audit!  It’s important that outreach is strategic and targeted so employment opportunities are promoted where you have the greatest likelihood of attracting “right fit” talent with a greater chance of moving through your process and be hired.

Are you leveraging the veterans already in your organization?

Career coaching and peer mentoring programs can have a very positive impact on transitioning military job candidates to guide them on a civilian career path. Coaching is a valuable first step BEFORE they can effectively search and apply for a job that best matches their skills and abilities.  In-house veteran employee resource groups can play an especially important role by partnering with corporate HR and recruiters to assist in candidate career coaching, job matching, new hire cultural assimilation/onboarding and/or employee career development coaching.

Are you maximizing the use of technology?

For veterans, mobile-enabled technology allowing them to search for jobs while on the go is a must. Many employers are also seeing great success using videos featuring veterans they have hired to speak about their journey into a civilian career. These individual and personal testimonials offer views into daily job activities, workplace culture and they effectively tell the story about the company, the jobs, and what it’s like for a veteran to work there. They are great tools for “selling” your company and also for providing veteran job candidates with career exploration information.  Lastly, be sure your online application is updated to enable veterans to bypass required information that may not be relevant to them.

Finally, does your on-boarding program fill the needs of this group?

According to study by Prudential**, three out of five veterans report challenges with cultural assimilation into civilian corporate cultures. So, once you’ve hired veterans, make certain that your cultural assimilation process takes this into account and does not assume that veterans will be familiar with office practices, politics or culture. For instance, many corporate cultures value debate as a required part of the decision-making process – which is not how the military chain of command generally works!  By instituting an onboarding process that addresses the specific and unique needs of veterans, you will minimize new hire turnover.

Summary

For employers looking to add veterans to their ranks (pun intended) the problem is fairly simple: current traditional recruiting and hiring models don’t typically work very well for veterans. The solutions are not as simple, but asking the questions above and using the answers as a guide to creating a robust, high touch process that gets great talent hired – and helps to retain them – is a great way to ensure that your veteran recruitment strategy yields results AND is fully OFCCP compliant.

*A CareerBuilder survey from 2012 shows that 29 percent of employers are actively recruiting veterans to work for their organizations and sixty-five percent said they would be more likely to hire a veteran over another equally qualified candidate.

**For a link to the study, go here

For more information, check into hiring initiatives at both the State and National level. Many not-for-profit organizations also provide invaluable information.

Carl Kutsmode

About the Author

Carl Kutsmode has over 20 years expertise in talent acquisition transformation — assessing and optimizing corporate recruiting capabilities for greater efficiency and performance.

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