Blog: Bet on a Vet: Veterans and the Companies That Hire Them

Veterans from every branch of military service are an untapped human resource for Detroit-area companies. The skills and experience veterans have acquired in their years of service are often directly transferrable to private sector job opportunities.
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John Gardner
John Gardner // Courtesy photo

Veterans from every branch of military service are an untapped human resource for Detroit-area companies. The skills and experience veterans have acquired in their years of service are often directly transferrable to private sector job opportunities.

Many times, however, companies have challenges recruiting veterans and tapping into those skills and experience that would make a great fit to their culture. Taking simple, appropriate steps can lead to highly qualified new employees.

Companies can start by making the commitment to bring in a person with military experience to assume a veteran hiring role. The company gains instant credibility with the veteran audience.

The vet rep should be easily identified at job recruitment events by wearing a military pin, lanyard, cap, etc., to let other vets know the hiring manager served in the military. This military hiring rep will be aware of standard veteran career fairs, events on college campuses, and military bases’ career transition programs, where personnel can help identify potential candidates for open positions. The rep can also identify potential vets across the nation to bring in intellectual capital from around the country, not just locally.

Companies can also become involved in national and local veterans organizations. In Detroit, that includes the city council’s Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force, which covers myriad veterans issues, including employment. The Military Spouse Employment Partnership is a Defense Department-led initiative that connects military spouses with partner employers who have committed to recruiting, hiring, promoting, and retaining military spouses, too.

In short, companies need to be proactive in searching for veteran job candidates, and they should make it easy for veterans to apply for open positions. For example, Roush’s Veterans Initiative Program, which has hired more than 400 vets since 2013, makes it clear that the company values veterans in its workforce and offers an easy online application process.

Veterans can make themselves marketable, too. A veteran can be proactive by attending job fairs and transition programs and by contacting companies directly. Local vet representatives are available through the local VFW or Office of Veterans Affairs.

Some vets find it challenging to tell their story on a resume. Since military branches train their members in many areas, veterans need to explain how their skills are transferrable to an open job opportunity. Vets can start by understanding the specifics of the position being pursued, then crafting a resume and a LinkedIn profile showing how their military skills will carry over to a company. Veteran job seekers should also review the company mission statement of any job they apply for and then contour materials and an interview strategy to speak to the company’s mission and culture.

Veterans should remember that a job interview is a conversation. Many veterans try to present themselves as someone who has never made a mistake, which isn’t realistic. They may have difficulties answering basic interview questions like, “Tell me about a time when you didn’t measure up, and how did you respond?” Vets can practice responses ahead of time to this type of question.

Veterans who have successfully transitioned to the private sector have the unique ability to pay it forward to other vets transitioning out of the military. They understand the immense amount of training military members experience, as well as the challenge of changing careers. I’d encourage these vets to help the next generation find a place where they can succeed and continue their personal and professional development.

From assisting vets and their families to acquiring proficient new employees to the nation’s economy and its defense strategy, the benefits of hiring vets are substantial.

John Gardner is manager of the veteran’s initiative program for Livonia-based Roush. He is a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he recruited high school students, college students, and graduates to become pilots and engineers.

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