Survey Finds You Gotta Know How to Recruit Vets If You Want to Hire the Very Best Ones

With Veterans Day coming on November 11, it’s an occasion to again raise a very good question — “Why aren’t we doing more to hire the veterans who have served our country so well?”

Orion Talent digs into that question in its 2018 Veteran Hiring Survey, and the research and analysis offers a new look at both the advantages and challenges of hiring veteran talent.

There’s a lot of interesting data in the report, but what jumped out at me was this:

  • While 99 percent of businesses report that they are recruiting military veterans, only 62 percent of them say are giving essential recruiting work (creating job descriptions, interview questions and communications) to resources that are not trained in, experienced with, or dedicated to veteran recruitment.

This made me wonder: Are all the struggles veterans seem to have in getting post-military employment simply because companies just don’t know how to effectively recruit and hire them?

A Lack of Understanding

As Mike Starich, CEO of Orion Talent, notes in the report,

“Employers do and should want veterans for the skills and experience they bring to an organization. Yet many hiring teams lack an understanding of veteran backgrounds and encounter difficulties throughout the entire hiring process. Today’s job-seeking veterans have a vast number of employment options to choose from. If a company is serious about recruiting and retaining military talent, it needs a well-thought-out plan to secure qualified veterans for roles that enable them to excel.”

Here’s the problem, according to the report — “The lack of experience in hiring veterans among a majority of internal recruiting teams may be playing out in candidate engagement, particularly in the interview process … Each interview challenge underscores the need for talent acquisition team members to have an understanding of various working environments in the military, as well as the types of skill sets and qualifications military service yields.”

This has been an ongoing issue for a number of year when it comes to recruiting veterans. In short, the skills and experiences that military vets bring with them don’t easily translate into jobs and opportunities in a great many American companies — and many recruiters and hiring managers simply don’t understanding how military skill sets correlate with civilian skill sets, and by extension, how to select the most qualified candidates to interview.

Here’s Why Hiring Veterans Is a Great Idea

This is a huge issue for organizations to get a hold of, because as the 2018 Veteran Hiring Survey also found, military veterans are highly desirable to hire for several reasons:

  • Some 59 percent of survey respondents say that the interview-to-hire ratio is higher among veterans than it is among other civilian job candidates.
  • In addition, 65 percent said that acceptance rates are higher among vets, and 67 percent felt that retention rates among veterans are higher, too,

For recruiters, candidates who are more likely to say “yes” after an interview, and then have a higher retention rate as well, are incredibly desirable. It makes you wonder — why don’t more organizations really focus on recruiting and hiring vets?

Top Takeaways

That’s a great question, and it’s one that Orion Talent’s  2018 Veteran Hiring Survey tries to answer as it summarizes the challenge for companies and organizations everywhere. They say that,

“Hiring military veterans is something most every business strives to do. And why not? Their technical skills, workplace versatility, and ability to work autonomously are unmatched.

For businesses, concerted veteran recruitment is both an opportunity to embrace a top-notch talent pool and a challenge to compete for these stand-out candidates by strengthening veteran hiring programs and proficiency.”

In fact, the 2018 Veteran Hiring Survey lists three central lessons from the survey “to keep in mind as your business explores its strategy for recruiting veterans.”

  1. Embrace the employability and versatility of veterans. From the survey: “In the face of one of the tightest talent markets in U.S. history, today’s military veterans offer employers an impressive talent pool of capable, versatile candidates who are easier to recruit and hire. Veterans are more likely to receive an offer after an interview, more likely to accept the job, and more likely to stay on the job longer. Once on the job they are proving capable in all areas, from entry-level work to management, from working within teams to working on their own, and from technical roles to nontechnical ones.”
  2. Keep a sharp focus on “the experience factor.” From the survey: “As the (data) reveals, talent acquisition leaders see engaging specialized recruiting firms, building a strong referral network, and attending military job fairs as the most effective ways to access and engage this valuable talent pool. The common thread among those three tactics is the focus on getting closer to resources — both people and organizations — that have experience with and connections to the military talent pool.”
  3. More structure equals better engagement. From the survey: “How can a business gain more experience with this unique and desirable talent pool? Adding more formality to veteran recruiting may be the first place to start. Most businesses are informally recruiting veterans rather than with a strategy or program, which likely means using a general recruiting process for a specialized talent pool. Employers can start by assessing how, where, and when they are engaging veterans. Are they effectively targeting military talent? Are they taking into account the fact that certain skills and experience will not sound and look the same in a military environment? Are they encouraging veterans to apply through direct engagement, such as on bases, at job fairs and through veterans’ organizations?”

Focusing on Recruiting Veterans All Year Long

Here’s my take: These are all great observations, and advice, for any organization looking to build their workforce with top talent. And, what better source of great talent is there than the veterans who served our country, oftentimes in difficult and dangerous places such as Iraq and Afghanistan?

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If you have any veterans in your family — and I have two who served as U.S. Marines in the Korean War and the conflict in Somalia — you know this is true.

In the U.S., Veterans Day on November 11 will focus a lot of attention on our veterans, and that’s a great thing  … but we need to direct that attention on our day-to-day recruiting and hiring on veterans every day and not just on one day in November.

Veterans can add a lot to your workforce. Take a look at the 2018 Veteran Hiring Survey and see just how much.

About the Survey

Orion Talent’s 2018 Veteran Hiring Survey: Exploring the Bottom-line Value of Hiring Veteran Talent, uses data from an online survey of 114 professionals who recruit and hire talent, from VPs and directors of HR and talent acquisition to owners, recruitment program directors, procurement professionals and hiring managers. It was conducted from June 13-16, 2018, and primarily represents five (5) industries: manufacturing, health care, technology, professional services and construction. More than half of the companies surveyed (52 percent) have less than 500 employees, 29 percent have 5001-10,000 employees, and 19 percent have more than 10,0o0 employees. You can get a copy of the survey results here.

John Hollon

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.