Why companies do, or don't, hire veterans

Employers value the leadership and other characteristics associated with military duty, but they also have trouble figuring out how military experience might translate into civilian job skills, a new report finds.

The Center for a New American Security, a think tank that examines national security and defense issues, conducted in-depth interviews with representatives of 69 companies in an effort to understand why employers either hire or don’t hire veterans.

The report sheds light on why so many veterans might not be having any luck getting a job once they get out of the military.

The unemployment rate for veterans who served since Sept. 11, 2001, was 12.7 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, versus the national rate of 8.2 percent.

The problem is only expected to get worse as more veterans enter the civilian job market because of drawdowns in the Middle East and the possibility of military budget tightening.

The report found that employers see good reason to hire veterans, and it’s mainly for the skills many associate with military experience. Those include their leadership and teamwork skills, dependability and maturity.

The public relations value of hiring a veteran ranked very low on the list, with only about 10 percent of the companies citing it.

But the researchers found that even those companies that are actively recruiting veterans find barriers in hiring them.

Those biggest problem: It’s difficult to figure out how to translate military skills into applicable work experience in civilian life.

The report noted that even junior officers may have had the type of experience employers are looking for, such as responsibility for a big project or management of a team of workers, but many veterans don’t know how to present their military skills to accentuate those talents.

More than half of the employers also expressed concerns about post-traumatic stress and instability after deployments.

Employers also said another problem was a mismatch between the skills veterans have and the ones they need for  civilian jobs. Another common concern was whether work would be interrupted by deployments.

The research was funded by large companies including Prudential, JPMorgan Chase and BAE Systems, although the researchers said they retained editorial control of the project.

Tip of the hat to USA Today, which earlier reported on this study.


Younger veterans want to work but face roadblocks

Many recent vets face another battle: Finding a job

Defense cutbacks worry some military families



Discuss this post

I'm a Navy veteran and business executive. I would not likely hire a vet just because he or she is a vet. I do have a bias towards hiring vets, but they first need to establish themselves as the best person for the job, and there are two ways to do that:

If the job is such that the person needs to come in already equipped with specific skills, vets need to possess those requisite skills. Then, the intangibles of leadership, focus, commitment, team-building are extras that separate them from the pack and make them "best" for the job.

If the job is such that you can teach someone the necessary skills, without exception my experience has been that a veteran will learn it faster, do it better and, if they choose, move up through the organization more quickly.

  • 4 votes
Reply#1 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:56 AM EDT

Hit you are one sad person.You hide out on a ship while the real veterns do their part. You remind me of people that were clerks at a desk while your brothers and sisters did the grunt work. The most dishearting thing here is you call your self a vet and the way you talk I give 5 to 1 odds you never even smelled a ship much less held a weapon. You run your trash here thinking your well educated and you really showed your ignorance with your statement. The best part you said let the best person win. Let me inform you that they did They came Home alive. KMA! your no veteteran you may have been in the navy, but you sad person are no Vet.

    #1.1 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:36 PM EDT

    Hey Gomezz, why does the internet turn presumably otherwise intelligent people into arrogant, assuming knuckleheads? Why do you think you could assess my military career based on my post? Because you don’t agree with my comment, you attack me personally?? Why not be intelligent about it and explain WHY you don’t agree with me instead of proving yourself to be embarrassingly misinformed about my career?

    You’re precisely the kind of vet people don’t want to hire – you feel “entitled”. I hire the most qualified person because that’s what it takes to succeed. We don’t accept unqualified people for the military, and I don’t accept unqualified people for jobs just because they’re vets. They deserve to work where they can succeed. If they don’t meet the prerequisites, I’m doing them no favors by putting them in a position to fail.

    Regarding your comical assumptions about my career… not that you deserve an explanation, but I’ll try to extend the courtesy of a mature response that you failed to extend to me: I was in the Navy’s Nuclear Power program, spent 6 years on a ballistic missile submarine as a Reactor Operator, completed 8 deterrent patrols (about 90 days continuous under water for each one) before taking out the missile tubes and converting it into a special ops boat. As far as weapons go, we had 16 intercontinental ballistic Poseidon missiles with over 120 independent nuclear warheads. But, if you’re impressed by little weapons like guns, I have a marksmanship medal for the 9mm, which we carried in the engineering spaces while in port during the first Gulf War.

    As far as my education and intelligence – since you asked - I was a nuclear engineer at 19 finishing at or near the top of my class in all 3 Nuclear Power Program schools, which typically rates alongside Harvard Law as one of the most rigorous academic programs in the country – look it up. Graduated summa cum laude from one of the most prestigious university honor programs in the country and now am a commercial leader for one of the largest companies in the world.

    The military served me as well as I served it, and I do a lot for my fellow vets. But putting someone in a position that they’re not qualified for is not noble; it’s stupid. I have no doubt you’d do exactly that….

    • 3 votes
    #1.2 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:45 PM EDT

    We're a patriotic country, and I'm sure, in general, all of us want Veterans to have jobs, but it isn't that easy. There's a reason why Veteran unemployment is so high.

    I have, and several of my veteran friends, have experienced discrimination in the corporate workplace. At one interview in NYC, I was told "Guys who were in the military do exactly what they are told, but can't think out of the box."

    I also fear that the media reports of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also plants a seed in the back of the head of recruiters and interviewers.

    How about a marketing campaign to show the value of Veterans in the corporate workplace?

    • 3 votes
    Reply#2 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:59 AM EDT

    I suppose if I were the employer, I'd be concerned about several combined things; PTSD and working in a stressful work environment. I guess I'd feel more at ease if the vet were receiving treatment but again, it all depends on the severity of their condition, some are at different levels. There are many components to consider and not just these. Not everything is black & white.

    • 1 vote
    #2.1 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 12:24 PM EDT

    Todd, the example you made doesn't constitute discrimination. It's just fact. Got anything else?

      #2.2 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:28 PM EDT

      Nukeman - Any time a generalization is applied to an individual as a reason to not consider anyone in a particular group, it's discrimination. It may not be an illegal form of discrimination but it's discrimination none the less.

      • 1 vote
      #2.3 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:29 PM EDT

      I can verify Todd's comments. As a Vietnam era vet with a Masters degree in I.T., I can tell you that it's not all that unusual to be denied a position because veterans are viewed by hiring managers (with no military experience at all) as rigid, by-the-book, difficult to train, and possibly dangerous due to PTSD. Many employers have no intention of training anyway, only considering candidates who're able to be fully up-to-speed on the first day of work. It's much easier to offer the position to the kid with little or no experience but really nice hair.

        #2.4 - Sun Nov 11, 2012 9:22 AM EST

        I'm not an HR expert but I do have my own perceptions. It appears that overall, veterans are given a certain amount of preference in the work place. Some companies look to hire them because they do business with branches of the government and armed forces. Other companies may have some other monetary/tax incentive to give them preference. There may be some tax or grant incentives to companies to hire certain people like vets and minorities.

        It's very tough to find a good job with benefits these days regardless of your background. There is alot of skilled competition, but to make it worse, most qualified candidates are not even considered for alot of jobs due to these other factors. Not only do you have to be qualified to do the job, but sadly, too many employers are looking for other specifics that they often can't even admit to such as race, gender, sexual preference or other factors. When a company proudly announces that it is an "equal opportunity employer" you have to wonder if that really means that they hire mostly women, minorities and other protected groups. Kind of like saying "hey, we're into reverse discrimination in this company". Too bad, so sad that things got to be this way unless you are one of the preferred/protected persons.

        • 3 votes
        Reply#3 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 12:02 PM EDT

        In my experience, support MOS/AFSC's translate into civilian jobs more readily than combat specialties. On the other hand military leadership styles do not always work well in the civilian workplace.

          Reply#4 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 12:29 PM EDT

          Brian i agree with you on the leadership styles...after 13 years in the aviation side of the Navy we tend to be rather brash in how we get things done, in other words thin skin need not apply..In 2 days i will be grabbing my DD214 due to RIF and will be entering the civilian sector and have literally had to retrain my self in how to "talk" to people, not just verbally but in the way i had to rewrite my resume about 30 times or so just to make sure John Q Public can understand my skill set. Fortunately the companies that I have applied for do the same line of work..after all a rivet and aircraft structures are the same no matter where I go. On the flip side though a couple place i have applied to are not aviation so I have to word things differently and things get lost in translation. What concerns me though is that I have already had HR people point blank as if I have filed or plan on filing for PTSD....which i am not but was amazed when asked that question in the first place. I plan on finishing up my last 7 years in the reserves and when that is brought up, their tone changes from excited to "ohhhh ok". The last thing that I have noticed is that there is an intimidation factor..either they are worried that I will out produce them or that i wont take any of their BS and will tell them so where as I do not think most civilians would tell them off at a moments notice, after all we have been trained to throw the BS flag and if we get the chew out by a boss..oh well wasn't the first and wont be the last..just a few observations I have noted..but best of luck to all the vets looking for a career, we are truly an untapped source that will work our arses off for anyone willing to give us a chance

          • 1 vote
          Reply#5 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:21 PM EDT

          Vets are a mixed bag...like the general population...I'm a navy vet and will stick my thumb on the scale a little when a vet is involved but they have to be able to do the job...I do not hire NCO retirees though...they ones I've had were untrainable and stuck in their E-7 through E-9 ways too long or something...

          • 1 vote
          Reply#6 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:21 PM EDT

          Spoken like an ex-Officer, Rick. Everyone knows that NCO's are just a waste of space and that only Officers are capable of getting the mission done. An NCO would know better than to tar everyone with the same broad brush. How is this behavior any better than an ex-NCO hiring manager refusing to consider any ex-officers because he had a crappy OIC at some point in his/her career? Probably all for the best, though, as I certainly would Not want to work for someone with this kind of mind-set.

            #6.1 - Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:09 AM EST

            After serving 12 yrs in the air force where my duties included operating a jet engine rebuilding facility for 3 years and being a skilled aircraft crew chief mechanic on jet aircraft for 7 years and a technical instructor for 2 years; I was told by the aircraft industry that I did not have the training to even work as a refueler on jet aircraft. No jobs in the aircraft industry with out a degree from a private college in Florida at that time. I still don't understand their logic. I ended up working in the furniture business.

            • 1 vote
            Reply#7 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:24 PM EDT

            and that is the very reason I got my A&P...since we have our own regulations and civilian side uses FAA, we get stuck either driving the tug or be the guy emptying the toilets on a 747

            • 1 vote
            #7.1 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:28 PM EDT

            The aircraft industry is contracting. What did you expect

              #7.2 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:46 PM EDT

              My Experience is, many have told me "So what" with attitude, when I told them I was a Navy Vet. Many others just didn't say it. a few were OK about it, but I have never met an employer that showed any preference for Vets! To the public they say what is expected, but in practice we are a pariah. Every bad stereotype is taken as fact. Civilians are frightened of us because of these stereotypes.

              I try to give something positive in my Vines but I'm in my 50's and dealt with this for too long to see anything but the bad in this. Maybe like racism, it will take generations.

                Reply#9 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:23 PM EDT

                What good are management and leadership skills in an economy where there is a glut of managers and leaders? Military leadership skills are a lot like having a Masters of Business Administration, and I deleted my MBA from my resume in order to be more competitive.

                Teamwork skills are helpful, but are hardly rare.

                  Reply#10 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:45 PM EDT

                  My 12 year Air Force career has helped me in some way or out and out got me every job I've had since I separated in April 1992.

                    Reply#11 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:57 PM EDT

                    This has been the elephant in the room for a long time IMO. Lots of these jobs in the armed forces have NO equivalent in civilian life. Often not even close! My brother-in-law did something with helicopters. What does he do now? Works at Target and not even in management. The school programs he was offered were a JOKE, with no real chance at a degree that could actually earn him a decent living.

                    Meanwhile our government promises thousands of recruits "experience, grants for school" amongst other things and patriotic embellishments. Send them abroad to fight wars we shouldn't be in the first place where they die, get maimed, or suffer traumas that haunt them for the rest of their lives and are basically SCREWED when they try to get a civilian job. You'll notice very RARELY do rich kids join the armed forces! Why? Because most of the time it's a pretty raw deal. And before you slam me, save your "patriotism" for the next guy. Most of this stuff the last 20+ years has very little to do with "America".

                      Reply#12 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 3:33 PM EDT

                      Opinionated high horse, how may people are in the job that they majored in college? 30%? 40%?

                      More important to me would be a person with a high moral code, desire to get things done, initiative, and teamwork. All these are taught in the military.

                        #12.1 - Wed Jun 13, 2012 10:08 AM EDT

                        High Horse... first, the military is all voluntary. No one is forced to join. Which means that your brother - and every other volunteer - has the ability to determine IF they want to join, and what kind of education they'll get in the military. Some/many choose to join without first selecting a specific program or path, but that's their choice.

                        There are plenty of military programs that lead to excellent civilian careers. Obviously not all military jobs translate, but there are enough that if a person chooses to do so, and goes into the service with a plan, they can get excellent training that prepares them for professional-level civilian careers.

                        For everyone - those with a plan and those without - the military offers the GI Bill to help with education costs. Other aid programs for college and continuing education help fill gaps between military experience and the skills/knowledge needed for civilian jobs. Those programs exist and many - including myself - sought out those programs and benefited from them. There's also no shortage of people in the military who can help vets identify and apply for education assistance.

                        The military, government and private sector DO NEED to work harder to develop programs for disabled vets so that they're not left on their own to overcome their injuries (physical and mental) and find career opportunities.

                        Good luck to your brother. It's a tough job market for everyone, but there is also a plethora of ways to improve one's chances for finding a more satisfying career.

                          #12.2 - Wed Jun 13, 2012 12:13 PM EDT

                          I wouls suggest that many of the veterans apply for civilian governement jobs (usajobs.com). You'll work in the same field, with active duty and contractors, it's in your element. It's perfect. I work at an Army base and see so many active duty soldiers make the transition all the time once they retire. In addition, they give military preference to veterans.

                            Reply#13 - Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:33 PM EDT

                            My son will retire from the Air Force in about five years. He's continued his higher education, heads up his department, has advanced supervisory skills, won awards for organization and leadership, has traveled the world, is fluent in a few languages, and is all around "nice" guy. Any company should be happy to have him, in just about any position. (Yeah, I know, he's my son.)

                            I'm sure what he does at his job will translate to something reasonable within our general workforce; however, I think he may start his own business when he gets out.

                            Other veterans deserve their chances, too. Simply because they haven't been in the non-military work force doesn't mean that they are incapable of adapting to general jobs and skills. As a matter of fact, I believe most are better at adapting. They've needed to be creative in problem solving, they know how to work under pressure, and they know what "following the rules" is all about. Wet-behind-the-ears college grads can't' hold a candle to most of our military personnel and their experience.

                            It's sad that others can't see beyond their own fears and foibles. Our veterans are excellent folks, and they deserve to be given preference in hiring.

                            • 1 vote
                            Reply#14 - Wed Jun 13, 2012 7:46 AM EDT
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