5 Myths Regarding Hiring Veterans

Well into my second decade of helping employers hire military, I’ve talked with literally thousands of employers about recruiting veterans. Many times, I will have to overcome objections regarding service men and women’s capabilities as civilian employees. Here are the most common 5 myths regarding hiring veterans that I hear.

1). A veteran’s skills aren’t transferable to our business. When I hear this comment, I usually follow it up by asking if integrity, accountability or an understanding of corporate framework is important? The reality is that most hiring managers put the majority of their focus on soft skills: “I can teach the right person our business.” Sound familiar? If your company’s hiring managers don’t currently focus on soft skills, then interviewing/working with a military professional will broaden their perspective.

In addition to military success traits soft skills, veterans also possess applied/technical backgrounds in leadership, engineering, maintenance, production, logistics, quality, and safety as well as specialized vocational skills. They have proven integrity, have been held to physical fitness standards and often have a built-in background check through having been issued a security clearance.

2). We don’t have time to train veterans. Of course you don’t, who does? But do you have time to keep putting pressure on your team while your open positions go unfilled? Do you have time to invest in a potentially expensive hire because the candidate whose experience is a perfect fit won’t relocate to your city? Do you have time for your competitors to swoop in when your best customer is not getting adequate service because you are down a team member? The reality is that most assignments in the military are “trial by fire” where military members are assigned a new role, given a brief amount of instruction and then expected to deliver top results. The employers I work with see this as a strength of the military candidate.

3). Veterans aren’t a cultural fit. This one stems from the stereotype that military service is all about ridged compliance and barking orders. The reality is that is not how day-to-day business is conducted in the modern military. Our current force is all-volunteer and is made up of our best and brightest young people. The obstacles to joining the military are steep. Only 20% of the U.S. population is service-eligible. Inspiring leaders get the best results and mid-managers understand empathetic leadership is key to high performing teams, especially in an organization steeped in bureaucracy and protocol. Are there situations where communication has to happen quickly and sometimes directly? Sure. But that happens in critical functions in the civilian world as well.

4). Veterans are too procedural and cannot think for themselves. Closely related to the incorrect stereotype above, this one is a misconception that has been propagated in the interview arena where procedural compliance and adherence is discussed but only at the base level. For instance, when I was on a submarine, we drilled tirelessly and pushed the boundaries of our procedures daily. However, in a real world crisis, when the book said to do one thing, we would inevitably get a curve ball that took us off the page or a complex issue that had us make a decision between conflicting procedures. Military-experienced personnel understand that books, processes and check lists get you to the battle, then all bets are off.

5). We do not know where to find veterans. If a company is relying on their recruiting function to hire military via key word search on resumes or on narrow qualification standards on job postings, they are likely going to fail. This is substantiated by the frequent employer feedback I receive at Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI): “We would never have considered this group of candidates based on their resumes, but after our interviews, we were surprised at how their skills completely fit with the position.” These verbatims have been consistent over my 10+ years placing military candidates. Hiring managers who are not getting quality veteran candidates (or enough team leaders, engineers, operations, sales, maintenance, field service or technician candidates) through their internal resources have options like BMI to assist.

What myths have you found in hiring military?

Bobby Whitehouse


Image courtesy Full Metal Jacket