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Hiring Veterans: The Importance of Partnerships

As we celebrate Veteran’s Day today, I thought I would share a little from some of my previous blogs about the work we do in building partnerships between employers looking for great talent and organizations that assist Veterans with the job search process. 

When I first meet with organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, U.S. Vets, and others, they all ask me the same thing – does my employer client just want to “check the box,” showing they’ve reached out to veterans, or are they really looking to hire veterans? 

Fair question – they’ve been burned before. The company sends an email with job listings, a sharp looking recruiter hosts a job fair and tells the vets to go apply online and/or someone like me visits their office, talks a good game and is never heard from again. 

Box checked. Vets hired: zero. 

I am working with companies that want to go way beyond “checking the box” to hiring. That happens through partnership development. That means we need to work together and keep talking even if your first, second and third referral didn’t turn out to be the star we thought. Partnerships take time and work and here are three simple tips for better partnerships and better placement results. 

Partner Tips: 

#1. Communication: 

It’s been said before – communication is a two way street. We need openness and honesty or we both lose. I’ve been commended for the feedback I receive from my partners because without this feedback, I’m going to keep letting them make the same mistakes. Respond in a timely manner. What’s working and what’s not? Communication breakdown is a constant burden in all business and personal relationships. 

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” – Cool Hand Luke 

#2. Quality Not Quantity: 

I’m sure you have a huge caseload of veterans, but when I’m looking for a specific position I need those who are qualified and those who are ready for employment. I need you to prescreen the candidates and bring me your best. 

“Great men are not born great, they grow great.” – The Godfather 

#3. Commitment: 

If I’m committing to you, I need you to commit to me — and my outreach plan. If there was a simple formula for success I’d be out of a job, your veterans would all be employed and the company would have a low turnover while meeting their compliance needs. Good times, bad times, you know we’ve had our share. If we keep our commitment to the project and goals, we will see the outcomes. 

“You complete me.” – Jerry McGuire 

We all have goals and metrics we need to hit…and we will. Let’s start by understanding what it takes to be in a partnership, so one day we can walk off into the fog, side by side and declare, “I See the Beginning of a Beautiful Partnership.” (You can read the original full blog here: http://disabilitysolutionsatwork.org/beginning-beautiful-partnership/.)

In my work with Veterans I hear about the challenges and sometimes frustration they have encountered transitioning in the civilian workforce. I challenge the groups I work with. I ask, “I’m looking at you all and I’m looking at your resumes. Why don’t you have any jobs or why do you want to change the jobs you have?” Silence. Then some responses, “In the military you showed up on time, you did your job and you didn’t complain. In the field it was life or death. You counted on the men and women around you because if they failed you it was your life.” Heavy, yet telling. Then, “the only jobs I get an offer for are security. I was a Platoon Sergeant!” 

The challenge for employers? Recruiters and hiring managers often don’t know how to assess the talent that is in front of them and are often unaware of the talent they are missing. I hear it all the time. They don’t have that experience – they do! They’re overqualified – yes, but want that job! 

Three Tips for Employers: 

#1. Outreach: 

Work on that partnership relationship. It takes time and effort. I’m not going to lie, some veteran groups are better than others, but it is up to you to find out. Don’t get frustrated, be patient, and communicate your needs effectively. 

“Waiting is the hardest part.” – Tom Petty 

#2. Don’t Judge a Resume by Its Cover: 

Unfortunately, we utilize the resume for the end all, but trying to fit all that great experience into a one- or two-page resume can be tough and sometimes we find they’re too long. Thoroughly read the resume and look for keywords. Learn those keywords. Relate that experience to what you’re looking for. Talk to the veteran! “Yeah, ’cause you can’t judge a book by its cover.” 

“My papa used to say: ‘look, child, look beyond.’” – Stevie Wonder 

#3. Don’t Assume Veterans Are Overqualified: 

Yes they might be! But as mentioned above, these Veterans are getting low hourly jobs in security or some other related field. They want a career and are not afraid to show you their worth and work their way up. Be upfront and honest with them and let them decide whether the job is “below them.” 

“You Won’t Get Fooled Again.”– Roger Daltrey, The Who 

As my final point, I want to make it clear that you don’t owe it to the veteran to hire him or her based on the fact that they served this country. For that, a good gesture is to let a veteran grab the aisle seat on the plane, buy them a drink or shake their hand. 

As an employer what you owe Veterans is the opportunity for them to tell you about their talents and desire to be the best employee at your company. Give them that chance, just don’t think you did. 

(Read my original full blog here: http://disabilitysolutionsatwork.org/boots-ground-finding-veteran-partnership/.)

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