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Hiring Veterans: A Great Investment for Employers

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Linda Jefferson
November 18, 2014 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 21.4 million veterans in 2013. In that same summary, the BLS indicated there were 722,000 unemployed veterans in 2013. As the U.S. conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, more veterans are and will be looking to enter the civilian workforce.

The United States Code 38 defines veteran as “a person who served in the active military, naval or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.” Some studies include members of the Armed Forces reservists in their definition of veterans.

Veterans served our country with honor, pride, integrity, courage and “selfless service.” It is with this same “selfless service” that veterans want to bring to the civilian workforce.

Jefferson novHiring veterans is a great investment for employers. Veterans have proven leadership skills, complex problem-solving abilities, resiliency, respect for procedures, technology expertise and adeptness at working under stressful situations. They also bring success in working in a team environment. These are just a few skills identified by Margaret Harrell and Nancy Berglass in their report, Employing America’s Veterans – Perspectives from Businesses, and listed in an article by Capt. Benjamin Jones. Let’s take a closer look at these skills.

Leadership – According to Capt. Jones, “The military trains service members to lead by example as well as through direction, delegation, motivation and inspiration.” Veterans lead vertically and horizontally, meaning they understand hierarchy and can function well in peer-to-peer situations.

Problem-solving – Veterans are trained to solve complex problems in stressful situations. They are trained to find alternatives in rapidly changing conditions. This skill is a definite plus in an organization experiencing change, in an industry with rapidly changing markets or in the public sector where public policies intersect with social, economic and political systems.

Resiliency – Harrell and Berglass reported that “Veterans are accustomed to working in difficult environments, and to traveling and relocating.”

Respect for Procedures – Veterans understand that processes and procedures serve a purpose in organizations. Veterans are trained to follow procedures and know the possible consequences when procedures are not followed. Respect for procedures is a great asset in a government or regulatory setting.

Technology Savvy – The U.S. Armed Forces is on the leading edge of technological advances. Organizations can leverage veterans’ technology expertise to outpace the competition or breathe new life into organizations behind the technology curve ball.

Teamwork – According to Capt. Jones, veterans understand being accountable to their colleagues. They understand how groups interrelate with each other in the accomplishment of the organization’s objectives.

While many employers recognize the great investment in hiring veterans, some report challenges and risks with doing so. Some of the challenges included difficulty translating military skills to the civilian workforce, concerns about future deployments, acclimation and negative stereotypes. Let’s explore the challenges mentioned in this article.

All in the Translation – Employers are looking for individuals that fit the job posting as close as possible. Harrell and Berglass note that some employers have difficulty understanding what veterans did in the military and how that experience can benefit the organization. Veterans and employers can both use a job skills translator that will help convert military experience to similar jobs in the civilian workforce.

Future DeploymentsEmployers are concerned that veterans, particularly reservists, may be deployed or redeployed. Employers are concerned that veterans may be deployed for long periods of time and for small businesses that means cutting into productivity.

Acclimation – Some organizations are concerned that veterans will not “fit” in with their company culture, according to Harrell and Berglass. “Other employers believe veterans will need additional resources from the company or that veterans should not be hired immediately after returning from service.” Indeed, it is a culture shock for some veterans transitioning from military to civilian life.

Negative Stereotypes – Harrell and Berglass wrote that some employers worry that veterans may suffer from anger issues, violent tendencies and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet other employers express concerns that veterans are “too rigid” for their environment.

Veterans are a valuable resource and a great investment for employers. They offer diverse skills that can only enhance the organization. They are known for their tenacity and ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Veterans are dependable, loyal and mission centered. They are focused.

Hiring a veteran requires some effort on the part of the employer. It requires the employer to make a concerted effort to understand veterans, understand the laws governing hiring veterans and create an environment where veterans feel welcomed.

Veterans must also do their part. They must help educate employers, prepare for interviews and help employers see how their military experience can benefit their organization. It is helpful for veterans to become familiar with the jargon of the industry in which they wish to pursue a career.

Author: Linda Jefferson, SPHR, CPM, MPA is a human resources professional with 25 plus years experience in the public sector. She is the Immediate Past President of the North Carolina Society of Certified Public Managers. she can be reached at [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

3 Responses to Hiring Veterans: A Great Investment for Employers

  1. Sherrill Reply

    March 19, 2015 at 4:20 pm


    Thank you for this article. It has been very helpful in pinpointing the skills our veterans acquire during their service, which are skills that are transferable into the civilian workforce. As a rehabilitation counselor preparing to work with our veterans in vocational placement it is key to translate those military job skills into civilian job skills to not scare off the employer. I will be keeping these skill sets in mind when helping our vets prepare their resumes.


  2. Bobby Ehrig Reply

    November 18, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    I agree with your article. But, I think there is one thing missing that I do not see enough reported. Many employers think hiring a Veteran for a $10 an hour job is great and helps Veterans. In many cases, as you wrote, they have skill sets that tend to scare employers looking to hire managers and higher. I have helped many Veterans, including myself, who have had difficulty trying to find jobs that provide a salary even close to commensurate with managerial skills. I also have found it hard to reflect on my resume the fact that we are trying to apply for jobs that may in fact not be at the level, sometimes below our experience level, because we just want to work and find a team to belong to. Employers do not seem to want to hire Veterans in certain parts of the country for their skill sets but rather would pass them over for that same reason. I have at least 10 senior level military professionals with 15 to 20 years of experience who cannot find jobs that do not start them off at Walmart hourly wage workers because of this same problem. It is frustrating and in some cases they have been told to “dumb down” their resume just to get a job. I find this disheartening and demoralizing to the service that many of us have contributed to the nation and for those who would be prejudicial to us for that same sacrifice.

    • Linda Jefferson Reply

      November 26, 2014 at 3:40 pm


      Thank you for your comments. I also want to thank you for your service to our country and for helping fellow veterans in their search for employment. We certainly want our veterans to know that we want them on our team.


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