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Amazon Has Mastered Hiring Veterans. Here’s How You Can, Too

Many veterans feel their service and skills aren’t valued by employers. But when a company does appreciate them, it pays off.

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BY Heather R. Huhman - 08 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

As a country, we come together on Friday to thank those who have selflessly served to protect us and our freedoms. But this day should also be a reminder that as employers, we have a duty to provide veterans with jobs and help them transition into civilian life.

Yet, it seems we're failing on that front. An August 2016 report from iCIMS found that 74 percent of post-9/11 veterans feel it is harder for them to find a job than a civilian who's equally qualified. Forty-four percent believed their military service would keep a company from hiring them.

This is a shame, considering veterans have skills and experiences that are invaluable to any workplace. Thankfully, some employers are beginning to catch on. A November survey by CareerBuilder found two in five employers (40 percent) plan to actively recruit veterans over the next 12 months, up from 37 percent last year.

To successfully tap into this talent, take a page from the playbooks of companies that have set the standard for veteran recruitment strategies. Here's what they suggest to attract those who've served:

1. Give recruiters the 411.

Recruiters and hiring managers need to understand all niche talent groups' unique needs. Veterans are no exception. Offering them the same old benefits and work environments won't cut it.

When Oldcastle, a building materials manufacturer, rolled out its new veterans hiring initiative in 2016, they knew education would be a big part. Leadership started by explaining the importance of veterans in the workforce. This was no easy task, considering the company has over 2,000 locations.

"We overcame the challenge by getting buy-in on the program from management and then publicized it to HR folks across the country," Cindy Reeves, director of human resources, said. "We built a comprehensive 'Veterans 101 Guide' with best practices for recruiting military personnel."

This guide lists on which military-based job search websites to advertise openings. It also has branded material that's focused on veterans for recruiters to use at job fairs.

2. Put your money where your mouth is.

Often, company leaders say they're going to focus on hiring more veterans. But then the initiative gets pushed aside by other things. Avoid this by publicly setting goals.

For example, in 2016, Amazon pledged to hire 25,000 military veterans and spouses, and train an additional 10,000 in cloud computing. Once that goal was out there, they had to follow up.

"Since making that pledge, we have built -- and are in the process of scaling -- programs that will further attract and enable veterans and military spouses to build careers here at Amazon," Kathleen Carroll, director of global talent acquisition, said.

Setting a known target helps keep the company accountable. To maintain your reputation, you have to take action toward those goals.

3. Learn the lingo.

Reading a veteran's resume can feel like you're trying to understand a foreign language. For example, very few civilians understand what an ammunition specialist does. They don't know how those skill might apply to a job in shipping. If you are unable to see how those roles overlap, you'll miss out on great talent.

"Flexport bridges the gap by using current veteran employees as arbiters to review veteran candidates' resumes or LinkedIn profiles to better decipher the achiever pattern we're looking for," said Sarah Gehrki, recruiting operations manager at Flexport, a freight forwarding company.

Also, ask current veteran employees how the military training and promotion system works. This will give you an idea of each candidate's skill level and help you determine all that they're capable of.

4. Take up arms in their causes.

There are countless nonprofit organizations that work with veterans. Get involved with these groups to show your dedication to veterans. For example, Overwatch Capital, a security and defense investment firm, partners with several veterans groups to support that community. As a result, they now have a better understanding of what veterans need from employers.

"We understand that coaching and mentoring veterans to the next step in their career is part of our duty as employers," said Steve Muntean, CEO of the organization.

Building relationships with these nonprofits also taps you into a network of veterans. It creates a way to give them information about your company and available employment opportunities.