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Improve the Recruiting and Hiring of Military Veterans

  • Human Resources
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 06/18/2019

A female military veteran is interviewed for a job opening.
If you are considering hiring military veterans, here are helpful tips for your HR staff to use that will benefit the business and veterans, making the recruiting and hiring experience more positive.

Table of Contents

Try to imagine what goes through the mind of someone who one day is commanding 900 Marines in the field and the next day is struggling to figure out how to use a medical insurance card and find a doctor.

For Mary Kennedy Thompson, it was overwhelming. “I had a lot of skills to bring to the table, but in that moment, none of it seemed to translate,” said Kennedy Thompson, CFE and COO of Neighborly.

It’s not that the skills didn’t translate but, rather, the skills were lost in translation.

This is not an isolated incident. Each year, about 200,000 military personnel make the transition to civilian life*, with more than 100,000 entering the labor force. One thing many business owners think of is “How can I be of service to those who served?” but that thought usually extends only to the point of hiring military veterans.

There is certainly much value to hiring veterans: leadership, diversity, potential tax credits, and more, but for both sides to gain the most from the experience, business owners need to consider the entire employee lifecycle for military veterans, including onboarding, training and development.

“Veterans want to serve, they understand commitment … and they are driven to belong to an industry that matters,” Kennedy Thompson said.

Monty Heath, a former Navy SEAL, said no veteran wants pity. “Veterans don’t want a handout, they want a hand up. And it doesn’t take much. Everyone can get better.”

He was speaking specifically about veterans transitioning from military duty to the civilian workforce, but he was also talking about businesses in general. Changes are necessary and businesses need to develop a better understanding of what veterans require as they not only look for gainful employment but, also, what they might need when they do get hired.

How to Recruit Veterans

Veteran recruitment can be a challenge that many employers face when it comes to finding and recruiting veteran talent. While there are military-sponsored job fairs specifically targeted at helping military members transition to the civilian workforce, these can be cost-prohibitive, especially for small businesses. That said, there are ways to actively search for veterans and military spouses. You may want to consider taking advantage of online resources, job boards and hiring fairs that can be both useful and cost-effective.

Michael McDermott, a consultant for the Blackstone Group, who also does training classes on military bases, said the list is long to mine military veteran talent, including the Department of Labor’s American Job Centers and its Hire Veterans Medallion program, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program. There are other sources, as well, including the Wounded Warriors Project and colleges and universities.

Since one of the barriers to hiring military veterans is that they don’t always know where to look or are hesitant to ask for help, McDermott suggested attending holiday recognition events and activities such as parades and gatherings at V.F.W. posts.

Use Social Media to Recruit Veterans

HR personnel can use LinkedIn to communicate directly with veteran job seekers by posting questions and answers in various targeted groups. This can lead to connecting with influencers who have trust and credibility in the veteran community. Also, consider highlighting the company's current veteran employees and their career successes.

Consider building a company page or adding a veteran-facing company page on Facebook. Then regularly post messages, invitations, photos, and comments that highlight your company's values and goals and show how veterans are desired candidates for your business.

Benefits of Hiring Veterans

Individuals who come from the military often have many traits that are assets in the private sector: team-oriented, trustworthy, and dedicated. These individuals also may exhibit strong character and leadership skills in even the most-tense situations.

Some other common qualities of those who have served in the military that are attractive to employers include a strong work ethic, self-direction, efficiency, willingness to be a team player, eagerness to learn and leadership.

“We forget, and maybe it’s because we are in awe of what they do while serving our country, that these individuals have fears and doubts,” said Carly Fiorina, current chairwoman of Carly Fiorina Enterprises. “(Businesses) can help by providing training, coaching and mentorship.”

What to Know About Hiring Veterans

What are the best ways to develop a veteran hiring program? How can you attract these talented individuals to your business? What are some best practices for introducing them into your workplace?

Here are some ways to tackle these questions:

Enlist the help of a veterans' advocate

Once your newly hired employees are on board, you should provide ongoing support to help them deal with the challenges of transitioning into a new role. Veterans in the workplace who don't feel supported may be more likely to leave.

“Don’t make them sink or swim,” Heath said. “Get HR and the leadership team on board and then properly onboard the new hires.”

Consider the first item in starting the hiring process: writing a job description. An HR professional should acknowledge there might be a potential language barrier. The business might be looking for a program manager, but military veterans are familiar with the term “mission manager.” So, don’t rely on the job title to draw in military veterans.

Redesign your training program

Veterans who have never held a non-military position before may be accustomed to a strict, regimented training style and may need more time to adjust to a less-structured environment.

However, not all military veterans were in the field, according to Heath, who said that in his experience more than three-quarters of military personnel didn’t carry a gun.

“We’re tribal, but effective teams develop best with people who are different,” Fiorina said. “Put the military veterans with others and get them to solve a problem and they will show you how to get beyond the superficial aspects and get things done.”

Are There Tax Credits Available When Hiring Veterans?

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a tax-incentive program that encourages businesses to recruit and retain staff from specific population groups, including veterans. A business may qualify for a tax credit of up to $9,600 per individual veteran during their first year of employment. There is no limit on how many individuals an employer can hire in order to qualify for this credit.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 extended the WOTC through Dec. 31, 2025 (for all employees hired after Dec. 31, 2020 through the new sunset date), so businesses can receive an ongoing tax incentive to hire them.

Your company may be able to claim other tax credits. A service provider can help you identify and collect funds for which your business qualifies, creating a documented, legally compliant audit trail. For further information check out the Paychex Tax Credit Service page.

Getting Veterans on Board

Companies that successfully recruit, hire, and develop veterans often follow these best practices:

  • Set clear expectations. Your civilian hires appreciate a roadmap at the outset of their employment. For your veteran hires, it may be paramount. In their previous career, the veteran likely did not have to compete for new jobs and advancement. Help them understand the chain of command, rules and protocol and what it takes to advance their career in your organization.
  • Conduct training. This can be as simple as informal meetings with supervisors and the employee’s team to brainstorm and discuss challenges and successes.
  • Appoint an executive sponsor. A champion for the program who sits on the executive team at your company will be able to advocate for programs, training and funds to support the necessary costs you'll need to make your veteran hiring program sustainable.

“The key is to build momentum,” McDermott said. “Let’s hire one (veteran), see how they do, then hire another one.”

Looking for resources to help with your hiring strategies? Learn more on the Paychex Hiring Services page.

*-Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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