It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. That’s the moment the fighting stopped. World War I – the war that was supposed to “end all wars” – was finally over.
That was 99 years ago. And in the early years that followed, world leaders of grateful nations declared national holidays commemorating the war’s end. Here, in the United States, it was called Armistice Day and it was marked with parades, speeches, and heartfelt recollections of the sacrifices made by millions of young men around the world.
By the time President Eisenhower was in office, the dreams of a world without wars had been shattered, more than once. The holiday was renamed “Veterans Day,” its purpose broadened to include all veterans. And in his proclamation, Eisenhower asked something of us. He pled that “all veterans… and the entire citizenry… join hands in the common purpose.”
How do we do that? For those of us in the employment industry, it’s pretty straightforward: recruit and hire our veterans.
The truth is, unemployment rates among veterans have long been higher than the national average. That gap has been closing recently. But there’s still a gap. And, honestly, there are understandable reasons that employers legitimately struggle to recruit and hire veterans. Sometimes, it’s just hard to translate specific military experiences and skills to civilian job requirements. Vet’s resumes aren’t always “re-worked” to better illustrate how that military experience reflects readiness for a particular civilian job.
Other times, biases based on outmoded stereotypes of what “soldiering” entails, get in the way. Looking at a resume filled with military service, it’s easy to appreciate the vet’s patriotism. But sometimes, hiring managers perceive vets as “too rigid,” “too bogged down in formality, tradition or routine” or “more of an order taker than a creative problem solver.” To further complicate matters, reservists and those serving in the National Guard might be seen as risky hires, due to possible future deployments.
We can do better. And we all share responsibility for closing that unemployment gap completely. So I’ve pulled together my top 5 reasons we should all be actively recruiting veterans and hiring them.
1. Proven Leadership Skills
In the military, every role demands leadership qualities and behaviors. In fact, it is an institution that teaches followers to be leaders. Yes, there are rigid regulations and standard operating procedures. But within that, every individual at every level of hierarchy is entrusted with making high stakes decisions that can impact countless others. Veterans have been placed in circumstances that test and refine that ability and have emerged from those situations with stronger leadership skills than you’re likely to find in most candidates.
2. Cool Headed, Creative Problem Solving
Today’s returning veterans are coming out of roles in which they frequently faced unpredictable situations demanding immediate solutions. From building relationships with villagers in far away places to facing front line combat, our veterans have shown ingenuity, on-the-spot problem solving and a steady hand.
3. A Relentless Commitment to Vision and Goals
Members of the military know they’re there for a purpose. And every action they take is in support of that purpose. That veteran you’re interviewing knows how to rapidly assess a situation, devise or alter an action plan to address it, and ensure that all actions taken are consistent with the greater goal. They know the mission. They know what they need to do. And they do it.
4. Collaboration and Devotion to Team Success
At every stage of military training, one message is conveyed loud and clear: you’re part of a team and your actions affect every other member of the team. Small teams are, of course, part of larger teams. There are no prima donnas. Promotions are earned through hard work and an ability to demonstrate peer leadership through collaboration.
5. Tax Credits
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this very real financial benefit. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is available to businesses and some tax-exempt organizations. Through the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, employers can be awarded up to $5,600 in incentives for hiring unemployed veterans. With the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit, the WOTC credit can be doubled, up to $9,600.
Many of today’s veterans are returning home from deployments where they faced actual, physical danger. They’ve maneuvered difficult terrain and served in war zones. And every one of them signed up for that, voluntarily. Saying thank you to them every Veterans Day is important. But taking the time to truly understand the level of sacrifice they made, the caliber of skills they cultivated – and their true potential within our own organizations – is probably a better way of showing our gratitude. So let’s all join hands with our veterans, in common purpose.
Hire a Veteran. And Happy Veterans Day.