Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Take a Chance: Hire a Veteran

In all my years in HR management, Mike, the mechanics laborer, is my most memorable hire and recruit.

The position was with a company in Boise that did industrial repairs for major companies and corporations. It was entry-level, supporting more of the technical and high skilled positions. The work was laborious and the pay was low. We were not hopeful about finding solid candidates, because unemployment was low at the time and the job offered no benefits. It would be a challenge finding someone willing and able to do the work, let alone stay with it more than a few days.

Then we met Mike. After 10 years in the United States Army, working with tanks and combat equipment, he had decided he needed a change. With a couple of tours in Iraq under his belt he headed off into the civilian world to find a new career.

I’ll never forget looking at his resume and being surprised how with his extensive experience he hadn’t found a job after leaving the Army. Actually, I was completely shocked.

I asked him why he thought he hadn’t found a job.  His response was just as surprising. He looked at me, paused for a moment and said, “I guess what I did in the Army doesn’t really make sense to a lot of companies and I don’t have the right skills or experience to fit their needs.”  He said his search had been so disheartening and disappointing he was considering rejoining the military.

I hired Mike on the spot. His supervisor, who was a very tough manager to please, respected Mike so much that he told people every mechanics laborer needed to be “just like Mike.” Mike worked hard and moved up in the company.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 800,000 veterans are currently unemployed nationally. According to a 2012 study, 60 percent of veterans listed “finding a job” as the greatest challenge in transitioning to civilian life.

As we wake up and hurry off to work on Veteran’s Day, many of the people who fought for our freedom would like to be doing the same. Veterans deserve a chance to prove themselves as solid candidates. They deserve more than the opportunity to shake hands and pass out resumes at career fairs.

Employers who choose to unfairly evaluate or consider veterans for open positions could face discriminatory legal liabilities. However, the loss for not considering veterans goes well beyond lawsuits. Employers who choose not to consider veterans as candidates are missing out on a large pool of high-caliber candidates.

While logistics technician, paratrooper or even combat infantry might seem like military jobs with
non-transferable skills, they actually are. Regardless of job title, military service provides high-level leadership development and vocational training to all service members. Many times this extensive and high-intensity training comes in a non-traditional and high-stress environment. Veterans are accustomed to working in diverse and cross-functional teams to accomplish common goals. They are detail oriented and adapt quickly. They have the ability to handle conflicting priorities and expectations and hold others accountable for their responsibilities. High levels of compliance and discipline are engrained into their mindsets and work ethics.  Dedication, loyalty, team-work and perseverance are also traits that can’t be forgotten when considering veterans as employees.

So the question is why wouldn’t a company consider a veteran as a candidate?  Companies like JP Morgan Chase, Disney, Capital One, Toyota, Johnson and Johnson and Verizon have come up with programs to recruit and hire veterans and are wondering why other companies aren’t doing the same.

I am not suggesting that employers simply hire a veteran over another candidate just because of the veteran’s status. I am suggesting, however, that if you have entry level positions, a general pool of candidates, or are in a situation where you are considering Candidate A vs. Veteran Candidate B that you take an extra look at that veteran’s resume and really consider the potential.

As a business owner and proud wife of a veteran, I am dedicated to giving those who have served a chance to find careers and opportunities and enjoy the American dream they fought for. I challenge you today to take a stand and make a difference for these brave men and women. Isn’t your freedom worth it?

Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, an Idaho Falls human resources company.