You’d think that employers would find a tremendous source of skills in people who can:
- Jump from planes to quickly subdue enemies on the battlefield.
- Collaborate in confined quarters to operate complex nuclear technologies at great ocean depths.
- Simultaneously translate sensitive communications from any of a hundred languages.
And the fact is -- you’d be right.
Veterans of the US Armed Forces are a deep font of talent, including job skills that are sorely needed by private employers in many industries.
In addition to their broad range of technical skills, veterans have a well-deserved reputation for soft skills and admirable qualities that are just as important: leadership, team player skills, hard work, reliability and many more.
But matches between highly-skilled veterans and the companies that need them aren’t always easy to make. While tools such as the Military Tools Translator and Veterans Talent Index can help, millions of former servicemen and women still have difficulty finding work, especially veterans of the Iraq War.
For those who served post-9/11, the unemployment rate rose to 11.7 percent in September 2011 from 10.2 percent 12 months earlier, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Meanwhile, even through prolonged recession and stagnation, employers say skilled candidates are often hard to find.
These four employers hire veterans for their diverse job skills:
Prudential: Helping Skilled Veterans with a Challenging Translation
Prudential Financial has found its military recruitment program to be a great investment in human capital. “We’ve hired veterans from entry-level to management,” says Toni McDaniel, director of diversity recruiting at Prudential in Newark, N.J. “They are great at project management, at working processes from end to end.”
Prudential has encountered challenges with getting candidates to sell their skills in terms that HR and hiring managers can understand, according to McDaniel. The Armed Forces are renowned for their copious use of acronyms; similar skills may be described in completely different terms in the corporate world.
Cyrell Johnson, an Army veteran,employee of the US Bureau of Reclamation and president of the Student Veterans Organization of Colorado Technical University, completed his service as a Special Forces paratrooper in 2001. He experienced this confusion firsthand. “I found it difficult leaving the military and entering the job market, finding the right job that matched my skills. I was hindered because I couldn’t translate military jargon into civilian language.”
Prudential’s solution? “We work with organizations that help veterans better communicate their skills to employers,” McDaniel says. The US Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes campaign is one such program to help companies hire veterans.
Siemens: Large-scale Recruitment for Broad Array of Technical Challenges
Siemens has begun using aggressive military recruitment to fill a large talent gap.
“We’ve had 3,000 open requisitions for a long time in engineering, sales and so on,” says Mike Panigel, senior vice president of human resources at Siemens, a global electronics and engineering firm with U.S. headquarters in Washington, D.C. “We’ve brought in 530 veterans in about a year, from service and field technicians to marketers and project engineers.”
Siemens hires veterans, finding them to be a superior pool of candidates. “Technicians coming out of the military have worked on complex, expensive, large equipment,” says Panigel. “They know how to accomplish a mission and they’re diverse. Altogether they are a great source to recruit.”
Perhaps due to the company’s large size and financial clout, Siemens has been able to handle the uncertainties that come with employees’ military reserve duty, according to Panigel. “Reservists’ military obligations have not been a problem for us,” he says. “When somebody has to do their time, we find ways around it.”
PPL: Mining a Rich and Rare Vein of Nuclear Knowhow
Where in the world do you find a reliable source of nuclear engineers? For energy company PPL Corp., the answer is clear. “Nuclear power is a unique source for electric generation, with lots of safeguards and compliance issues,” says Neal Coy, military recruiter with Allentown, Pa.-based PPL. “Navy nuclear vets understand this, because they’ve dealt with uranium.” PPL recruits veterans as plant operators, technicians and instructors, among other roles.
PPL sources veteran candidates by going to the source. “We target three military bases that house individuals who are likely to have the qualifications for our jobs,” says Coy. “We go to military job fairs and participate in Transition Assistance Program classes to talk about the transition to civilian employment and how to interview.”
Through the military recruitment process, PPL keeps an eye out for candidates who appear able to overcome the organizational culture shock they will likely face. “Navy vets find things a little different here,” says Coy. “Their rank isn’t necessarily going to motivate workers. In the civilian world, people talk back to you once in a while.”
Johnson puts it more bluntly. Earlier in his civilian career, when he landed a job as a fleet operations analyst for the school transportation department in Denver, “it was a complete shock to me. The military teaches us to be aggressive, to take charge. I had to tone it down a notch.”
Alpine Access: Flexible Work for a Diverse Veteran Workforce
Disabled veterans are another significant labor pool with varied skills to offer private-sector employers.
“We recruit people who might not be able to work outside the home,” says Stacey Orin, manager of flex recruiting at Alpine Access, a Denver-based third-party call center whose customer service representatives are home-based.
Orin says veterans have what it takes to put in long shifts, speaking with customers, satisfied and otherwise. “One of the things we look for -- and find -- in veterans is the ability to communicate and to focus on the job at hand,” says Orin.
Learn More about Hiring a Veteran