Hiring VeteransIt’s a tough job market out there. This year, unemployment rates have been around 9%. For particular groups, such as veterans, it’s even tougher. The unemployment rate for veterans who served in the military since 2001 was 11.5% in 2010.

Young male veterans (18-24) who served during the Gulf War had a ludicrous unemployment rate of 21.9%. When nearly a quarter of our young veterans are unemployed, something has to change.

It is often said that companies and even public sector institutions discriminate against veterans. However, even companies trying to hire more veterans often don’t know where to begin. Here are five ways to help you hire more veterans:

  • Give them preference: According to House Bill 1432 (effective 7/22/2011), private sector employers can give preference to veterans in hiring. This means that your company can explicitly and publicly give more weight to veterans that apply to your company.
  • Educate your company: Although many of the intangible and some technical skills are the same, employers often have a difficult time understanding military service. If you haven’t served in the military, take the time to understand what particular ranks and titles mean. It may be difficult to study it in a formulaic way, as it’s a very broad subject. However, each time you see military service on an applicant’s resume, take the time to look up the position. Over time, you’ll develop a solid understanding of common military careers.
  • Hire for attitude: There are many positions at most companies that have more to do with personal attributes than industry background. For example, managers have to be effective leaders; project directors have to be good under pressure and understand teamwork. Identify the positions at your company that require “above and beyond” personal attributes, and target those positions for a military hire. Veterans typically have exceptional leadership and teamwork skills, as well as an disciplined understanding of procedure.
  • Help diversity initiatives: Although by reputation, the military is considered rigid and inflexible, this attitude does not apply to diversity standards. Veterans are used to working with individuals of all races, ethnicities, and genders from all around the country and even the world. This is a far cry from most companies, where attitudes and backgrounds of employees are often quite homogeneous. Most companies are trying to increase their diversity – as part of that project, be sure to think of veterans for the teams that you are targeting. There is a good chance that a veteran will be much more used to extreme differences in culture and can help lead diverse groups under a common corporate framework.
  • Get a tax break: There may be tax breaks available for hiring veterans in your state. Have an accountant research any credits available to your company for hiring veterans.

With the passing of the new legislation for hiring veterans, it seems that the plight of returning military does at least have national attention. Transitioning to civilian life is hard enough without record-high unemployment levels. Let’s hope that not only large corporations, but also rapidly growing small businesses realize the benefits of hiring veterans and put programs in place to do so.

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