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Posted: August 22, 2014

Hiring a veteran could be a great business decision

Some key reasons

Lida Citro├źn

With the nation in recovery, investment in resources is growing. We see new commercial construction underway, roads and highways under repair, and consumer spending on the uptick. With all this new growth, companies are starting to loosen the stronghold on hiring freezes initiated when our economy was plummeting. Yes, as hiring managers and recruiters across the country seek to find talent, a highly untapped and ready workforce awaits employment. Currently there are roughly 163,000 unemployed post-9/11 veterans and more than 600,000 unemployed veterans overall.  These individuals are the beneficiaries of more than $130 billion of investment in training, education and skill-building from the US government.

Hiring former military personnel could be the best business decision a company (and a hiring manager) makes.

Why aren’t hiring managers recruiting veterans?

There is a disconnect between veterans and civilian hiring managers, and it goes both ways. Veterans overwhelmingly leave military service unprepared and unarmed with the tools to position themselves as viable candidates to civilian companies, and hiring managers are unskilled and untrained in how to recruit military veterans for jobs outside of service.

The challenges include:

Reading the resume: Hiring managers often lack training to read and understand a military resume. What does being an E-6 mean? Did a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force hold more management responsibility than a Major in the Army? What does it mean that you did Command and Control Battle Management Operations in the Air Force, and how is it relevant for the position I’m recruiting for?

Inability to sell themselves: In the military culture, the focus is on mission, unit, and the person next to you, not on you. Self-promotion and self-focus are unacceptable and discouraged. Therefore, when veterans leave service, they struggle when answering questions such as, "Tell me about a success you had that you are most proud of.” To the veteran, this would mean being disloyal. To the hiring manager, not getting an answer is frustrating and suspicious.

PTSD: Civilian media has not done an adequate job of educating the public about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and the numerous other challenges former military live with after service. We intuitively believe that someone who has “seen the unthinkable” and lived in conditions of violence, hostility, and stress for a long period of time will undoubtedly have emotional effects long after the situations change. But what does that mean for a hiring manager looking to add a new team member to their company?

Skills not transferrable: Without a clear outline of which military skills translate to which civilian job responsibilities, it may be unreasonable to expect that hiring managers with no military experience can understand how someone who worked front lines in the infantry can lead their IT staff through a new project. Or, how a combat medic is qualified to hold a sales position in their pharmaceutical company.

Fit in the organization: Hiring managers seek skills, experience, and talent in recruiting new employees, and they look for cultural fit as well. Each candidate is evaluated for the value they bring and can offer to new and existing teams, how well they will assimilate into the organization, and where they will lead. The perception that a military veteran is used to barking orders, meeting high-stress timelines, and putting feelings aside for execution on mission can deter recruiters from evaluating a veteran candidate.

So what can the veteran employee bring to the organization?

Veterans see their work as a career, not a job. To them, a job is the place you show up, perform work, and earn a wage for services. A career, on the other hand, is where you commit your whole self, build a foundation of skills, talents, and experience, and add value to the organization, the mission, and the team at every step.

After years of service, sometimes multiple deployments to violent and stressful environments, and sacrifice of family and friends, veterans transition to a civilian career with little more than a week or two of preparation. It is no wonder that veterans struggle with articulating, positioning, and marketing their value to civilian employers.

I have worked with several hundred former and transitioning veterans to help them articulate their value proposition so hiring managers will be able to clearly see the benefit of engaging and hiring them.

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Lida Citroën is the author of Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition and Principal of LIDA360, a consulting firm that helps create effective market positioning through the use of brand strategies. She regularly presents at conferences, events and programs, teaching transitioning veterans how to understand their unique value and market them to future employers.

Citroën is an active member of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and works closely with General Peter Pace’s program in Philadelphia, Wall Street Warfighters Foundation (WSWF). For more information, please visit,  and connect with her on twitter, @LIDA360.

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