J-Law is a riot to hang out with, Taylor Swift makes a cool date (at least to awards shows) and Amy Poehler is a great life coach. How do I know? While these are all good guesses based on what I’ve seen of their personas on TV or the Internet, I really don’t know for sure.
Similarly, you may not really know what military veterans are looking for in potential employers unless you’ve actually spoken to one (or read this!)
I was fortunate to attend Disney’s first-ever free “Veterans Institute” workshop at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando last month, where none other than First Lady Michelle Obama presented the keynote address. The event, hosted by Disney Institute — the professional development arm of The Walt Disney Company — was designed to help companies create and sustain their own veteran hiring programs.
Curious about what First Lady Michelle Obama had to say during her keynote at Disney’s “Veterans Institute” workshop? Take a look.
During the event, I heard first-hand from military veterans themselves, including Dr. Mike Haynie, executive director and founder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, who served for 14 years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. He took employers on a journey behind the curtain, if you will, to get a better sense for how to find and attract this demographic into the workforce.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of tips and recommendations, it can serve as an effective starting point as you embark on or continue your journey of helping qualified military veterans transition into the civilian workforce.
1. Look into a talent sharing exchange. Depending on how many veterans you’re looking to hire, it may be worthwhile to build or get involved with a talent sharing network of veterans.
2. Location, location, location. Haynie’s advice is to cultivate broad awareness about your military veteran hiring efforts, but invest locally. “Put boots on the ground to engage with local communities,” he says.
3. Focus on unique attributes. A lot of times employers will tend to focus on how a veteran candidate might be similar to their civilian employees. Haynie challenges you not to focus as much on the 90 percent of how veterans are like civilian candidates, but instead to see what value they can bring to your company with the 10 percent that makes them different.
4. Understand their mindset during interviews. Here’s a nugget of information you may never have thought of before: Military veterans typically don’t like to talk about themselves because teamwork is so ingrained in their DNA. “It’s always, ‘My team did this’ or ‘My team did that’ — it goes against them in the hiring/interviewing process,” Haynie says. So perhaps re-directing the line of questioning to encourage them to open up about their individual role in the team effort can help.
5. Pity is the LAST thing they want. As you go about your veteran hiring efforts, make it a point to focus your messaging on the value proposition for your company. “Veterans are not looking for pity or a handout — show them how they will bring value to the firm,” Haynie says.
6. Remember, existing veteran employees can be a huge asset. I can’t think of a good reason why you wouldn’t want to leverage your veteran employees as resources for other veteran candidates who may be looking to work at your company. For example, if there are no military veterans on the HR team, consider having an employee sit in on interviews with veteran candidates. They can be your brand ambassadors and give veteran candidates a sense for what it might be like to work there.
7. Take timing into consideration. If you go to a job fair, it’s best if you actually have open positions that you’re hiring for, according to Haynie. “’Sorry, we’re not hiring right now’ can send the wrong message about who you are and what you’re about, he says.
8. Think long term; look beyond recruiting and hiring. There shouldn’t just be a focus on recruiting and hiring veterans — you need to have a larger effort dedicated to their entire employee life cycle for after they join your company.
9. Don’t ignore your existing employees. This is a really good point to keep top of mind because it’s not something you’d do intentionally. Haynie says not to ignore the professional growth and career development of existing veteran employees because you’re busy spending all your time trying to recruit other veterans.
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