Recruiting and Staffing, Talent Management

Why Can’t We Find More Jobs For Our Returning Military Veterans?

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One in three. Mercy me.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, one in three young military veterans were out of a job the last quarter of 2011. That rate was double that of their civilian peers.

Double, mind you. So much for economic independence day (that continues to still evade America and most of the world). Whoopee. Have some stale shortcake with those moldy strawberries.

Matching veterans with jobs

And according to a recent New York Times article:

The unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has remained above the civilian rate for several years, standing at 12.7 percent in May, compared with 7.7 percent among non-veterans. The problem is particularly great among younger veterans ages 18 to 24, whose unemployment rate was 23.5 percent in May, 10 percentage points higher than their non-veteran peers.”

That’s not accounting for those who have partial employment or those who have given up all together.

The disparity, as I’ve read over and over again of late, is blamed on the fact that matching military skills and experience to civilian jobs has been confounding to employers, of which I find confounding. With the exception of direct combat experience, all the skills learned in the military are critical for the private sector today — from technical skills to leadership skills to being an adaptable and disciplined a team player.

But why is it that so many employers are missing out on these highly trained individuals? It’s not that there aren’t enough skills assessments on the market.

SHL alone claims to have over 1,000 titles and competitive prices. Plus, there are myriad of other assessment companies to choose from, allowing employers of any size to size up their applicants, albeit from the military or not. Not to mention the even minimally trained sourcers and screeners who should be able to match and translate experience to business needs. Literally matching keywords from resume to job posting does not a meal make.

What’s the ROI when you make a good hire?

We’ve got “bleeding edge” recruiting technologies to help us sort through the candidates, which for some companies could mean hundreds of online applications each week. However, as I’ve written before it can all be like an Escher maze, the social networking pages to job boards to career sites to applicant tracking systems that are as endless as the miles and miles of back road we travel everyday, where we are in fact loosing qualified passengers along the way, not to mention the gastronomical unmentionables we find along the way.

We keep measuring the cost of a bad hire – thousands and thousands of dollars per bad hire depending on the level and position. But we’re not spending enough time evangelizing the return of making a good, tasty hire.

These good hires are the employees who make our businesses thrive and grow; they know who else around them, above them and below them are making things thrive and grow, like fresh yeast activating flour, salt, water and eggs. They know who has had previous military experience and who doesn’t.

Why aren’t we facilitating a “platform” mixing bowl in which these thrivers and growers can show us directly how and why their recipe works? We don’t want to stop our top team members and leaders in their tracks, but we do want to watch in real time their interactions with one another.

Why aren’t you hiring a vet?

And if you’ve got anyone with previous military experience, find out why were they hired in the first place, and if they’re performing, add another why on top of that. If you haven’t hired anyone from the military, figure out that why as well.

It’s up to the people acquisition and management folk – recruiters, human resources, hiring managers, project managers, executive management – to identify, analyze and extrapolate what skills their best talent has and then examine their origins to create better talent mapping techniques. An internal talent network recipe makes for the right dish that sticks to your ribs. You can source, screen, assess, interview, identify, map, sprinkle in a dash of salt and pepper.

Nothing says economic Independence Day like a sweet career development meal for our military veterans. Invite them over to your house soon, and don’t forget the fresh whipped cream.

You can find more from Kevin Grossman on his Marcom HRsay blog.

Kevin W. Grossman has held multiple leadership positions in the human resource and recruiting marketplace, B2B and consumer technology marketplace and higher education for the past 25 years. He's a marketing strategist, HR industry evangelist, online community developer, entrepreneur, analyst, advisor, manager, philanthropist and writer. He is currently the Director of Content Development for Peoplefluent,, the leading provider of talent management solutions designed to support the entire workforce. Contact him at kevin@reach-west.com .