HR's Dirty Little Secret – We don't like to hire Vets

Tim Sackett Bad HR, Candidate Pool, Career Paths, College Recruiting, Communication, Culture, Diversity, Employee Communications, Good HR, Hiring Managers, HR, HR (& Life!) Advice, Influence, Interviewing, Job Fairs, Job Market, Job Seeker Advice, Recruiting, Sourcing, Tim Sackett, Trench HR, War for Talent

You know what I learned really early in my career in recruiting? Companies really don”t like to hire folks coming out of the military.

Yeah, I just said that.

That might be the most politically incorrect thing that a HR Pro can say nowadays!

In fact, we hear the exact opposite from company executives, don”t we? In fact if you pull up almost every Fortune 500 company, I would guess their HR shops have “formal” military recruiting/hiring propaganda up on how much they want to hire former military candidates. But most are flat out lying to you. When given a choice between the fresh young grad out of college, or the military vet who just spent years defending our country – they”ll chose the college kid – almost always. I don”t have a study of this – I have 20 years of experience presenting candidates to hiring managers and seeing their reactions. It sucks, but it”s the truth.

I remember when I first got into recruiting back in 1993 and I was recruiting for very large companies. I would have hiring managers tell me directly – “I don”t want any military resumes – they don”t work out well.” There was, and I”ll argue still is, a stigma attached to individuals coming out of the military. They can”t think on their own, they wait for direction, they went into the military because they couldn”t get into college, they”re abrasive, they”re jarheads (not used in a positive way), they”re hard to manage, they can”t take sit still in an office environment, they aren”t creative, they”re to regimented into process, blah, blah, blah.

Personally, as a Talent/HR Pro, I”ve never found this to be true – in fact I”ve found military candidates to be better prepared for corporate life, far exceeding those coming out of college. They can get their butts up in the morning and get to work – that beats most of our newbies right! They are loyal, maybe to a fault, don”t we want loyal employees? They are used to working within a team environment. They follow direction and carry out a mission – “we follow orders or people die” – A Few Good Men. They”ve had incredible training, not just physical, but all kinds of leadership, soft skills, academic, etc. – all paid for and documented. They”ve spent their younger years maturing in the military and have seen some serious shit! So, why do hiring managers still not want to hire vets?

There probably isn”t one reason, but I”ll give you some that I think are happening:

  • Hiring managers are intimidated by someone who probably has more training and responsibility as a leader than they”ll ever have.
  • It scares the crap out of hiring manager that a few months ago this person was killing someone, or seeing others killed, and now they have to integrate them into their “team”.
  • Most hiring managers can”t comprehend what really goes on in the military, but they get the college experience, so they hire what they know.

The times I found it most successful in hiring former military candidates are when the hiring manager or executive of an organization are former military. Also, the defense industry is always welcoming of former military candidates. Beyond that, it gets real sketching, real fast. So, as an HR/Talent Pro, how do you get your organization to take advantage of this resource? Here”s a couple of ideas:

1. Have some local active military folks come in and present to your hiring managers on the advantages of hiring military, and force them to ask questions – throw all those stereotypes on the table and talk them out.

2. Tackle your own biases. Most HR/Talent Pros aren”t former military either – so you also don”t get it and you do the same thing your hiring managers are doing – you stick with what”s comfortable – stop that!

3. Make sure you”re using your influence with your hiring managers to hire the “best” candidate, not the candidate your hiring manager feels most comfortable with.

With all the talk about hiring vets in the media today it would easy to assume they have enough support, the fact is, most vets still face a tough uphill climb when it comes to getting hired. It”s even tougher when people aren”t willing to openly discuss the truths about why they aren”t getting hired.