• Key Steps for Successful Veteran Hiring and Retention

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
    May 28, 2014

    Hiring veterans is a smart business decision that is a good solution to fulfilling staffing needs, says Kevin Preston, director of veterans initiatives at The Walt Disney Company and a retired U.S. Army colonel with 28 years in the United States military.

    “While that’s easy to say, behind it is the fact that just one of 10 applicants qualify to get into the military,” Preston explains. “These are top candidates who have gained experiences and skill sets that are hard to replicate anywhere.”

    Preston says that the military, regardless of branch, is built on a system of education that teaches and trains its employees in leadership and negotiating skills, how an organization works, and more.

    “The difference,” he says, “is members of the military are often performing tasks in places where people speak different languages and that are culturally diverse.”

    This means veterans are often not the typical job candidate. A veteran entering the civilian work force might be just 26 years old, but might have served in five countries, led a team of 30 individuals, and met heads of state.

    “This might make others in a hiring organization uncomfortable,” Preston says. “On the other side, the veteran might not have ever done a professional resume or a job interview. An employer can’t look at a veteran through the same lens as it does with other candidates.”

    During an interview, veterans might present themselves in a different fashion from other candidates. Employers should remember this is likely a veteran’s first job interview.

    “Veterans have been trained to be very emotionally controlled with a strong sense of humility, but this does not mean they are snooty or arrogant,” Preston says. “They really want to perform and prove themselves, but they don’t want special treatment. Employers need to realize that there are differences and take intentional steps to include veterans because there is tremendous business value in doing so. To succeed doesn’t require a 180-degree change, but it does start with a foundation of awareness.”

    There are many steps organizations interested in recruiting veterans can take to spark a cultural change and develop a "veteran-friendly brand" that will allow them to effectively attract and retain veterans. Here, Preston shares three of them:

    • Get buy-in from senior leadership—For veteran hiring and initiatives to be successful, you need to get your senior leadership involved so they can support the efforts and bring them forward as a smart business decision.
    • Back up your words—Creating a veteran-friendly brand is more about what you do and less about what you say. Veterans are very prudent about ferreting out brands that don’t back up their promises. If you do back them up, however, you will create positive brand equity among veterans and they will start seeking out your organization.
    • Bring the military to non-military people in your organization—Before fully implementing your veteran initiatives, educate your internal community about the veteran population. You will help your non-veteran employees better understand the military, prevent these employees from making assumptions, and give them a clearer understanding of your efforts and the benefits of hiring veterans.

    Kevin Preston will present a session during NACE14 titled “10 Steps to Build Your Veterans Program.” For more information about this and other NACE14 sessions, see www.naceweb.org/ConferenceExpo/schedule.htm.


Key Steps for Successful Veteran Hiring and Retention