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American Businesses Stand to Benefit by Hiring More Veterans

Finding top recruits during times of low unemployment presents very real challenges for hiring managers. As the U.S. jobless statistics continue to improve, HR pros should be eager find key employees in the group of talented, driven and team-oriented high performers that are found in our country’s growing pool of military veterans re-entering civilian life. “The plight of unemployed veterans…doesn’t get as much headline coverage [today] as it did during the darkest days of the recession. Yet those who served during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to face stubbornly higher jobless rates than their nonveteran counterparts. Around 182,000 were out of work last year,” according to the RAND Corporation.

While the overall unemployment rate for Americans currently stands at five percent, 6.5 percent of all veterans who served on active duty since September 2001, known as Gulf War Era II, were looking for work. Within that group, unemployment for veterans between the ages of 20 and 24 is a staggering 18.7 percent, Syracuse University found.

Many recruiters in the U.S. recognize the benefits of “soft-skills” and “intangibles,” such as adaptability, handling pressure and leadership, that veterans bring to civilian jobs, but not everyone on the client side knows how to read a veteran’s CV. “That resume might land on the desk of a middle manager who couldn’t tell a captain from a corporal, and then in the wastebasket.” That is why it is maybe worthwhile checking for veteran jobs as they might be able to help with the job recruiting process.

In a particularly sharp rebuke of companies that have ignored veterans as a group, a Huffington Post piece calls hiring managers to the carpet: “Unless you expand your hiring scope, you’re missing out on an opportunity to build a stronger, more competitive company culture. It’s time to start thinking proactively about veterans every day of the year, and not just on Veterans Day.”

The good news is that change is afoot in corporate America. Starting in 2011, JPMorgan was joined by 10 other large corporations in a pledge to hire a combined 100,000 American veterans before 2020. The 100,000 Jobs Mission, as the campaign became known, continues to ramp up and has far surpassed its initial goal. At last count, the coalition had placed more than 267,000 veterans. “Companies more accustomed to fighting each other for top talent were suddenly cooperating to match veteran applications to jobs, swapping tips and resumes.”

Starbucks, for example, continues to help create opportunities for veterans and even military spouses as they transition back into civilian life. In 2013, the company promised to hire 10,000 veterans and their spouses by 2018 and is more than halfway toward reaching its goal in only two years.

“We, as a company, felt strongly that these are extraordinary young people who have so much to offer,” explains Starbucks Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz. “The numbers don’t tell the story. The story is the unbelievable heart, conscience, integrity, leadership skills of the people that we have been fortunate enough to bring into our company.”

As the American economy continues to emerge from the Great Recession and companies look to both increase and improve human capital, decision-makers in charge of hiring would be wise to consider the many talented military veterans looking to continue to make a difference.