Why You Should Hire a Veteran
Let’s face it, there are a ton of people looking for jobs, and if employers are honest they aren’t going to hire someone just to hire someone. A job is not a charity; but as anyone can tell you, an employee that is doing more than just filling a slot is worth his weight in gold. Times are tough, but most employers are willing to go on a limb if there is a return on their investment. In terms of dollars and cents, what case could be made to employers that will gain or save them money?
Veterans as a whole are not used to selling themselves, or explaining the merits of their service they can bring to the table. In the Army – and the small world that revolves around it – if I say “I was a 68 Whiskey,” most people will instantly know that I was a Medic. Tell that to a civilian employer and they might have a vague idea of what that might mean, but chances are they’ll be clueless as to the specifics of my job.
Indeed, while I may find an employer who’s seen Black Hawk Down, Band of Brothers, or any other movie about the military, they might get the impression that I was the guy that came a running every time someone screamed “medic!” Yes, that was part of my job, but that wasn’t the ONLY job I have performed.
At 22 years old, I was signed and responsible for over $1.5 million worth of medical equipment. My job wasn’t just to make sure it didn’t grow legs but also to ensure its functionality, ensure repairs are made, and make on the spot corrections. That level of responsibility is usually reserved for someone much older. On occasion we would have medics rotate through my ER from some of the line units. There it was my job to train, supervise, and mentor. If I were to lay out all my non-medical duties, it’s a wonder I’m not making a lot more (that’s what the college degree is for).
But more than vague assurances that I, and indeed a majority of veterans will be quality hires – well worth the economic risk incurred – there are other reasons that an employer should hire a Veteran.
1). Work Ethic. Most civilians work 9-5 – they’re comfortable with that, and often will leave things that are not critical to their job. Even in high-stress jobs you will often see people clocking out exactly when their shift is over. Veterans, however, typically want to stay until the job is done. The task you give them might not be critical, but all the same the Veteran will be irked until it is finished. This will often leave him or her working OT, or off the clock to make sure the job is done on time. The “No excuses” attitude will often mean that they will not try to equivocate if they cannot do the task, but will do their utmost, and let you judge if some stone was left unturned. This will often leave many to describe them as “dependable.”
2). Punctuality. It’s an old joke in the Army that whenever a time is set, the next level down always pushes that back by 15 minutes or more. This leads to “hurry up and wait,” but as a rule if you’re 15 minutes early you’re on time, if you’re on time you’re late, if you’re late you’re screwed. This means that Service Members like to plan ahead to ensure that they are always at least a little early. This can be important if your company is trying to set a good impression, or if there are last-minute details which need to be ironed out.
3). Adaptability. Ever had some small issue that seemed to cause a whole task to come down around its ears? Don’t worry – Veterans are well versed in such things. They even have acronyms for just those occasions (FUBAR, SNAFU, and BOHICA. Look them up at your own leisure). The point is that some piece of mission essential equipment is always breaking down right when you need it. Murphy’s Law and Soldiers are old friends. From this familiarity comes a MacGyver-esque talent for stringing solutions together that might not be considered otherwise. This is most evident, however, in non-operational ways. Ever seen a really good combat hooch (small living area made as comfortable as possible with personal ingenuity)? Give these men a roll of Duct tape and they can make a palace – trust me I’ve seen them.
4). Problem Solving Abilities. While this might seem to go along with adaptability, there’s a key difference here. There will be times when the Veteran is not even close to a subject matter expert, or is out of his depth on an issue. That’s ok. If they do not know the answer they will usually be able to find the answer, and if they can’t find it themselves, they’ll be able to find whoever does have the answer. There might be no correct answer, so they will provide you with all the information you will need to make an informed decision as their boss.
5). Courtesy. Customer Service seems to be a dying art in this day in age. Simple courtesy is lost on people. Veterans are used to giving great deference to their superiors and civilian leaders, even if often privately we disagree totally. Sometimes when a customer is irate, the simple act of being courteous and making the extra effort to see their needs are met will go a long way towards your company’s success. Don’t be afraid to test them out in a customer service role. It may not be a job they want to do, but if you tell them to treat the customer as they would if they were still in the military and dealing with a superior officer (e.g. Lieutenant Colonels and above love to call Staff Duty and gripe about something), you will often click their old training in to benefit your company.
Lastly, there’s always the free publicity. Disney is set to hire 1,000 Veterans. In a time when the economy is down and people aren’t going to amusement parks, Disney has gotten both free and good press by taking a simple action of hiring Veterans. They may be hired to wear the suits, and pretend to be Goofy, or they may get hired as maintenance, or even Latrine sweeper. Doesn’t really matter, Veterans have probably done it all and will take the jobs offered. It doesn’t even really matter that Disney probably goes through that many (or more) employees in a month. The simple gesture of hiring Veterans may get you noticed. This would be especially good for small businesses. It may not seem like it because the Veteran population is such a small percentage of society, but if you make your hiring process “veteran friendly,” believe me the word will get around and you will get noticed. Veterans were social networking before there was an internet, and now that there is, expect great return for anything you do to benefit this community.
I could go into altruistic reasons to hire a Veteran, but really such thing must always be viewed in context. If we are honest, our country can ill afford as a whole too many charity cases. So don’t treat hiring Veterans as a charity case. Treat it as a hiring a quality worker. Treat it as an investment. Trust me when I say, they don’t want to be treated as charity cases anymore than you would. You may not have a slot for an Infantry Non-Commissioned Officer, but that’s perfectly ok. They are ready willing and able to learn any skill that you need them to. When they come to you resume-in-hand, they’re coming to work, they’re coming for gainful employment. So the next time a person with a High and Tight hands you their Job Application, take a moment to consider what you might gain by hiring a Veteran.