The unemployment rate for veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, though declining, is still considerably higher than the general population's rate. While military veterans possess a great deal of the business-friendly skills that employers look for in candidates, one of the challenges vets face is knowing where to begin when job hunting after they return from active duty.
A new CareerBuilder study finds that 29 percent of employers are actively recruiting veterans for their organizations, a 9 percent increase from 2011. In addition, 22 percent of employers plan to add National Guard members to their organizations, which is an 8 percent increase from last year. The survey finds that employers are eager to bring veterans into their business, but making that happen is often difficult.
Veterans not always easily identified
Employers undoubtedly want to hire veterans. In fact, 65 percent of employers said, given the choice between two equally qualified applicants, they are more likely to hire the veteran. Yet, their desire to recruit and hire veteran job seekers is often hindered by a simple task: identifying veteran job seekers. Although 45 percent of employers say they give more attention to applications submitted by U.S. veterans, 30 percent say an applicant’s veteran status isn’t always obvious.
Surveyed veterans admitted that they have difficulty knowing where to begin their searches as civilians. That struggle was one reason CareerBuilder and Military Times joined together to create a job-search website for veterans where they can look for jobs and find advice for veterans trying to navigate a civilian job market. Despite employers and hiring managers actively seeking out veterans, job seekers often need unique career advice and assistance that they can’t always get from friends or family.
Acclimating to the civilian workforce
Among the most affected job seekers in today’s economy are young veterans. In October 2012, the unemployment rate for veterans aged 18 to 24 was 24.8 percent. The unemployment rate for nonveterans of that same age group was 14.7.*
Consider that many veterans in this age group are in the beginning of their professional lives. If they joined the military soon after high school, they might not have ever written a résumé or cover letter, gone on an interview or worked in a nonmilitary environment. Because these job seekers have been out of the civilian workforce for an extended period of time, or perhaps they were never part of it, putting together standard application materials based on a military work history is a challenge other job seekers don’t usually encounter.
For veterans, the first step in a successful job search is understanding what they bring to the job and communicating that to hiring managers. Often veterans are used to describing their roles and duties in military jargon that, while accurate, isn’t always clear to employers and recruiters. Bridging that gap can make the hiring process easier for both parties. Because employers want to leverage the technical and leadership skills of military personnel, veterans should highlight these strengths in cover letters, résumés and interviews.
The demand for these skills is also apparent when you look at the most common areas for hiring U.S. service men and service women:
- Information technology (30 percent)
- Customer service (23 percent)
- Engineering (22 percent)
- Sales (20 percent)
- Manufacturing (20 percent)
- Business development (15 percent)
Most of these fields require technical skills that military personnel often learn while serving. Strong teamwork, leadership and attention to detail are often essential aspects of military service, and they are skills every employer needs, but they’re also buzzwords that don’t say much to employers. If you’re a veteran looking for a job, don’t just say you’re capable of these skills, explain how you’ve displayed them. In terms civilian employers can understand, help them see the successful work you have done and what you have to offer. Employers want strong veteran workers, they just need a little help finding them.
*Note: These figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are not seasonally adjusted; therefore, they should not be compared to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 7.9 percent in October 2012.