Why Companies Don’t Hire Veterans (And What You Can Do About It)

Looking for work now that you have separated from service? You have probably hit a couple of snags along the way. Veterans usually hem and haw about how company A has no appreciation for what you can bring to the table or how company B has no respect for you, but the truth usually far more simple. Here are the three main reasons why companies don’t hire veterans.

1. Veterans Aren’t Qualified to Do the Job

The common wisdom that veterans bring leadership, character, and discipline to whatever role they bring may be (mostly) true, but in many cases, it simply doesn’t matter. The job market generally requires specialization of skills in particular disciplines, and if you don’t have those skills, you aren’t qualified.

The good news is that most of these skills are relatively easy and inexpensive to pick up. Using resources like Udemy, Udacity, and MOOC’s, veterans can easily pick up the skills they need to do the jobs.

2. Veterans are unfamiliar

Although we’d all like to believe that the world is a perfect meritocracy and that if we just present ourselves well we will be given a chance. Unfortunately, it’s not true.

In any given situation, people likely to gravitate and give unconscious credit to something that is more familiar. This is a very useful trait that has served humankind very well since the dawn of civilization. Back when people were only hunting and gathering, seeing a familiar plant, path, or face could literally mean life or death. Sadly, this trait has followed us into modern times.

Hiring managers know what a particular school produces, what kinds of workers particular roles produce, and how to manage folks with those backgrounds. They don’t quite understand what they are supposed to do with an artillery loader, though. And who can blame them?

On top of that, most industries are really pretty small communities. It’s easy for most workers to get a positive reputation by building their resumes and networks. That’s why references can be so important, and why having advocates can mean the difference between getting hired and not.

So what can a veteran do? Network with people within those industries and companies, and set up as many informational interviews as possible.

3. Veterans are scary

Sadly, this stereotype can be easily reinforced by making a strange comment, talking about a firefight or other intense experience, or just by being over-enthusiastic about talking about being a veteran.

Although it’s tempting for a veteran to dismiss these concerns or get fed up with civilians for being over-sensitive, the fact is that it’s every person’s responsibility to have enough self-awareness to know how they affect others.

Veterans can combat this perception by developing their emotional intelligence and regulating how they portray themselves. Then, as they develop their network of advocates (see above), their reputations will precede them.

One good way to develop self-awareness is to investigate how you behave day-to-day and determine whether some old bad habits are still serving you well. This 5-Day Email course can help you look at different parts of you life objectively and help you grow out of old bad habits. Travis Bradberry’s Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a great guide for developing overall emotional intelligence.

Whatever the reason that vets may not immediately be attractive candidates in some markets, veterans can do a great deal to control their outcomes. Ultimately, by developing their skills, their networks, and their emotional intelligence, veterans can easily differentiate themselves to other candidates and land the jobs they want.