How to Hire Veterans in 6 Simple Steps
This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
Veterans make many sacrifices, yet they often find it challenging to get work upon their return. Luckily, companies are beginning to realize the benefits of hiring veterans. For one, you can receive tax credits for hiring veterans—and you’ll be hiring a terrific and highly qualified worker.
When considering how to hire veterans, you must create a job description that includes veteran-specific language and post it to veteran-targeted job boards like Hire Heroes USA. You’ll then review and interview your candidates (noting that gaps in employment or frequent moves are likely related to their military service) and ultimately make a great hire.
Step 1: Write the Job Description & Determine Salary
Your job description is crucial, as it lays the foundation for the position. It should include as much detail as possible about the work you need done and the key skills that a qualified worker should have. Be sure to include information about what military roles might be similar to the role you’re hiring for and include language veterans might be familiar with to describe responsibilities, tasks, etc.
At this stage, you also need to figure out the salary for this role. You may not be able to provide exactly the same salary and benefits as the military, so you need to take this into account, especially when discussing salary with candidates. Make sure you know similar military positions and check those salary levels, along with salary levels for similar non-military roles. If you use benchmarking software or if you already have other people in similar positions, it may be easy to create your salary range. If not, set aside time to do market research and make sure you’re offering a competitive wage.
Compliance Tip: If your business is hiring an employee in certain states, you may need to put your target salary range in your public job posting. Check your state laws to see if you need to comply. Verify whether asking about a candidate’s past salary is allowed in your state as well.
Step 2: Post Job Ad
When you’re targeting veteran workers, you need to adjust what you include in your job advertisement. This is especially important if your job is one that someone with a military background could excel in.
Familiarize yourself with the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) codes used in the different branches of service, as each branch uses different codes to describe certain job qualifications. For example, Army MOS code 36A refers to financial management—if you’re hiring an accountant or even a payroll specialist, this may be a good code to include in your veteran job ad. Using these codes in your job ad could garner increased search results, and it speaks the language of the veteran, making them feel welcomed.
You also need to add information about your company. What makes your company special and why would a veteran want to work there? Include details about your company culture, values, and mission, as these can particularly resonate with veterans. Information about your benefits is also a key selling point.
There are many general job boards where you can post your job, some for free. CareerOneStop is run by the US Department of Labor and, while it doesn’t specifically target vets, it’s a great place to post your job for additional exposure. You should also consider some job board options specifically targeting veterans:
Step 3: Review Applicants
After you’ve gotten a batch of applicants, you need to screen your applicants. Make sure you keep in mind you’re looking at people with military backgrounds, so there may be gaps in employment or frequent job title and location moves—these aren’t negatives but instead just the military way.
It’s a good idea to have a list of must-haves to compare to each resume. Make sure you know what a comparable military position would be so you can check for similar attributes. Don’t expect everything—no one will match up perfectly. But if you have a list of a dozen or so key skills necessary to do the job, you can quickly sort through the resumes.
Look at each resume for how it matches up to your must-haves list. The more matches you get, the better. Check our guide for an effective resume screening process to streamline your effort.
Don’t leave candidates hanging. If you’re not going to call them or interview them, send them a quick rejection so they’re not left in limbo. Some job boards and applicant tracking systems will even automate this process for you.
Step 4: Interview Candidates
After screening, you will need to schedule interviews with the most qualified candidates. Keep this list to about 10 or fewer. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with the time required to conduct all the interviews.
Although an email will typically do, we recommend calling them to notify them of their interview schedule, as this allows you to do a quick phone screen interview. With this, you can gauge their interest level and even ask them a few quick questions to further understand their qualifications.
When you sit down with candidates, we recommend you follow a structured interview process where you ask each candidate the same questions. Not only does this help avoid discrimination, it lets you evaluate each candidate based on their answers to the same questions.
With military candidates, you should also dive into their military training and experience. Don’t ask about their discharge or where they served. Instead, ask about how their military service has prepared them to work for your company.
Compliance Note: If you’re interviewing someone who is an active reservist, do not ask whether their service could interfere with their ability to do the job. You cannot use this as a reason to deny employment, so it’s best to just avoid the subject altogether.
Step 5: Call References & Run a Background Check
Once you’ve interviewed the most qualified candidates, you’ll hopefully have one shine as the person you want to hire. Even if you narrow it down to two or three, that’s a good step.
Veterans often have gaps in their employment history, especially those who served for a long time or stayed in the reserves. As such, getting references can sometimes be challenging. However, you should still ask for three supervisory references so you can get a better idea of what it’s like to manage the veteran.
You’ll have limited time with the reference so make sure you ask direct questions. Avoid asking any questions about the veteran’s military service and if that impacted their ability to do the job. For more detailed information, check our guide on how to conduct an employment reference check.
You may also want to run a background check. Not every position requires one, but if the job will include confidential work or financial information, you should consider running one. Make sure you get the veteran’s signature first before you run a background check.
Compliance Tip: Check your state laws. Some states require that companies run background checks after a job offer has been accepted.
Step 6: Make a Job Offer
When you’ve gone through all the above steps, you’ll have a veteran you want to hire. Call them to give them the good news so you can gauge their excitement level and discuss any final details like salary and start date.
Once you and the candidate have agreed to all the terms, write a formal offer letter. Make sure the letter includes:
- Start date
- Reporting structure
Include the full job description with the offer letter. Having the candidate sign off on their ability to handle the duties of the job lets you more easily hold them accountable if they fail to meet your expectations. Send the offer letter to the candidate and give them several days to review, sign, and send it back. Once you’ve received the signed offer letter back, it’s time to begin the onboarding process.
Benefits of Hiring Veterans
There are many reasons to hire veterans. Many vets are extremely well trained, and that translates into hard workers who can add extreme value to your organization.
Beyond that, however, there are also incentives offered to employers that hire veterans. Here are some of the most notable.
The IRS offers a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to employers that hire certain groups of people, including veterans. The WOTC seeks to encourage hiring workers who come from groups that typically find it hard to get work. Originally set to expire in 2019, the WOTC has been extended until at least Dec. 31, 2025.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) runs a Veteran Readiness and Employment program. This program subsidizes wages for veteran employees during their training period. As a business owner, you can pay veteran employees at least an entry-level wage while you train them on the specific work you need done.
Beyond training salary, the VA also offers a Special Employer Incentive program. This program reimburses your business for up to half the employee’s salary. You’ll only get up to six months of eligibility and you’ll need to apply for the reimbursement. To apply, locate your nearest VA. You’ll need to go in person or call and speak with a representative to apply for this program.
The VA offers a free program called the Nonpaid Work Experience. To apply, locate your nearest VA and call to sign up. You’ll need to provide the VA with some details about your company, including a training outline to help the veteran gain work experience. This program places veteran workers with a business that specializes in the field the veteran wants to learn more about. Your business saves on labor costs because the veteran worker is paid by the VA while you provide training and experience to the worker on a short-term basis.
Because the demands of military service can be physically and mentally demanding, some vets exit with new disabilities and disorders they didn’t have before. It’s important to consider this and any related nuances. Check out our full guide to how to hire people with disabilities for more information.
There are many benefits of hiring veterans. From tax credits and salary reimbursement to having a generally great employee, your small business can see exceptional value from actively working to hire veterans.