When Some Companies Shouldn’t Hire Veterans


In the United States, being a veteran means being part of a larger population of patriots who have sacrificed a great deal to support and defend their country. In many companies, having the “veteran” designation is highly respected and valued, especially those companies that offer employment to transitioning service members. Companies all over the U.S. claim to be “veteran friendly” and according to a 2012 study by the Center for New American Security (CNAS), employers felt that hiring veterans offered good publicity and tax breaks.

However, many of those same companies that hire veterans, often struggle to retain them. In 2014, the Institute of Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) found that more than 44 percent of veterans in their first job post military leave after 12 months or less with 65% leaving after 2 years. Based on our research, 4 main factors contribute to this:

  • Factor 1- Recruiting Issues: The CNAS study found that 25% of employers reported struggling to find veterans to hire because too many websites and resources were attempting to promote the value of veterans to the civilian workforce instead of offering a network of potential veteran employees.
  • Factor 2- New Opportunities: The IVMF study (cited above) found that new employment opportunities were the #1 reason cited for leaving. Lack of career development and advancement, quality of work, and inadequate compensation or benefits followed closely behind this reason.
  • Factor 3- Career Choice Issues: In 2016, a study done by the US Chamber of Commerce found veterans who are having a difficult transition take their first job to satisfy financial and family obligations.
  • Factor 4- Understanding Skills: According to an article by The Washington Journal, one of the biggest mistakes employers make is not understanding how to take full advantage of veterans’ skills, despite wanting to hire them.

Practices that work

Some companies are adjusting their veteran strategies to smooth the entry process specifically for those coming into their first civilian job. In 2011, JP Morgan Chase joined 10 other large corporations in committing to hire 100,000 veterans by 2020. In keeping this commitment, key stakeholders established a training program called Military 101 to teach hiring managers and recruiters about the military. This program was also created to educate veteran hires about the bank’s corporate culture and hired 15 recruiters whose sole purpose was to find veterans. This model was designed to promote maximum achievement for veterans and military connected to succeed after their transition. The Department of Veterans Affairs now asks all companies seeking to hire veterans to use a similar model.

“As a veteran, I understand the importance identifying how my skills gained in the military will translate to the educational path that I decided to pursue and how that correlates to the field that I chose. What I ask is honesty and willingness to give sound advice”

– Eric Marshall, Senior Analyst, A-G Associates

In 2019 a new process called Purpose Matching helped employers to focus on their purpose and mission, instead of skills alone. This process ensured that veteran applicants and the employer shared the same values and goals. When purpose and vision were aligned, retention and engagement grew exponentially. This model was designed to promote a successful transition with maximum achievements for veterans.

Rules for All Businesses

Not all businesses will be able to afford in-depth programs that will welcome veterans to their companies. This reality should not prevent companies from hiring veterans. Many small businesses will not have the resources to invest in veterans but may still be able to offer an environment where all employees can thrive. Below are 3 simple concepts that all companies must consider when hiring veterans: 

  1. Be Honest About Corporate Culture: Veterans should understand the different aspects of the workplace so that they realize the environment they will be entering. This understanding begins with business leaders being honest about the positive and negative dynamics of the company’s culture. Understanding the culture is a key element in identifying If the company will be a good fit for the veteran. Conversely, if an organization is attempting to change the culture by hiring veterans, this initiative should be transparent as well.
  2. Communication Works Better Than Assumptions: Employers should ask questions before assuming the veterans’ background. This transparency may not be possible without building trust. Misleading stereotypes about mental health, deployments, and career experience often generalize the challenges and form an inadequate narrative that can hinder the veteran’s integration into the organization.
  3. Show Pride in Commitment Without Exploitation: Organizations should be proud of their commitment to hire veterans without using it solely for marketing purposes. In fact, the language used around this commitment is very important. For instance, putting “Proud supporter of veterans” is more appropriate than “We employ disabled vets”. Employers should develop veterans through mentorship, training, patience, and personal development. This approach will ultimately prove the organization’s commitment to maximizing success and long-term employment.

In conclusion, if companies want to fully utilize the talent, loyalty, discipline and dedication of veterans, they must invest in both time and resources, creating a culture where the veteran, along with all employees, can feel supported and successful. However, if companies are not willing to make those investments, they should look elsewhere for employees. Our veterans have earned the right to a unique and meaningful transition.

To discuss this topic, or others around veterans’ education and employment, please contact Chris Gonzalez at cgonzalez@a-gassociates.com