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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why I am not hiring veterans… but I want to!
This is a guest post thanks to and written by  James O'BrienPresident & CEO at Artemis Global Logistics & Solutions. He makes some very interesting comments. You can follow James at the links provided:
Sept 22, 2014  I am not hiring veterans. Why is that?! After all, I am a veteran. I am a former enlisted Marine and I remember distinctly how difficult it was to get a job. So why am I not hiring veterans? The answer is simple: they are ill-prepared for the business world. I do not want that to be reality, but it is. Does that have to be a permanent condition? Absolutely not! But it can only change with political and social will.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me state that I have a team almost entirely comprised of military reservists. Thus, to say I am not hiring veterans is a bit of a stretch; eighty-five percent of my staff and/or independent contractors are veterans or reservists. Still, I receive thousands of resumes a month. Many of those resumes are from veterans. Most of the resumes I receive do not qualify for the positions that they wish to fill. This is especially true of veterans. Unfortunately, no one is assisting these veterans to re-tool their resumes and their expectations upon leaving the military. That needs to change. Let me give you a few examples of what I have received to better understand the issue:
  • One resume I received was nine pages long… NINE!
  • One resume was for a position that typically requires decades of experience in my industry (supply chain management); the individual was a Specialist coming off of a four year enlistment in a military occupational specialty (MOS) that was unrelated to the position.
  • One resume explained that the technical expertise qualifying him for a position as an IT technician was that he “Plays Play Station 3.” (Sometimes I have to remind myself that I was once twenty-one years old and thought this was an important skillset as well.)
  • One resume was a single line: “I am a 25C” [NOTE: this applicant is in a communications.]
  • One applicant’s response to the question of salary requirements for a warehouse foreman position was “$70,000 a year.” This is a job that pays about $35,000 a year (give or take).
To be sure, the vast majority of military resumes are not that bad, but they are not good either. They are typically chock-a-block with catch phrases that are appropriate to all veterans: “organized,” “self-motivated,” “driven,” “attention to detail,” etc. Whereas every employer wants organized, self-driven and motivated employees, they also want employees with skills. Taglines cannot replace skills.
So, if you are a veteran, what are the skills you have learned? For officers, your college education and rank is not enough. Despite your clear leadership qualifications, you may have to go back to the “second lieutenant” equivalent in the civilian world. In time, you will prove your value. If you are an enlisted technician your skills will be translatable to the professional world within which you likely want to get a position. You will have an easier job finding employment, though you might have to get through the hundreds of other applicants. If you are in an enlisted position that is harder to convert into the civilian world, such as infantryman (which I was), than you may have to tone down your expectations. I bartended at night and worked in a butcher shop during the day while going to college. When I finally got my first “real” job post college it was a GS-4 position getting paid a whopping $22,000 a year – in 2002! But I knew I had to take a step back in order to learn the skill sets that ultimately made me marketable and allowed me to climb the ranks. Not all veterans can do that for a variety of reasons.
Like any Marine, I am not complaining for the sake of my own bloviating. I want to fix the problem. That cannot happen alone. Here are the solutions.
First, military recruiters are partially to blame. They will tell you to go into the military and you will come out with a great job waiting for you because you are better prepared to succeed. I call BULLPOOP! While it is true, you are better equipped to succeed, jobs will not be waiting for you. Get ready to compete with a lot of technically proficient unemployed. This needs to change. One way to do so is to better prepare the recruited in his or her initial phases of basic training: explain the education benefits better; encourage new recruits and candidates to expand their skill sets throughout their enlistment or commission; make it clear – being a soldier is not a qualifier for a job in its own right, you will have to do things on your own to prepare for your future.
Secondly, it is time to change the way the G.I. Bill and uniform specific education funds reimburse veteran’s education. Currently, colleges dominate those funds. But not every veteran is built for college. In fact, many joined because they could not sit still in a classroom. Therefore, education initiatives led by trade unions, trade associations, and technical schools should be given the same opportunities to train veterans as universities. The National Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association (NCBFFA) has a GREAT idea, led by Pam Brown (of Future Forwarding of Atlanta, GA). They want to train veterans to become Certified Customs Specialists (CCS), a job that is growing in importance. Right now they are building support for funding and getting little traction. They are not alone. It is time to engage the carpenters, plumbers, and iron workers – among others – to build similar reimbursable institutes. After all, I can outsource a financial analyst’s position to India, but I cannot outsource a broken faucet.
Thirdly, businesses can become more engaged, but we need help. Tax breaks for training unskilled veterans would be a welcome benefit. More than money, rules restrict companies from hiring veterans. Regulations currently restrict how much we can assist. We are limited with regard to the amount of feedback we can give an applicant regarding his or her resume. We also need a greater amount of freedom to fire our new hires. Why? If that candidate for whom I wish to train turns out to be a turkey, I need to be able to release him or her in order to open new opportunities for a potentially better recruit. At present, the risk is entirely on the company and we can get hit with unemployment insurance for taking a chance. Thus, businesses seek those with records of success and skillsets. If you want to change that culture, the government should extend the probation period to give time to adequately train and assess veteran candidates. Unchain our potential!
Finally, elected officials need to care. At present, most do not. Veterans are treated like photo-opportunities by savvy political operators. When the cameras are gone, so is the support. The problem is only going to get worse. The World War II generation had a lot of comrades in Congress. The Vietnam Era, the last generation of drafted service members, still has a good number of elected officials as well – but they are dwindling. In the era of an all-volunteer military, only 2% of the nation will have served. Congress is beginning to reflect that demographic. Veterans need to organize for meaningful change in order to increase employment opportunities. Until that happens, they will continue to have higher than national average unemployment rates.
The wars are ending overseas. For many veterans they are beginning at home. They need your help. It will take some self-reflection and collective will to make that possible. They fought for us, let’s fight for them.

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