The benefits of hiring from a diverse talent pool, including job seekers with military experience, are well-documented. Despite many employers’ best intentions to hire and support, military talent still faces significant challenges transitioning to the civilian workforce

In honor of Veterans Day, Indeed partnered with Hiring Our Heroes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that provides veterans with employment assistance. Hiring Our Heroes conducted a survey of more than 5,000 U.S. veterans and service members to learn more about the difficulties they face searching for jobs as civilians. 

“This meaningful research endeavor with our partner, Hiring Our Heroes, seeks to better understand the needs and preferences of job seekers with military experience and supports Indeed’s ongoing work to close the gap between talent and opportunity,” says Misty Gaither, Indeed’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB+). “Indeed’s commitment to improving access for job seekers facing barriers is reflected in our work with Indeed for Military and is only the first step in enabling companies to embrace and tap into this underutilized pool of talent.”

So what are employers doing well to support military-experienced job seekers, and where do they have opportunities to improve? Indeed analyzed the data and discovered these four takeaways: 

1. Even organizations that consider themselves “military-ready” may still have work to do.

Nearly half (45%) of survey respondents say they’ve had experience interviewing with, or working as an employee of, an organization that advertises or claims it is a “military-ready” or “military-friendly” employer. But 22% of those respondents say their expectations of those organizations were not met.

As a result, 44% of that group say they chose not to move forward as candidates with those organizations. Similarly, 43% of the same respondents say they’ve left organizations that didn’t meet expectations, while another 33% have considered leaving.

So a failure to meet employee expectations impacts your bottom line, too — and employee turnover is a costly line item for organizations in more ways than one. In order to effectively address talent retention issues, you’ll need to invest time to learn about the needs and expectations of job seekers with military experience. 

Provide communication channels and opportunities for military-experienced members of your workforce to provide feedback on an ongoing basis, from open roundtable discussions to anonymized surveys. Ask what they think their employer does well and where there is room for improvement. And if a candidate with military experience withdraws from the interview process, follow up with them to learn why. 

The odds of talent retention improve dramatically for employers who successfully meet military member expectations: 75% of employees say they were more committed to staying at such an organization, while 82% of candidates were more committed to joining one.

2. Military talent wants to work for employers who know how to effectively support them.

When military-experienced job seekers were asked to rank the most important aspects of workplace culture, two choices rose above the rest: working for organizations that understand how military experience translates to civilian roles and that offer onboarding programming for new hires, each ranked 4.2 out of 5 in terms of importance (where 5 is considered “the most important”).   

The data suggests that organizations will more effectively attract and retain military talent if they:

  • Recognize the value military members bring to their business; and
  • Actively support their success through the implementation of onboarding programs and beyond. 

Does the story your employer brand is telling online effectively communicate how your organization supports and values former and active military members from day one? Spend some time auditing and revising your online presence. And ask for honest feedback from candidates and members of your workforce with military experience. 

Ask for honest feedback from candidates and members of your workforce with military experience.

Try using a dedicated landing page, social media channels and public company profiles to actively showcase your commitment to employing military members and offering them the resources they need to succeed in their roles. Sharing key military-related employment, promotion and leadership statistics and effectively leveraging employee resource groups for military employees are great places to start.

It’s important to set measurable goals around hiring job seekers with military experience. Once your hiring strategy is more clearly defined, advocate organizations like Hiring Our Heroes and Indeed for Military, which specialize in helping deliver quality candidates from military talent pools, can help you discover effective new hiring strategies.

3. The majority of service members rely primarily on job sites or boards for their job search.

A horizontal bar graph displaying how U.S. service members search for jobs. 83% report using job sites and boards, 47% report using Job Fairs. 41% report using social networking, and 28% report using their personal network according to the Indeed/Hiring Our Heroes survey.

A whopping 83% of service members surveyed say they use job sites and boards to search and apply for positions in the civilian workforce. More than half (59%) say they use Indeed, 13% use Glassdoor and 44% use Hiring Our Heroes, among others.

Nearly half (47%) find positions at job fairs, the second-most popular method, followed by social networking (used by 41%). Just over one-quarter (28%) tap into their personal networks for job searching, meaning the old adage of “it’s not what you know but who you know” may not be the case among this group.

With the vast majority of military-experienced job seekers searching for jobs online, it’s critical that employers learn to write job descriptions that effectively appeal to the military community. That includes using language about diversified hiring goals and lists of military-specific benefits unique to your organization. 

Once your job postings are in good shape, optimize them for higher visibility among job seekers with military experience and help drive traffic to your postings with tools like Indeed’s Employer Brand Ads.

4. The biggest challenge for job seekers with military experience is finding jobs that match skill sets … or is it?

The most challenging aspect of assimilation into the civilian workforce for respondents, chosen by 40%, was “finding job opportunities that match my skill set.” Similarly, 17% say translating military experience to a civilian resume is the hardest part, while one-quarter (25%) cite difficulties adjusting to civilian workplace culture.

But is the barrier to employment that jobs don’t cater to military skill sets? Or is it that employers aren’t effectively translating those skills to their own workforce applications? Advocates are quick to point out the misconception that military professions are nothing like those in the private sector and that many military skills such as professionalism or critical thinking are desirable in any workforce. It’s much more likely that employers want what they have but are simply calling it something different — and it’s being lost in translation.  

People don’t know they’re welcome unless invited. Explicitly welcome military members to apply and promote military-specific benefits in your job postings.

People don’t know they’re welcome unless invited. Explicitly welcome military members to apply and promote military-specific benefits in your job postings. It's also imperative to list relevant skills using language that’s familiar and approachable to the military community. For example, instead of listing “project management” as a desired skill, consider broader language like “problem-solving” or “ability to manage complex tasks” instead.   

Familiarize yourself with common military terms and titles, learn to read military resumes and consult former military members for guidance by recruiting them from your own workforce or hiring a consultant who has military experience. Learning more about how to attract and retain military talent can add major value to your organization. 

Learn More About Hiring Military-Experienced Job Seekers 

These are just a few strategies employers can use to better attract and engage with military candidates transitioning to the civilian workforce. It’s also important to remember that the opportunities to improve the experience for this highly skilled talent pool don’t end with the candidate experience. 

“The data shows that a hiring commitment like this doesn’t end with a successful hire — employers must continuously work to retain talent from this community,” Gaither says. “Indeed is there to support both job seekers and employers throughout the process — from equipping job seekers with the resources to find their next role to educating employers on thoughtful strategies to drive retention.”

Indeed for Military can help you attract, hire and retain top military talent to keep your business moving forward. 

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Methodology:

This research used a predominantly quantitative approach by conducting an online survey of veterans and transitioning service members, as well as recruiters and hiring managers. Qualitative data was also collected through open-ended questions within the survey instrument.

The results from this research project are based on responses to an online survey of 5,365 people with prior military experience and transitioning service members conducted between Sept. 21 and Oct. 17, 2023. A second online survey for recruiters and hiring managers was conducted between Sept. 21 and Oct. 23 and received 275 responses.