August 21, 2019

How to Hire Veterans: The Chuck Norris Guide for Getting It Right

hiring veterans

If it weren’t for his time in the military, the world may never have known who Chuck Norris is. 

After high school, the man who would one day become the world's most epic Texas Ranger joined the US Air Force and served in Korea as security police.

One night, after struggling to detain a rowdy drunk, he realized his only line of defense was his weapon. From that point on, he committed himself to learning the ins and outs of martial arts and went on to become a six-year world champion of the sport. 

After his return to civilian life, Norris opened more than 30 martial arts schools worldwide and even mentored fellow veteran, Steve McQueen. After years of friendship, McQueen convinced Norris to get into show business. And you know the rest.

Norris is just one example of a rockstar veteran bringing some serious value to the world after serving the country. So if you're wondering whether hiring a veteran is a good move for your company, the answer is of course. 

But are you recruiting veterans for the right reasons? Here’s a handy guide to help make your company and hiring strategy veteran-worthy.

Why veterans need to be a part of your hiring strategy (like, now). 

These days, hiring a veteran is one of the trendiest moves a talent pro can make. 


One reason is because the government pays for veteran education which means your veteran employees are constantly learning and becoming better at their jobs—on someone else’s dime. 

Can’t complain about that.

And then there are the tax benefits. Currently, the Vow to Hire Heroes Act is the only tax credit on the federal level. However, many states offer their own tax credits so it's worth looking into if you're setting up a veteran hiring program. 

For the record, we don’t advise hiring vets solely on the basis of gaining tax credits (there are sooo many other, cooler benefits), but saving a little cash is definitely the icing on the cake and it can help you get the internal buy-in you need to go full steam ahead on your vet recruitment strategy.

Hiring Vets: Publicity stunt or strategic business move?

Leadership. Trustworthiness. The refusal to break under pressure. And the ability to make big-time decisions using logical reasoning. 

These are all key attributes of ideal employees. Coincidentally, these are also the high-potential talent characteristics most vets have learned in service.

But are you hiring veterans because you know they can be a valuable asset to your team? Or are you in for the financial and diversity kudos?

If you want to win with the veteran workforce, your intentions must be pointed in the right direction. After all, it's 2019. It's about time talent pros recognize veterans for more than just an industry pat on the back.

Myths and misconceptions about veterans at work

Alright, let's assume you're in this for the right reasons.

You might still have some internal biases to overcome due to the inaccurate way veterans are commonly portrayed.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that if you hire a veteran they won't be able to perform day-to-day tasks because of traumas they may have suffered during their time in service.

Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) is real and affects many veterans to varying degrees. But that doesn’t mean all vets have PTSD or that those who have it can't perform to equal or greater ability as any other employee.

Fact is, mental illness is a common condition that impacts people from all walks of life. And your candidates have rights. Show them you're one of the few employers who gets it and you'll have more awesome applicants knocking on your door.

3 must-haves for a successful veteran hiring strategy

Companies either choose to recruit deliberately or they don't.

If you don't have a well thought-out veteran or military program—and we mean robust, detailed and transparent—you've effectively opted out. Acknowledgment and intentions are great for the boardroom, but they do nothing for veterans.

You need a plan. 

Here are the three fundamentals every veteran hiring strategy should include.

1. Rock-solid sourcing strategy

Use social media to reach veterans

Yes, really. In today’s tech-driven world, you can reach veteran candidates by showing up on their digital radar. Here are a few tips to help capture their attention on social media.

Include the right hashtags in your job posts and updates

Hang these community hashtags on the end of your tweet or Instagram post and you're sure to attract some stellar applicants:












Better yet, why not become an active member of these veteran-focused Facebook groups?

Before you start posting, make sure you take a minute to familiarize yourself with the group culture. Once the water's warm, go ahead and let them know you're hiring. Don’t make your presence too strong, just be casual.

Partner with the right organizations

One of the best ways to not only recruit, but also make sure you're prepared to support, veteran talent is to partner with a knowledgeable expert.

A common scenario with vets is you find a candidate who's a solid fit for a position, in every way except for one requirement: the degree. Sometimes even veterans with 10+ years of professional experience get turned down for an interview due to lacking a degree or some other technical component of your job ad. 

But translating military skills to educational or workplace skills is a challenge most of us know nothing about. Fortunately, there are organizations that can help bridge that gap. If you're close to a military base, see if they have a career services transition team you can partner with to offer free workshops or join their next job expo.

Here are some other groups that can help:

2. Veteran-friendly job ad

A great sourcing strategy is nothing without a vet-friendly job ad.

Below we’ve included a portion of an ad from Satellite Services, Inc. found on (another great sourcing avenue) which is clearly tailored to veterans who may be leery of the physical demands of their first job after returning from service.

Physical Requirements: This position is generally sedentary in nature in that prolonged sitting, talking, and hearing are necessary. The job requires frequent use of the hands, fingers, arms, and reaching. There is frequent close vision and distance vision work also involving depth perceptions. The ability to lift up to 25 lbs. is required. The ability to communicate clearly both written and orally is necessary. The environment is a normal office environment, generally hazard free, but may involve some infrequent exposure to noise, dust and paper residue.

It's OK to be super-specific. Some veterans may not be familiar with everyday civilian job duties.

Not every part of the ad has to be tailored to veterans, but if you want to attract a high-quality pool of veteran talent faster than ol' Chuck can shapeshift into a grizzly bear—it's a good idea to let them know you're thinking of them.

  • Offer guidance. Make it clear your company offers assistance to new employees. Upon returning to the civilian world, veterans will most likely have entered into a pattern of going with the flow. They may want to be guided or mentored until they have a better understanding of how your working culture functions.
  • Mention the perks. Don’t be shy about the benefits that might appeal to veterans. Whether it's professional learning and development or work-from-home options, make sure you give your perks a solid shoutout. (More on that in a minute!)
  • Be open about your hiring process. Communicate your veteran hiring program loud and clear. A little bold transparency may be just the push they need to send their application in.

Top job boards for veterans:

(Psst! Looking for more places to find awesome talent? Check out The Top 20 Job Boards for Diversity Hiring.)

3. Realistic expectations

Your veteran may have been a hero in service, but as a potential employee, they may be missing some of those rockstar resume boosters other applicants are quick to highlight. 

Don’t set the bar so high they’ll never meet it. Again, treat them just as you would any other candidate and make a decision based on the person as much as the resume. After all, skills can be learned, but you can't teach someone to have a winning personality.

Talk to your hiring manager and always ask what the knockout criteria are. And don't just take their answer for granted—ask why. By asking for the reasoning behind the criteria you may be able to change their minds about degrees or other things that might not need to be listed as a minimum requirement.

Remember, you can be an advisor, not just a recruiter! đź‘Š

How to make your employer brand veteran-friendly

From the moment a veteran candidate hits your inbox, there are some simple but powerful things you can do to show them you're on their side.

Tips for interviewing veteran candidates

It's important to know that some veterans may not be comfortable in an interview setting. The situation may seem a little distant to them, and in turn, may require some probing to get the answers you seek. 

Feel free-angle questions in a way that's easier for them to relate to, but never (never!) probe at their experiences in combat. A better idea is to approach the interview with a set of scenario-based questions which will help give them a clear path to a well thought-out answer.

Here are some examples of interview questions you could try:

  1. Can you talk about a time you developed a strategy for your troop?
  2. Describe your decision-making process at a moment when you had to make a quick decision for your team.
  3. In service, how did you effectively communicate with those who had differing opinions than you?
  4. Tell me about an accomplishment you weren’t sure you could achieve but did.
  5. What would your troop tell me about your work ethic?

Perks and benefits veterans love

Offer veterans a motive to apply for your position above and beyond the average employer.

For example, maybe your insurance could cover the counseling expenses that Veteran’s Assistance doesn’t. Use veteran benefits as a way to stand out from other companies and show your appreciation for their service.

Here are some ideas for veteran-focused perks:

  • Offer a weekly support group (when employing more than one veteran)
  • Accommodate for lasting injuries (mental and physical)
  • Start a veteran mentor program or apprenticeship
  • Let veterans work from home when they need to
  • Give veterans a quiet place to escape if needed

If you're not sure you and your team will be able to walk the walk with your new hires, ask one of the organizations mentioned above to come on-site and help coach your team on techniques for creating a work environment that's inclusive and supportive of veterans.

How can you help veterans win at work?

Want to help every veteran have a career that's as robust and rewarding as the Texas Ranger's? 

We'll leave you with some wise words from the man himself:

A lot of people give up just before they're about to make it. You know you never know when that next obstacle is going to be the last one.

Whether you're facing a reluctant hiring team, a veteran-starved candidate pipeline or an awesome candidate with skills that are tough to translate, it pays to stay committed to veteran hiring.

Veterans can be high-performing assets to your team, and you don't have to hire them for the industry kudos. Just remember, there's a difference between saying you want veterans on your team and actually creating an effective and inclusive veteran hiring strategy.