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The Case for Hiring Veterans

Look beyond patriotism: Veterans' technical skills (and the tax breaks that come with hiring them) make vets great small business hires.
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With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, there are bound to be a lot of veterans looking for a fresh start outside the service. Why not hire some?

A recent Society for Human Resources Managament poll of HR pros found that while more than half of organizations surveyed had hired a veteran in the last three years, only 13 percent "reported being 'very aware' of effective resources for recruiting veterans." The survey also found large organizations are more likely than small businesses to take on veterans. What's holding firms back?

"Awareness of resources is the missing piece," said Mark Schmit, vice president of research at SHRM. "Human resource managers don't know how to find [military veterans] and once they find them, they may not understand the military skills jargon on the resume."

Small businesses may be missing out, and not just on an opportunity to be patriotic. Those with images of returning soldiers as worthy but with a skill set not exactly perfectly suited to today's flexible, high-tech workplace, need to update their ideas of what most soldiers do upon leaving the armed forces. While some obviously struggle, when PayScale recently analyzed its database to determine what professions were held by a higher percentage of veterans than the average, they discovered a distinct pattern.

"The majority of the jobs are in technology," reports PayScale's blog, which concludes, "it appears the military prepares its veterans well for today's technological age." Military service, it seems, translates more readily to civilian jobs that many businesses realize. To further illustrate the point the PayScale listed several skills veterans hold more than the average worker:

  • Cisco networking
  • Computer security
  • Contractor management
  • Electronic troubleshooting
  • Leadership
  • Microsoft SQL server
  • Program management
  • Security policies and procedures
  • Security risk management

That's hardly just lifting heavy objects, obeying orders, enduring unpleasant climates, or mastering military-specific tech. And the list doesn't even include "soft" skills like leadership and the ability to handle pressure that military experience often brings. "They know what it's like to work in a fast-paced and results-driven environment," Melissa McMahon, senior director of talent acquisition for tech company CDW, told the American Express OPEN Forum blog, for example.

Veterans may have more skills than you imagine, but according to the same OPEN Forum post there's perhaps an even more clear-cut reason to make efforts to hire them—government incentives. The post explains the tax credits and other assistance given to businesses that hire veterans:

In November 2011, Congress passed President Obama's Returning Heroes Tax Credit and Wounded Warrior Tax Credit, both designed to get veterans back to work. The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides businesses that hire unemployed veterans with a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers businesses that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran.

In addition to the tax credits, business owners may also be able to get reimbursed for training newly hired veterans, thanks to the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which provides high-quality job training through state and local workforce development systems.

If all this has you intrigued about the possibility of attracting some seasoned soldiers to your small business, check out the Open Forum post for much more information on ways to connect with veterans, advice on interviewing them and tips on how to help them adapt to your organization.

IMAGE: Flickr/CherryPoint
Last updated: Mar 1, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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