Organizations near and far are proclaiming themselves to be “veteran friendly.” Vendors, publications, and lobby groups have even gotten into the picture to help with said proclamation.

Unfortunately, in the organizational quest to become “veteran friendly,” companies have long forgotten one major component on this quest – the friendly part.

Before we rush headlong into this topic, let’s back up for a minute. Ask yourself a serious question about your everyday candidate process and its friendliness: “Would you label your website and application process ‘candidate friendly?'”

Cue the crickets.

Earlier this month, I asked the same question to a room full of Fortune 500 companies and they were quick to grimace and shake their heads. The same response followed when I asked if their ATS was also known as “the black hole.” No one in the room was ready to raise their hand and grab the Candidate Friendly Award.

Is veteran recruiting different?

So what’s different for veterans moving through your process? Is the experience different? No, not really. When you get past shaking hands at a job fair or answering questions on a veteran hotline, which makes us all feel warm and fuzzy, you still have the same experience. It’s just front-loaded with a smile.

Veteran FriendlyThe “black hole” swallows military veterans up and your smile and promise of being friendly is seen as just another corporate ruse. The candidate experience is part of the reason a RallyPoint poll on veteran friendliness found 42 percent of veterans and transitioning military believe, “Companies are not really hiring veterans, they are just trying to make themselves look good.

Don’t forget, you set the tone on this one. You claimed to be “veteran friendly” and you failed on your promise, even if you did it with a handshake and a smile. “But Chad,” you say. “what about the awards? We have won awards. Look at the bounty of awards.”

After that, I hear too frequently, “But my company has an award, made a list, or added a badge to our website about veteran or military something.” That’s nice, but was it awarded to you by a vendor, publication, or lobby group who needs your dollars for their organization to remain sustainable?

(Insert Jeopardy theme music here.)

Do you believe those groups truly represent the feelings of the veteran community? It’s like asking, “Do you feel your elected officials are truly advocating for your best interest?”  Most companies I have worked with over the last 2 years, many of which have awards, don’t even achieve the basic veteran hiring benchmark set by the federal government in 2014.

Companies have leaned too heavily on the warm and fuzzy. Play some Lee Greenwood and wave the Stars and Stripes instead of actually hiring veterans.

On the quest to win that next award we have forgotten who matters.

Who should crown your organization “veteran friendly”? Who has the right? Here’s a simple answer: How about the actual veterans working for you? What’s more, consider polling the veterans within your organization.

parachute-skydiving-parachuting-jumping-128880Remember this is not about handshakes at job fairs, putting American flags on our website, offering a military discount, or saying “welcome home.” Those are all nice things, but success is about a sustainable strategy which continues to drive veteran hiring outcomes.

I have worked with hundreds of companies over the years, and very few actually understand the veteran community’s need to be approached and integrated into an organization in a way which recognizes their differences and value. Vets live a different culture altogether, speak a different language, have different levels of education, different work ethics, training, and don’t fall in line with society’s norms.

Not all of you reading this article are subject to the warm and fuzzy, because you are best-in-breed. Best-in-breed companies:

  • Embrace commonalities and don’t focus on the differences, creating excuses not to hire candidates
  • Understand, in order to innovate, you need diversity of people, background, education, and thought. You need performers and individuals who will be loyal to your cause.
  • Adapt and serve an underserved and incredibly educated and productive population in military vets.

I know and understand companies are really trying (or believe they are). but we have to challenge ourselves and look past our walls and what vendors are telling us. To be embraced by the veteran community is to be “veteran friendly.”

To be veteran friendly, you must go beyond charity, beyond Stars and Stripes on your website and marketing material. Your organization must understand and embrace just how veteran hiring positively impacts production numbers, retention numbers, and most importantly your bottom line.

Anything else is an effort, granted, but comes off fake.

About The Author

Chad SowashChad Sowash has 20 years of military experience, including combat, training soldiers as infantry drill sergeant, several military leadership schools, and more than 15 years in leadership positions where he led, managed and motivated groups ranging from five to more than 200 individuals.

Chad draws upon extensive recruitment industry expertise. He worked for Online Career Center,, and spent ten years with DirectEmployers Association, where he served as both vice president of Membership and Business Development. He was spoken to Congress on behalf of veterans and hiring companies.

Most recently, Chad served as chief experience officer for RecruitMilitary, director of veteran recruiting for Randstad Sourceright and continues his endeavors as partner with Catch 22 Consulting.