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Veteran Hiring: selfless or selfish?

posted May 1, 2016, 7:34 PM by Christopher Furton   [ updated May 1, 2016, 7:40 PM ]
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Written by: Christopher Furton

It seems as if nearly all companies proudly exclaim that they hire veterans – whether through official programs aimed to hire X number of Veterans per year, flocking to Hiring our Heroes career fairs, or through veteran affinity programs.  Many people have likely read several “top 10” lists with resounding reasons to hire those who have served.  That is great; those benefits are simply undeniable.  We know veterans have adaptability honed through proven experience in unstable environments, leadership skills far beyond what would be typical for someone early in their careers, and technical proficiency only seen through years of education and hands-on application.  However, that is not what this article is about. Instead, let’s dive further into the intent behind these programs and ask, “Why do we hire veterans and can we do more?”

Talent acquisition and recruiters likely dance with glee when that diamond candidate – the one with the perfect resume and interview skills – leaves military service and ventures out into Corporate America.   They see those benefits and the potential positives that can be achieved by the company and rush to suck them into their fold.  If that candidate has an active security clearance, then even better!  No doubt this is good for the Veteran, but the intent seems rather selfish.  It isn’t about helping that “perfect” veteran, it is about reaping the benefits.  So let’s take a look deeper at what it means to be a veteran today.

According to the “Swords to Plowshares” report from the Institute for Veteran Policy (2011):

·         When factoring in delayed onset, post-traumatic stress (PTS) rates are as high as 35 percent.

·         Of Global War on Terror veterans who need treatment for major depression, only 53 percent seek help.

·         Substance abuse/dependence often becomes a primary means of self-medicating for underlying untreated mental health issues.

·         Untreated psychological conditions or lack of economic support leads to a cycle of poverty, homelessness, drug use, theft and property crimes, arrest, and criminal conviction.

With the frightening increase in PTS, alcoholism, drug use, or other addictions, hiring a veteran may reveal that diamond candidate has the dreadful red flag – that item in a candidate’s past that is simply too much risk.  This red flag could come in many forms: domestic violence or criminal convictions, employment gaps caused by residential drug programs, or possibly homelessness.

At this point, you may be asking yourself why I’m trying to convince you NOT to hire veterans!  That of course is not my intent.  Instead, I urge hiring managers and human resource professionals to ask yourselves if you are doing everything to help THOSE veterans: that percentage of veterans who need an extended hand the most.  I like to refer to them as veterans with scars.  Specifically, I’m referring to those invisible mental scars that may only be visible through unhealthy decisions and choices.  At first it may look risky, but remember that some risks are worth taking.  Veterans do come with many benefits, but more and more have lived complex and difficult lives as a result of service to our country.

Veterans are not perfect and I doubt that anyone claims they should be.  With that said, there is so much opportunity that remains for companies to go the next step: selflessly hire veterans with scars.  Let’s change the flight response when learning of a red flag and seriously consider the candidate based on his or her merits.  You will likely get a dedicated and competent new employee while also extending a hand to someone who has sacrificed so much. 

Veteran handshake

About the Author

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Christopher Furton

is an Information Technology Professional with over 12 years in the industry.  He attended The University of Michigan earning a B.S. in Computer Science and recently completed a M.S. in Information Management from Syracuse University.  His career includes managing small to medium size IT infrastructures, service desks, and IT operations.  Over the years, Christopher has specialized in Cyber Security while working within the Department of the Defense and the United States Marine Corps. His research topics include vulnerability management, cyber security governance, privacy, and cyber risk management.  He holds active IT Certifications including the CISSP, CEH, ITIL Foundations, Security+CE and Network+CE.  He can be found on , , and .  

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