top 5 reasons veteran hiring #FAIL

November 18, 2014 Chad Sowash

mistakes in strategy, commitment, and resource often doom the best intention 


We all know the value of a positive outlook. So why focus on failure? Why not jump right into what success looks like? The reality is that in many cases we don’t spend enough time analyzing our failures. Examining failure is not negative; it is constructive. Particularly in the case of veteran hiring, it allows us to better understand and appreciate the path to success. Without this step, we are destined to recreate the failures of the past and present. That’s why today I’d like to share my top five reasons organizations #FAIL at veteran hiring.

No. 1 – Mistaking tactics for strategy. Some organizations talk a very big game when it comes to strategy but when approached to engage in the strategic discussion, the conversation is solely tactical. Questions such as “What veteran job boards are best to post on?” and, “Who would be best suited to attend the job fair next week?” are often asked, but they’re out of place.

When building a veteran hiring program, it is imperative to focus and start at strategic-level conversations. These conversations must revolve around defining belief, vision, mission, and objectives. Then focus on driving assessment and building a framework and infrastructure before diving into the tactic of job boards or the minutia of job fair logistics. Tactics are incredibly important but should not be the main priority when building a successful veteran hiring program.

No. 2 – Thinking it’s a one-person job. Organizations often fool themselves into believing that having a person on staff dedicated to veteran hiring completes the job. In reality, it takes a team, led by a veteran who has attained experience in talent acquisition, workforce development, partnership development and compliance and possesses the ability to discover, design, develop, deploy, and evolve a successful veteran hiring program.

There are no Rambo attitudes in the military, and there should not be any in the civilian sector. Only a team led by an expert in veteran hiring can generate success.

No. 3 – Believing the recipe makes a chef. Over the years I have experienced many talent decision makers who believe that after attending a veteran hiring conference or a few webinars, they have the recipe for real veteran hiring success. The truth of the matter is that having a recipe or even the entire book will not make you a world-class chef. Attempting to launch a veteran hiring program with only "the recipe" is a sure path to failure. Organizations need experts who are trained and experienced in the craft of veteran hiring and leading a team in driving hiring outcomes.

No. 4 – Using “free” as a strategy. Failing organizations are constantly chasing FREE. What these organizations need to understand is that free is NOT a strategy! Well, let me re-phrase that – it is a strategy for failure. You cannot use free services as the foundation of your veteran hiring program, although you can augment using free partnerships, posting to state job banks and other ancillary initiatives.

No. 5 – Not fully grasping the idea of commitment. The saying is true: if you’re going to talk the talk, you’d better be ready to walk the walk. I have witnessed many cases of organizations pledging their commitment to join consortia, which were merely cosmetic or loosely based in actual commitment. The litmus test for commitment is extremely simple. If an organization does not have, or is not planning to allocate, budget to build a veteran hiring program, it is not committed. The uncommitted organization should stop having the veteran hiring conversation now before wasting anyone’s precious time and focus on initiatives where it is willing to commit by putting skin in the game.  


A Positive Direction

Of course there are more than five ways to go wrong in developing a veteran hiring program, but after nearly a decade of working with successful and failing organizations, these consistently emerge as my top five. Falling into just one of these traps could easily topple a program, stop it from achieving success, or even send it into a tailspin after launch. Unfortunately many organizations experience difficulties in all five.

The good news is for all the complexities of veteran hiring, understanding these pitfalls provides a clear path to success. So, before jumping into the nuances of attending career fairs and posting on job boards, consider whether your organization is addressing each of these five areas. If the answer is yes, you have a clear starting point for a lasting and productive veteran hiring strategy.

About the Author

Chad Sowash

Chad is Director, Veteran Recruiting (RPO), Recruiting & Innovation Center of Expertise. For over a decade, Chad Sowash has been a leader and key architect in the development of hundreds of successful programs and partnerships. Chad has chosen to focus his energy on making a difference in workforce, economic, business and technology development within the recruitment and staffing industry. Examples of his leadership include innovative digital schemes wrapped in world-class job distribution model

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