Veterans’ Guide to Getting Hired Resources, Tips and Advice for Veterans Returning to the Workforce

“If you want someone who will get the job done and done right, hire a veteran.” President Barack Obama

As military personnel return from active duty and the armed forces continue to shrink, the number of veterans entering the civilian workforce rises. With the U.S. economy also improving, more and more companies are hiring employees – good news for veterans looking for jobs. This guide is intended to help existing and future veterans find jobs and start new careers. They can read about finding a job, opportunities and challenges within the workplace, how businesses benefit from hiring veterans, and how vocational rehabilitation prepares veterans to find work.

Job Search Tools for Veterans

“And this is just the beginning. We are only scratching the surface. We’re just getting started. And we’re not going to stop until all of our veterans know that when they hit that job market, their skills will be rewarded. We won’t stop until all of our military spouses know that the next time their family is transferred, they won’t have to leave behind their professional lives. And I won’t be satisfied — nor will my husband — until every single veteran and military spouse who wants a job has one. All of you deserve nothing less. Nothing less.”

Michelle Obama

Job Search Resources

The internet has a wealth of job search information. Below are links to resources that veterans, spouses and transitioning military members (including the Selected Reserve) can use as part of their job search. Many of the sites allow keyword searches that can narrow results to a single career field or job market.

America’s Veteran

A list of veteran employment offices of the federal government; click on [view] in the Name column to see what types of careers that agency currently has open.

American Job Center

A job resource site with listings of directories and tools to make finding a job easier.

G.I. Jobs

A job search site that filters vacancies by company, country or state.

Hire Veterans

An employer/prospective employee job search site with a featured jobs listing that includes company and location details for each job.

Military Hire

An online job beard where veterans can post resumes, search for jobs and get tips on conducting a successful job search.

Military.com Job Fairs

A site highlighting upcoming job fairs by state, providing dates, locations and telephone numbers for each.

MyNextMove

A website that allows new veterans to search by keyword or career field or by answering some questions that help them determine what they want to do after they are discharged.

National Veterans Foundation

A listing of jobs for veterans that can be filtered by keyword, region or type of career.

O*NET Online

A general job occupation site from the Department of Labor that provides users with a list of job types based on military branch and job title or military occupational specialty (MOS) code.

Upcoming Veteran Career Fairs

A listing of various career fairs across the country especially for veterans, including online events.

USA Jobs

A one-stop job search site for veterans interested in seeking employment with the federal government; includes resources for navigating the federal employment system.

Veteran Job Search Tool

A job search tool presented by Military.com that allows users to search by job keyword and location.

Veterans Employment Center

A searchable site where veterans enter job keywords, desired location and military job title or code and receive a list of jobs matching the search criteria.

VetJobs

A job board where employers can search for active military, National Guard and Reserve members, as well as spouses and veterans, seeking civilian employment.

Resume Writing Resources

Writing an effective resume can be difficult. It is even harder for veterans, who have to translate their military skills into words a civilian hiring official will understand. While there are companies that write military transitional resumes for a fee, there are also several resources to help veterans write their own resumes.

Best Practices in Resume Writing for Veterans

An article on 10 of the best things veterans can do to “civilianize” a resume.

Build a Profile and Resume

This tool assists veterans in building a LinkedIn profile, which can in turn be used to build an online resume.

Learn How to Become

Tips and expert advice on how to write a resume for today’s job market; also included are discussions on cover letters, resume formats, digital resumes and social media profiles.

Resume Writing Tips for Veterans

A blog post written by Erik Bowitz, senior resume consultant for the Department of Veterans Affairs, that provides five tips for writing a military-to-civilian transitional resume.

Skills Translator

Veterans enter their branch of service, pay grade and job title, and the translator returns a list of civilian job skills that can be entered directly into a resume.

Top 10 Veteran Resume Mistakes

An article on Military.com that discusses the most common mistakes made on veteran resumes and how to avoid making them.

Translating Military Experience to Civilian Employment

A succinct three-step resume writing process sponsored by the Department of Defense’s Real Warrior Campaign, this site focuses on bridging the culture gap between the military and civilian worlds.

Other Important Resources

Below are some additional resources for preparing for post-military life.

Employment Resource Directory

Presented by Joining Forces, President Obama’s initiative to get veterans back to work, the directory links veterans looking for work with companies that hire veterans.

Information for Veterans and Transitioning Service Members

A collection of articles providing veterans with information on how to get hired by the federal government.

Interviewing

This is the last step of the job search process, though perhaps one of the most important. The job of the resume is to secure a job interview. However, if applicants are not prepared for an interview, all of the previous steps leading up this point could be for naught.

The Realities of Military to Civilian Transition

This articles talks about the five steps to job search success and helps veterans create a plan for their transition.

Top 10 Career Tips for Veterans

Another product from Military.com, the tips in this article focus on how to create a transition plan when moving from the military to a civilian workplace.

Veterans Employment Toolkit

A collection of resources provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs that veterans can use to get help finding jobs, writing resumes and preparing to enter the civilian workforce or work for the federal government.

Challenges and Opportunities for Vets in the Job Search

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Returning to Work

“Some days I have to go and sit in my car because I just feel out of control of my own emotions – God bless my boss who knows about my situation but employs me and covers for me – but there are usually several days a month where my wife has to make sure she and my toddler son basically … stay away from me because I can get pretty emotionally unstable for reasons I still can’t explain.”

Source: PTSD and Me: True Stories From Military Veterans

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition caused by severe trauma or life-threatening event(s), which is predominantly found in veterans returning from combat. It does not always manifest itself immediately; some people first display symptoms years later.

Not all people are affected the same way. For example, two veterans can witness the same event, and while one may never show any symptoms, the other may have a hard time dealing with her or his experiences shortly after it happened and need professional help to overcome the condition.

Common symptoms include recurring memories or nightmares of the event(s), night sweats, sleeplessness, loss of interest, numbness, anger and irritability. Some of these symptoms can affect the individual’s quality of work or relationships with coworkers. As an employer or veteran, it is important to recognize the signs of PTSD and know where to get assistance.

Resources for Vets and Employers

There are many resources to help veteran employees and employers of veterans. Nine such resources are listed below:

Make the Connection

A public awareness site by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) where veterans and their families can connect with information, resources and other veterans having the same experiences to help with PTSD issues.

My Health eVet

An online personal health record that allows individuals to make informed medical decisions and better manage their healthcare.

National Center for PTSD

A website sponsored by the VA for veterans, family, friends, the general public and employers. It covers research, education and outreach efforts regarding PTSD symptoms and treatments. There is also another section for professional healthcare providers experienced in treating PTSD.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Once connected, click the link to chat. Mental health professionals are available 24/7/365. Or call their hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255, then press 1 for the Veterans’ Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Self-Assessments

Four online self-assessments whose results can indicate whether you should seek further assessment from a mental health professional or not. The assessments screen for:

  • Depression
  • PSTD
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Substance abuse
VA Medical Center Locator

Another interactive website where veterans can enter a zip code and find nearby health centers catering to veterans.

VA Mental Health Services Guide

A listing for veterans and family members on the services available from the VA.

Vet Centers

An interactive website where veterans can enter their zip code and find vet centers close to them.

Veterans Crisis Line Website

Connects veterans and their families in crisis with qualified VA responders through a confidential hotline, live chat or text. Dial the hotline number at 1-800-273-8255, then press 1. Or go to http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx to chat live. If you wish to talk via text, send a message to 838255. Help is available 24/7/365.

Treatment for Vets Living with PTSD

PTSD is not new; it was commonly known as “shell shock” during and after World War II. However, the treatments available today are far better than they were in the past and can help those suffering with PTSD live a rewarding life.

The first step, and in some cases the hardest one, is getting individuals to recognize they need help. There is a common myth among service members that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Many unsuccessfully try to overcome PTSD on their own before finally seeking professional help.

Counseling and medication are two common treatments that work. Many veterans with mild PTSD see success by just talking with other veterans having similar experiences. Others seek counseling at their place of worship or from a doctor experienced in treating PTSD. More severe cases usually require the help of a mental health professional, such as a therapist or a VA medical center or vet center specialist. In some cases, prescribed medications can help relieve anxiety or depression.

What Veterans Bring to the Table

“If you own a business, the best way to thank a veteran is to hire one.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

The U.S. armed forces do a great job training civilians how to be warriors. However, less stress is placed on training warriors to return to civilian life. While each branch has a transition program, according to a Prudential survey, 64 percent of veterans feel their transition from military to civilian was “difficult” and 60 percent feel translating their military skills to a civilian resume is their greatest challenge to finding a job. Transitioning is not the only challenge. In the same survey, 65 percent said they experience mental health or physical challenges that limit their ability to find a job.

Even with these challenges, nine in 10 veteran job seekers feel they definitely have the skills to land their ideal job. This is because veterans leave the military with individual skills that businesses value. Ten of the more important ones are:

1
Experience

Veterans bring to the workforce skills and experiences that are time-tested under real-world (and in many cases hostile) situations.

2
Leadership

Military members are taught to lead by example using several different leadership styles, such as direction, delegation, motivation and inspiration. They understand how to motivate people and how to get them to do their best.

3
Teamwork

Mission accomplishment requires a blend of individual and group productivity. Veterans understand the synergy a team can generate when members work together instead of individually.

4
Diversity

The military is a melting pot of people. Veterans have worked with individuals from various races, genders, geographic origins, ethnic backgrounds, religions and economic statuses. They have both the training and experience to bring a group of diverse people together and get them to work harmoniously with one another.

5
Performance under pressure

Military members are used to accomplishing work using limited resources and changing schedules. When faced with multiple projects and shifting deadlines, veterans know how to prioritize so the most important project gets done first, on-time and within budget. And if the priorities change, they can adjust as needed.

6
Accountability

Military members learn the value of personnel and equipment. They understand the concept of being held accountable not only for their actions but also for those of their subordinates. They are also able to keep track of property or equipment assigned to them.

7
Health and safety awareness

Veterans know about health and safety standards both for themselves and their subordinates. For a business, this translates to protection of its most important assets — people, property and materials.

8
Policy and procedures

The military has standard operating procedures in place for nearly everything, so veterans are used to following detailed sets of written or oral orders. They know that not following procedures can result in failing to meet their objectives.

9
Integrity

Many veterans were required to hold security clearances or were entrusted with information of vital importance to the nation when they were serving. As a result, employers can entrust veterans with company trade secrets if access to that information is necessary to do their job.

10
Global awareness

During the course of an enlistment or career, veterans have been many places, so they have a larger perspective of the world than most non-military employees do. With many companies operating globally, employees with experience abroad are a real asset.

When applying for a job, veterans should think about how to incorporate these 10 skills into each resume or interview because they give them a competitive edge when vying for a job. All they have to do is capitalize on their skill set and use it to their advantage.

Veterans’ Preference

Under the Veterans’ Employment Opportunities Act, certain veterans get preferential hiring treatment in the form of additional points when applying for federal government jobs. (This only applies to initial hires — the advantage does not apply to internal staffing actions, such as promotions, transfers, reassignments or reinstatements.) To qualify, veterans under the rank of O-4 (major or equivalent) must have been discharged with an honorable or general discharge.

Eligible veterans without a compensatory service-connected disability qualify for five points if they served during certain periods of active duty or during certain military campaigns. Qualifying periods of service include serving at least 180 days of service (excluding training time) during the Vietnam era, Gulf War or Operation Iraqi Freedom. Campaigns or expeditions with campaign badges authorized between the dates of April 28, 1952, and July 1, 1955, are also five-point qualifying periods of service. Veterans with service-connected disabilities who receive compensation or who have been awarded a Purple Heart qualify for 10 points regardless of their period of service.

For either point category, proof of eligibility must be established by providing a copy of a DD-214 that shows qualifying discharge and dates of service during at least one authorized period. If claiming 10-point eligibility, a copy of SF-15 Application for 10-Point Veterans’ Preference must also accompany the DD-214. Usually, a federal job opening that uses veterans’ preference will state so in the job vacancy posting.

Veterans who are unsure if they qualify for veterans’ preference can find out by using the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Preference Advisor, an online tool that does not require registration (so all answers are anonymous).

The Business Benefits of Hiring a Vet

“And this is just good business. This is not charity. This is not pity.
This is the right thing to do for them and for us.”

Starbuck’s Chief Executive Howard Schultz on the hiring of veterans

Hiring veterans is good business. Companies spend thousands of dollars training civilian employees how to lead people. Veterans not only already have that training, but also have the experience of actually leading people on the job, often in a combat zone. Having that kind of training and experience brings other benefits, such as the following:

  • Poise under pressure

    Veterans are used to making split-second, life-and-death decisions under pressure. Tell them what has to be done, when it has to be done and let them do it. It will be done right, on time and within budget.

  • Discipline

    One of the traits of military service is the ability to be very disciplined. If you need someone that will go to work each day, in the right dress and on time, hire a veteran. They realize the overall success of the company depends on them showing up on time and ready to put in an honest day’s work.

  • Honesty

    Veterans often know if something is wrong or just doesn’t look right, and they will let the boss know their concern. They’ll usually provide a possible solution to the problem or issue because they are trained to think on their feet and solve problems.

  • Professionalism

    Veterans are used to maintaining dress, grooming and physical fitness standards. Regardless of the company dress code, veterans will have no problem conforming to it. They will represent your company well.

  • Can-Do attitude

    Military members are taught that failure is not an option, so it is part of veterans’ work ethic to “complete the mission” in spite of obstacles.

  • Integrity

    Veterans have strong moral compasses. They will choose right over wrong, even if right is the tougher path to follow. It is a self-chosen choice they were taught while in the military.

Aside from the above skills, there are other compelling reasons why employers should – and do – hire veterans:

Tax Breaks

One of the reasons why many businesses hire veterans is because of the financial benefits they receive under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). The WOTC is part of the Vow to Hire Heroes Extension Act of 2012 that gives federal tax credits to private sector businesses and some nonprofit organizations that hire veterans. By hiring out-of-work veterans or those with service-connected disabilities that meet the qualifying criteria, an organization can receive up to $9,600 in tax credits per individual. The tax credit only applies to the hire of new employees and does not apply to qualifying individuals already working for a company.

Disabled Access Credit

Small businesses that incur expenses due to access changes that must be made for employees with disabilities can claim those expenses each year that expenses are incurred using Form 8826 – Disabled Access Credit to receive the credit. For the purpose of this credit, a small business is defined as one that earns $1 million or less during the year for which the credit is claimed or that has no more than 30 full-time employees.

Barrier Removal Tax Deduction

If a business has to make architectural changes to improve the mobility of employees with disabilities, the business may claim a deduction up to $15,000 per year for each year expenses were incurred instead of capitalizing the expenses. The Disabled Access Credit and Barrier Removal Tax Deduction may both be used in the same tax year(s), if expenses meet the requirements of each credit claimed.

Special Skills

By serving in the armed forces, veterans learn several skills that are not only critical to running a military entity, but also applicable to businesses. So if the military develops these skills in their people, employers should be also looking for these same skills in their new hires. These skills, known as “soft” skills, are not limited to an industry or two — they transfer across the whole gamut of industries:

  • Leadership

    Most veterans have been in one leadership position or another over the course of a career, so they know how to give orders, take orders and lead by example. Corporations spend a portion of their annual budget teaching their employees in leadership positions how to do these same things. Think about the time and money saved if a company would hire people who already have leadership skills.

  • Organization

    Military members and, consequently, veterans quickly learn how to organize and account for resources under their responsibility. This is a needed skill in businesses too for employees assigned to a leadership, management or team leader position.

  • Communication

    Even though technology may have changed the way we converse, knowing how to communicate is vital to any company. Whether by presentation, report, email, messaging, video-teleconferencing or a myriad of other communication methods, it is important for a leader or manager to effectively communicate both vertically and laterally within a company’s organizational structure. Veterans know this skill well because failing to effectively communicate when serving in the military can result in people getting killed.

  • Team Building

    Part of the training received in the military is how to assemble a group of people from diverse backgrounds and get them to work together. The military teaches team building and leadership techniques that result in cohesive units.

On-the-Job Training (OJT) Program

Using this program, an employer can hire veterans and pay them apprentice wages. The government, under the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, supplements the salary up to the journeyman wage as defined in the OJT program. Thus, employers get bang for their buck and veterans get jobs and learn trades. (This program is different from the Special Employer Incentive Program described below.)

Special Employer Incentive (SEI) Program

Part of the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program, SEI is an apprenticeship program through which eligible veterans can learn a trade or skill and expect to stay on with the company providing the apprenticeship. Employers can get reimbursed up to half of the veteran’s salary — generally for up to a six month period. Thus, the veteran earns money while learning a new skill with an opportunity for job placement at the end of the program; the employer gets a great employee who wants to work.

Resources for Employers Hiring Vets

A Guide to Hiring Veterans

A 31-page resource aimed at helping employers set up a veteran recruitment program within their company.

American Heroes at Work

A toolkit to assist employers who are interested in developing or enhancing veteran hiring programs for their company.

Hire Heroes USA

A job board that matches veterans looking for work with posted job openings.

The Veterans Economic Communities Initiative

An initiative intended to increase employment opportunities for veterans and their families by utilizing a network of businesses, local government leaders and nonprofit organizations.

Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO)

A job board where veterans can search for unfilled jobs in the federal government.

Vocational Rehabilitation Programs for Veterans

“Just think about how many veterans have led their comrades on life-and-death missions by the time they were 25 years old. That’s the kind of responsibility and experience that any business in America should want to take advantage of.”

President Barack Obama

Vocational rehabilitation programs for veterans are designed to get veterans with disabilities into jobs commensurate with their abilities. One of the most well-known is the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (or VR&E) program, a one-on-one counseling program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs designed to help veterans disabled during service do the following:

Develop a resume

The VR&E program has resume specialists on hand who can assist with the wording and writing of resumes that accurately reflect the veteran’s knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences.

Find a job

With one-on-one counseling, veterans with disabilities are taught job seeking skills and put in contact with potential employers.

Train for a job

Often, GI Bill benefits under Chapter 31 or other educational monies are used to assist with job training, whether that entails an apprenticeship, on-the-job training, certification or getting a college degree.

Make accommodations for a job

Sometimes, accommodations must be made at a veteran’s former place of work for the veteran to do that job again. Either a vocational rehabilitation counselor or employment coordinator assigned to the veteran works with the employer to make sure those accommodations are made.

Start a business

Instead of working for someone else, many veterans with disabilities choose to start a business of their own. VR&E helps veterans analyze their entrepreneurial interests, develop a business plan, learn how to market products or services and operate a small business.

Learn to live independently

In some cases, veterans with disabilities need help to live independently, such as making their home more accessible for a wheelchair. The VR&E program connects veterans with support services that can make any necessary changes, trains them how to use assistive technologies that make life easier for them, and teaches them independent living skills.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the VR&E program, veterans must:

Have received (or be about to receive) a discharge other than dishonorable Have a service-connected disability rating of at least 10 percent or a memorandum rating of at least 20 percent from the VA Be currently eligible for a GI Bill or other education benefits

Services can be provided up to 12 years from the date of discharge or date of notification of a service-connected disability rating from the VA. For veterans with serious employment handicaps, the eligibility period may be extended.

How to Apply

Applying for vocational rehabilitation benefits online is easy:

1
Go to the eBenefits website
2
Click on “Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment”
3
Under Education and Training, click on “Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits”
4
Click on “I Am a New VONAPP User”
5
Follow prompts to create a new account
6
From the drop-down forms menu, select “Vocational Rehabilitation (Form 28-1900)”
7
Follow prompts to fill out the form and submit
8
If waiting on a service-connected disability rating, also fill out VA Form 28-0588 – Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits Application

Eligible service members and veterans may also apply for education vocational counseling using this three-step process:

1
Locate VA Form 28-8832-ARE – Educational Vocational Counseling Application
2
Either fill out and submit electronically, or print the form and send it to the VA Regional Office responsible for your location
3
Once eligibility is determined, your VA Regional Office will schedule an orientation

At the orientation, the veteran and assigned vocational rehabilitation coordinator (VRC) will develop a plan for rehabilitation and employment, and determine a track of success that will either lead to employment or living independently. A plan might include:

Determining abilities, skills, aptitudes and interests Looking at possible employment options Analyzing the labor market in a particular career area or geographic region Researching job characteristics and physical demands of positions Establishing an employment or independent living goal (with intermediate milestones) Determining training or education requirements Selecting a Vet Success program from the five available tracks:
  1. Reemployment
  2. Rapid Access to Employment
  3. Self-Employment
  4. Employment Through Long-Term Services
  5. Independent Living Services

For veterans found ineligible for the program, a VRC can still recommend other sources available to assist with rehabilitation and employment, including local, state or federal agencies that have employment programs for people with disabilities.

Educational Counseling

Besides career counseling, VR&E also has benefit coaching that helps veterans with disabilities make the best use of their GI Bill entitlements or other education benefits to pursue employment opportunities. Part of that benefit coaching includes personalized academic support.

PAVE

Another vocational rehabilitation program is Operation PAVE. Short for Paving Access for Veterans Employment, this program of the Paralyzed Veterans of America provides many of the same services as the VR&E program but to a much smaller audience — veterans with spinal cord injuries and their family members and caregivers.

Right now, PAVE has offices located in seven cities:

Each PAVE office is located within a Department of Veterans Affairs facility either in a Vocational Rehabilitation Office or in a VA hospital. They can be contacted by phone at (866) 734-0857 or by email at info@pva.org.