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America's Heroes at Work — Veterans Hiring Toolkit

Step #3 — Actively Recruit Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Spouses

Broaden your knowledge of how and where to find Veterans - and consider
instituting a few strategies to help Veterans better find you!

Determine employment opportunities and create detailed job descriptions

Similar to typical recruiting efforts, it's important to determine the opportunities that exist within your company and review job descriptions to ensure they are accurate and up to date. Consider including at least six to eight characteristics the successful candidate for the position should possess. When drafting a job description, consider the following:

  1. What is the position's purpose and overall contribution to the company?
  2. What are the essential and marginal functions of the position? Whether or not a particular duty is considered marginal will depend on:
    • The importance of the duty to your company's operation
    • Its frequency
    • If there's sufficient staff to reassign the marginal duty to other employees
    • If the marginal duty can be redesigned or performed in another way
      In other words, if the duty is viewed as important to your company's operation, the duty is performed with frequency, there isn't sufficient staff to reassign the duty, and the duty can't be redesigned or performed in another way, the duty would be considered an essential function of the position. Also, consider identifying or describing the physical and mental elements required for the position, equipment use and working conditions.
  3. Does the position require supervisory skills? If so, how many will report to this position?
  4. What education and/or experience is needed to successfully accomplish the essential functions of the job? How might military experience equate?
  5. What licenses or certifications, if any, are required?

It is always a good idea to revisit job descriptions annually to ensure they are accurate and true to the mission of your company. The more detailed and specific the job description, the more likely you are to attract Veteran candidates who understand how their skills and experience can translate to the civilian workforce.

COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line) offers two websites to help you determine how military careers, ratings and experience can translate to meet civilian certification and license requirements.

Mil2FedJobs Crosswalk helps you identify the military occupations related to a specific federal job. It also provides information about military careers and terminology to help hiring managers and HR professionals better understand and assess a veteran's education, skills and experience.

Consider using military language in your outreach and job descriptions

O*NET OnLine offers a Military to Civilian Crosswalk that may help you improve your Veterans outreach by targeting specific Military Occupational Classification codes that relate to civilian positions.

Simply enter the job title you are looking to fill (e.g., accountant, human resources, warehouse, etc.) into the military search section. Most civilian occupations will display a list of the occupational specialty codes used by the different branches of the military. You might consider including a list these codes in your job announcement as a way to help Veterans better understand the correlation between their military training and the civilian career you have available.

Consider alternatives to full-time employment, such as work experiences, internships and apprenticeships

Many transitioning Service Members and Veterans are ready to jump right into civilian employment. For others, the value of a pre-employment civilian work-experience is unparalleled. Internships and work experiences offer a "safe" opportunity for many to learn and practice the intricacies of the civilian workplace. Furthermore, for individuals with combat-related injuries and/or disabilities, having the opportunity to see first hand what their minds and bodies can do post-injury is extraordinarily helpful. For Veterans worried about transitioning to a civilian employment environment, a pre-employment work-based experience can help to develop a remarkable level of self-confidence. The same can be said for employers without experiences hiring Veterans. Both parties have the opportunity to conduct a "test drive" to see if the fit is right (including the environment, culture, job duties, etc.), which often creates a win-win. The following are an assortment of pre-employment possibilities:

Work experiences/unpaid internships

Many businesses hire interns of all types. Extra workers, whether experienced or new to the workforce, can offer a great deal of help to a company that can't necessarily afford to hire a regular staff member. However, it is important that businesses don't seek out interns for the sole purpose of saving money. In the classic sense, internships are meant to be for the benefit of the intern, not the employer. In fact, there are federal laws that govern internships. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) determines the criteria that an internship must meet in order for an intern to be unpaid. In essence, the law looks at an unpaid internship as a training program. As this toolkit is not intended to offer legal advice of any kind, it is recommended that any business considering an unpaid internship experience check with legal representation to be sure there are no negative repercussions for any party involved.

If funding a potential internship is a concern for a business but that business is serious about reaching out to returning Service Members, one possibility is to develop a relationship with a local Student Veterans of America representative, as students may be able to participate in unpaid internships and receive college credit in exchange for their experience (as deemed by the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994). Interns receiving college credit are to complete tasks and activities that build upon one another, increase in complexity and help them learn and master basic skills. The intern also should be exposed to all aspects of their chosen industry. As with the FLSA, it is noteworthy that these interns cannot displace a regular employee.

Paid internships

Many medium- to large-sized businesses have structured corporate internship programs. Those that don't, but would be interested in partnering to create one, should consider contacting their State/Governor's or Local Workforce Investment Board to determine if funding exists to support such a program. In this case, let the Board know that your goal is to ideally create jobs and help put Service Members and Veterans, including those with combat-related injuries, to work.

Consider working with a local Veterans Service Organization to support a Veteran intern who can help you to plan, manage and direct your Veterans hiring initiative. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has developed a list of Veterans Service Organizations according to state/local area.

Civilian Employers

The Mission Continues Fellowship Program places wounded and disabled Veterans into volunteer positions in their communities. The goal is to provide service opportunities for wounded Veterans who still have the desire to serve their country, but whose disabilities prevent them from continuing to serve in the military. The Mission Continues accomplishes this goal by awarding fellowships for volunteer work to Veterans who have suffered severe or traumatic injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan.

An average fellowship covers 14 weeks, during which the fellow volunteers at a local charitable organization for 40 hours per week. Each Mission Continues fellow is awarded a monetary grant that enables him or her to offset cost-of-living expenses while he or she volunteers. This competitive program allows wounded and disabled Veterans with high leadership potential to continue their service within their communities.

Learn more about The Mission Continues Fellowship Program

Federal Employers

Operation Warfighter (OWF) is a temporary assignment/internship program designed specifically for federal agencies. Developed by the Department of Defense for Service Members who are convalescing at military treatment facilities throughout the United States, the program provides recuperating Service Members with meaningful activity outside of the hospital environment and offers a formal means of transition back to the military or civilian workforce.

Operation Warfighter provides a supportive opportunity for Service Members on medical hold to build their resumes, explore employment interests, develop job skills and gain valuable federal government work experience that will help them prepare for their adjustment to the workplace. Participants must be American citizens who are on active duty in the military (including the National Guard and Reserves). They must also meet the security clearance requirements set by the office where they intend to work.

Learn how your agency can become involved in Operation Warfighter.


Registered Apprenticeship programs meet the skilled workforce needs of American industry, training millions of qualified individuals for lifelong careers since 1937. Registered Apprenticeship helps mobilize America's workforce with structured, on-the-job learning in traditional industries such as construction and manufacturing, as well as emerging industries such as health care, information technology, energy, telecommunications and others. Registered Apprenticeship connects job seekers looking to learn new skills with employers looking for qualified workers, resulting in a workforce with industry-driven training and employers with a competitive edge.

When many people think of the traditional apprenticeship, they picture construction, electrical and other "blue-collar" careers. In actuality, there are blue, white and green collar varieties! These include, but are not limited to, industries such as advanced manufacturing, aerospace, automotive services, biotechnology, energy, health care, homeland security, hospitality, information technology, transportation and geospatial technology. If your business is interested in creating an apprenticeship program, contact the Office of Apprenticeship in your state.

Civilian Employers

Employers hiring Veterans from vocational rehabilitation and employment (VR&E) programs may be eligible for on-the-job training (salary) reimbursements (up to 50% of the employee's salary for up to six months), additional tax credits, and allowances for necessary tools and workplace accommodations.

Local/State/Federal Employers

The NonPaid Work Experience (NPWE) program is offered to local, state or federal employers who would like to offer an opportunity to a reintegrating Veteran (with a solid career goal) who is having difficulty attaining suitable employment due to lack of civilian training. A "try before you buy" program, there is no cost to the employer, and the Veteran receives a stipend for participation.

Access credible resources to help you look for qualified Veterans and wounded warriors who are seeking employment

There are multiple resources available to help employers connect their civilian career opportunities to job-seeking Veterans. In fact, that is one of the challenges-there are so many resources that employers can become confused and overwhelmed when determining where to go, who to talk to and whether resources are reputable. Rather than conduct an Internet search for possible connections, and then wonder if the agency is trustworthy, employers can access the following vetted resources. These resources are not listed in any particular order, nor is it recommended that only one source be used. They are additional sources to add to your company's strategic recruitment plan.

Official wounded warrior programs

Official Wounded Warrior Programs are sponsored by each of the five military service branches. In general, each provides individualized support, assistance and advocacy for severely wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Veterans and their families regardless of their military status or location, typically for as long as it takes. Each program can connect companies with wounded Service Members, Veterans or spouses looking for employment. As an employer working through one of the official Wounded Warrior Programs, you designate yourself as truly committed to showing a special interest and concern for our nations's disabled Veterans.

To learn more about hiring a wounded warrior from a specific service branch, please use any or all of the contacts presented below. There are many different programs across the country; by contacting one of the official sites below, you will be directed to local contacts. Simply let them know that you are an employer who is looking to hire!

Official wounded warrior programs





(800) 237-1336

Air Force

(800) 581-9437


(877) 746-8563


(877) 4USMCWW (877-487-6299)

Soldier for Life

Soldier for Life was created by the Army to help soldiers succeed in their transition from federal service and includes resources for employers interested in hiring veterans.

National Resource Directory

The National Resource Directory, a collaborative partnership among the Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs, offers vetted resources related to employment for both employers and injured Service Members.

Service Locator

Service Locator is an online resource that allows you to find workforce-related resources according to your location. Simply enter your zip code, click "go" and you will receive a list of One-Stop Career Centers in your area. All One-Stop Career Centers have Veterans Representatives who work on both the supply and demand side of recruitment. Ask to speak with the Local Veterans Employment Representative (LVER) or the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) specialist at the center nearest you.

Warrior Transition Command - Employment, Education and Internships

Federal and civilian employers can access information about hiring wounded warriors from the Warrior Transition Command's Employment, Education and Internships website. Learn how warriors in transition can intern at federal agencies or how private sector employers can gain access to severely wounded Veterans who have separated from the Army and are ready to transition to the civilian workforce.

Did you know?

The number of Veterans returning from service and continuing their education is growing exponentially. Consider contacting local colleges and universities and connecting to on-campus Veterans' program offices. Additionally, you can view the Chapter Locator of Student Veterans of America to connect to local resources.

Helmets to Hardhats

Helmets to Hardhats places quality men and women from the Armed Forces into promising building and construction careers. Most candidates will enter an apprenticeship program where they learn a trade through on-the-job training supplemented by classroom instruction at state-of-the-art training facilities.

The organization also recognizes the supreme sacrifice that our Veterans have made for this country. The Helmets to Hardhats Wounded Warrior Program supports employers who support disabled Veterans by providing the tools, information and community that will help Veterans gain careers in the Building and Construction Trades.

Know what you can and should not ask during an interview

First and foremost, interviewing a Veteran or wounded warrior is no different than interviewing any other candidate. It is important to ask all questions of all candidates, without exception. A good interviewing practice is to ask all candidates the following question: "Have you read the job description? Yes or no - can you, with or without a reasonable accommodation, perform the essential functions of the job?" You are not asking the candidate to disclose whether or not they have a disability, but are ensuring they can perform the essential functions of the job. In addition, you make it clear that as an employer you understand this process and are not likely to discriminate due to disability.

Questions relevant to experience or training received while in the military, or to determine eligibility for any Veteran's preference required by law, are acceptable. However, some questions to avoid include:

  • "What type of discharge did you receive?" Only federal agencies - or those that assign a Veterans' hiring preference or have requirements related to security clearances, should ask questions related to military discharge (especially in a pre-employment phase).
  • "I notice that you're in the National Guard...are you going to be called up for duty anytime soon?" This is similar to asking a woman if she is planning to have a baby anytime in the near future. Remember, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of membership in the National Guard or Reserves, a state defense force or another state or federal Reserve unit.
  • "Did you see any action over there?" "Did you lose your arm getting hit by an IED?" "Have you seen a psychiatrist since you've been back?" Questions related to deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan may be interpreted as trying to determine if the Veteran has PTSD or TBI and could be construed as violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Most of the standard behavioral interview questions should be no different than those you would typically ask any other candidate (e.g., management style, problem solving, strengths/weaknesses related to teamwork, etc.). Consider phrasing your questions to ensure the interviewee clearly understands that you are referring to both civilian and military work experience. For example:

  • "Tell me about the type of training and education you received while in the military."
  • "Were you involved in day-to-day management of personnel and/or supplies? How many people did you supervise? If you managed resources such as supplies, inventory and/or equipment, what was the net worth of these resources?"

Additionally, it is perfectly fine to thank the individual for their service to our country - plain and simple.

Did You Know?

Many civilian employers have admitted challenges when it comes to evaluating a Veteran during a job interview. This is often because Veterans have difficulty explaining how their military experience relates to the needs of the civilian employer. Additionally, while Veterans will be quick to praise their team or unit, they are typically not self-boastful in interviews, so civilian employers can often feel like Veteran candidates are not "selling themselves."

It is important to keep in mind that the concept of "professional presentation" is often different for former military personnel than for civilians. Military personnel (particularly those recently separated/discharged from military service) will often present themselves with eyes forward, back straight, and using "Sir" and "Ma'am" vocabulary (often without much smiling). This behavior may be misperceived as cold, distant, unapproachable or demonstrating a lack of social skills. While this is generally not the case, these perceptions have caused many Service Members to be discarded early in the interview process. Employers should recognize that former military personnel may need permission to "speak freely" to create a comfort level where they can appear in the most positive light. Hiring managers should be encouraged to be patient with these candidates and to "dig deep" with follow up questions to find qualities that are not apparent at first glance. It is worth remembering that Veteran candidates, unlike many civilian candidates, may not be accustomed to interviewing and may require a little latitude.