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New initiative takes different approach to hiring veterans

Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder Writer

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"Corporate America is missing the best talent out there," says Crystal Dyer, referring to what happens when companies fail to understand the mind shift that's required to recruit military veterans. All it takes, she says, is a little bit of understanding.

"Unless you've been around the military, you can't really understand it, but once you peel back that onion, it really changes the way you recruit," Dyer says. "Peeling back that onion" is part of Dyer's goal as program manager for information technology staffing company DISYS's new Veteran Employment & Training Solutions (VETS) initiative. The mission of VETS is to help open doors for both military veterans coming back to the workforce and for employers trying to recruit them.

DISYS is one of many companies trying to increase opportunities and awareness for veterans coming back into the workforce. What differentiates its program from other military recruiting initiatives is that it was created and is run by military veterans. Eager to build an outreach program aimed at veterans, DISYS executives assembled a team of experts, including Dyer and Donald Jones, a retired lieutenant general with the U.S. Army, to help the company design a program in which military veterans act as recruiters and career coaches.

Bridging the communication gap
"Every recruiter on our team is a former member of the armed services," says Dyer, a former armed services member herself. Having recruiters who have experienced life in the armed services puts DISYS in a unique position to help, because they understand where both sides -- hiring managers and vets -- are coming from. Dyer says there often is a disconnect between how veterans and hiring managers talk about skills and experience, which presents one of the biggest obstacles to recruiting veterans.

"Typically, when veterans write their résumés, they write in very technical terms. The problem is, hiring managers don't take these things like rank or service history into consideration, because those aren't terms they understand," Dyer says. As a result, their résumés fall through the cracks, and employers miss out on highly qualified candidates. DISYS recruiters work with veterans to revise their résumés using terms that hiring managers understand, while also helping hiring managers understand how to translate veterans' skills and military experience into their needs.

Paving the path to success
That communication barrier can also wreak havoc during the interview process. "Hiring managers tend to be offended when candidates ask, 'Where does this job lead?' To the hiring manager, that sounds like, 'Why should I bother?' when these vets are really asking, 'What do I need to do to advance?' In the military, service members have a very clear-cut path up the ranks, so that's how they're wired to think," Dyer says. Much of her training focuses on helping employers understand this cultural difference between military life and corporate America. She encourages employers to combat this by creating a clear pathway to success. "Be able to explain to these candidates what they have to do in that role to get promoted," she says.

Creating a wide-reaching network
In addition to the educational services, career counseling and job fairs through the VETS program, military veterans and their spouses also have free access to DISYS's network of global recruiters and a customized portal connecting them with the recruitment team for personalized service and support. By partnering with organizations and nonprofits that serve the military community, as well as the federal and state workforce commissions, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor, DISYS hopes to connect as many military veterans as possible to their extensive network of organizations eager to recruit them.

It has also been reaching out to companies that are independently trying to recruit veterans. "A lot of these companies are trying to recruit veterans on their own, but they don't necessarily have the resources we have," Dyer says. "By partnering with us, they can take advantage of our recruiters, broaden their pool of candidates and understand how to better recruit these individuals."

Finding the cultural fit
There's another way DISYS's program stands out among other military hiring initiatives. With VETS, it goes beyond simply placing veterans in jobs. DISYS recruiters want to ensure that they match candidates where there's a cultural fit, too. "The goal with recruitment is to bring on talent that accelerates your organization, but you have to make sure it's a good fit personally, too." Dyer says she and her team visit the companies to get a feel for the culture and workplace environment before recommending candidates.

"We don't want to place people for the sake of placing them. We want to make sure they're in a place where they feel comfortable, where they feel they can grow and really have a future there. I owe that to my peers."

Mary Lorenz writes for The Hiring Site, CareerBuilder's community for hiring professionals and other curious-minded individuals to discuss the attraction, engagement and retention of their #1 asset -- their people.

Last Updated: 29/08/2012 - 11:57 AM

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