What If We Held a Nationwide Veteran Job Fair and Nobody Came?

In late August Kroger announced that it was going to hold open interviews nationwide on Sep 15th for all veterans and family members, looking to fill a significant number of more than 20,000 permanent positions across all divisions with veteran tjob fairalent.  Military members were asked to simply apply online and then show up at a store on September 15th for an interview.

Kroger sent out press releases which were picked up by Monster (which owns Military.com) and US Veteran magazine as well as many news outlets.  With two weeks of extensive marketing like that, it would be easy to assume that veteran resumes poured into the ATS and service members were lined up for interviews on the designated date.

Except that they didn’t.  Many stores reported receiving only one application.  Some received none. In its mid-Atlantic region alone Kroger has 120 stores across six states (Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia) that were looking to fill some 900 open positions.  The veteran event yielded 50 veterans and family members hired across that entire region.  Given that those six states comprise some of the largest populations of active/guard/reserve military and veterans in the US, it is surprising that there were not more applications and hires.

The purpose of this post is not to pick on Kroger, which 3 years ago made a commitment to hire veterans and family members and currently employs more than 29,000 service members and spouses across more than 2,600 stores nationwide.  This post is an illustration of how challenging it can be to conduct effective outreach to attract veterans, even if your organization is a Fortune 20 company with a recognized brand in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

It is time to revisit the discussion on “high tech” versus “high touch” when it comes to veteran recruiting.  A blog I wrote almost 2 years ago addressed this in depth – how it takes more than a public proclamation that your company intends to hire XX number of veterans in X number of years to actually attract, consider and hire veterans.

Processes have to change.  Procedures have to be adjusted.  Recruiters and hiring managers need to be trained to understand and properly evaluate military experience.  Government and non-profit resources need to be leveraged as part of the overall sourcing strategy to drive applications and attendance at events such
as the one Kroger created.  And, most importantly, “high touch” marketing tactics need to be employed early and often, especially by companies in certain industries (such as retail) that are not necessarily the first place military members consider after their service concludes.

What does “high touch” recruitment marketing look like?  It means:

  • Customization of the message to the military audience
  • Making the effort to explain things that you think are obvious
  • Investing effort and resources to explain what your company does and how military skills will be repurposed into civilian careers with your company
  • Providing opportunities to connect directly with transitioning military/veterans/spouses 1:1 or 1:many to discuss your company

Companies like Walmart and UPS have invested extensive resources to educate transitioning military members and spouses on how military skills are repurposed into careers in retail and transportation. UPS has video vignettes explaining common job descriptions and a military transition career guide.  Walmart has a military talent community and sends out monthly newsletters to its members, spotlighting real military/veteran/spouse employees, and providing advice on how to manage common transition challenges after the hire.

Lockheed Martin offers frequent online chat opportunities for transitioning military to speak with recruiters and ambassadors.  AT&T conducts online advisement sessions weekly.

In addition, dozens of companies provide employees to conduct 1:1 mentoring of transitioning military and veterans through programs like American Corporate Partners and the US Chamber’s eMentor Program.

If you are a small company looking to hire 10 people this year and you’d like one of them to be a veteran, then clearly these tactics are overkill.  But if you are a large corporation and have made a public veteran hiring commitment or are a federal contractor with a significant OFCCP veteran hiring benchmark to meet, these are the types of tactics you need to be considering as part of your outreach and engagement strategy.

These leading practices and more are exactly the types of topics we will be covering in depth during our 2016 Veteran Recruiting Conference (Jan 20-22, 2016 | Dallas, TX).   Join over 100 of your fellow talent acquisition and diversity professionals as we dive deep into effective veteran recruitment and retention practices.  Featured speakers include Starbucks, Bank of America, Exelon, Eaton, Progressive, Williams, NASA, Humana, and Baker Hughes.  Visit http://veteranrecruitingconference.com to view full agenda and registration information.

Military Suicide and Corporate Social Responsibility

With the death of actor Robin Williams this week, the topic of suicide and its effect on those family members left behind has been in the media continuously.  Having lost one of my own family to suicide, I can attest to the devastation.

I caught a Facebook posting from the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) today that deeply bothered me.  If you have never heard of TAPS, it is a non-profit that “provides immediate and long-term emotional help, hope, and healing to all who are grieving the death of a loved one in military service to America. TAPS meets its mission by providing peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, casework assistance, and connections to community-based care.”  TAPS is an amazing organization with a critical mission, and one for which I have had the honor to perform a small community service project in the past.

Among the many events TAPS conducts for military families who have lost a service member, it produces a specific annual National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for those families who have lost a service member to suicide.  The Department of Veterans Affairs reported in 2012 that approximately 22 service members (Active, Guard, Reserve and veterans of all eras) commit suicide every day, which is roughly the same rate as all suicides reported in the US.  However, when only Active, Guard and Reserve member suicides are counted, it amounts to one suicide committed every 18 hours.

There are many military family members affected by this type of death specifically.  Survivors will tell you that it is a very different type of grief to know that your loved one died at his/her own hand.  That Active, Guard or Reserve member was likely that family’s only or main source of income, and the benefits afforded that military family (housing, reduced price daycare/groceries/healthcare, etc) disappear fairly quickly after the service member dies.  So this event provides not only information for the survivors, but a critical peer support network of other survivors of military suicide.

The message TAPS posted today noted that, due to unprecedented response to the event, registration is already at max capacity and they are starting a waiting list.  The event is October 10th-12th in Florida – two months away and they are already full and have to tell these grieving families that they will likely need to wait till next year.

Many of you know my primary focus is empowering organizations to recruit and retain veterans.  I have written before about my weariness of corporations spending huge amounts of money to announce their veteran hiring initiative.  This is my plea to corporations that they instead engage their foundations and corporate social responsibility leadership to put that self-promotion money toward solutions and services that will help veterans and military families who are dealing with loss, homelessness, disability and recovery, military sexual trauma, PTSD and/or TBI.

It may be too late to help TAPS do anything to reopen its October event to grieving families on the waiting list (but it may not – give them a call), but your company can definitely do a lot more to enhance and expand the programs TAPS and other deserving non-profits are doing in the months and years to come.

Why Starbucks’ offer of tuition reimbursement will significantly improve veteran and military spouse recruiting


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Starbucks announced this morning that it will offer an incredibly generous tuition reimbursement plan for its partners (employees) who work an average of 20 or more hours per week in one of their more than 8,500 company operated stores.

Starbucks partnered with Arizona State University (ASU), which offers more than 40 undergraduate degree programs online including electrical engineering, global logistics management, health sciences, information technology, nursing, operations management, organizational leadership, software engineering, criminal justice and criminology and technological entrepreneurship and management.  Starbucks partners have no obligation to stay with Starbucks past graduation.

For eligible partners who are admitted to ASU as a junior or senior, Starbucks will provide full tuition reimbursement to allow them to complete their degrees.  Those admitted as freshman or sophomores will receive a partial tuition scholarship and need-based financial aid for two years of full time study.

Starbucks has broken the mold before when it comes to how they treat their employees.  Partners working an average of 20 or more hours per week receive access to a wide range of benefits that in most companies (and particularly, many retailers) would only be available to starbucks military coffee cupthose working full time (40 hours).  To add the tuition plan to the benefits package really changes the game when it comes to attracting and retaining quality people in general and veterans in particular.

Starbucks has a military veteran and military spouse recruiting programLast November it committed to hiring 10,000 veterans and military spouses over the next 5 years.  I think the addition of the tuition reimbursement benefit for degrees obtained through ASU could significantly boost their ability to attract transitioning military, veterans and military spouses for the following reasons:

  1. Many veterans who transition directly to college out of the military soon find out that the Post 9/11 GI Bill, while very generous, does not cover all of the non-study related expenses like housing, childcare and transportation.  So, many student veterans find that they need at least a part time job while in school to cover those additional expenses.  Starbucks’ tuition reimbursement program applies to employees who work an average of 20 hours a week, making this the perfect blend (pun intended) of hours committed to work and school.
  2. ASU is already considered to be a “military friendly” school in that it offers the Yellow Ribbon program, which covers the gap between in-state and out-of-state tuition, it has the Pat Tillman Veterans Center to support student veterans, and it offers the Tillman Military Scholars program which helps to cover other financial gaps experienced by student veterans (a non-traditional student body) such as housing and childcare expenses.  There are lots of colleges that offer online degrees, but not all are as supportive of the needs of their student veteran population, so Starbucks selected a perfect partner in ASU.
  3. The Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit is transferrable to military spouses or children, so if the veteran is hired by Starbucks and, through the ASU tuition reimbursement program, does not need to use their entire GI Bill benefit, they can transfer the unused portion to the spouse or child.  Double win for that military family!
  4. The Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit can be used for undergraduate or graduate programs.  So, if the veteran hired by Starbucks completes their undergraduate degree through the ASU tuition reimbursement program, they will have benefit left over to use toward a graduate degree later.


Since there are still too many employers that are less enthusiastic to hire veterans who do not have a bachelor’s degree, I wonder what those employers would be willing to do to fix that situation.  Starbucks’ program is not specifically for veterans, but because it exists it can significantly improve their ability to attract veterans and military spouses.  Are other employers willing to offer scholarships, internships, work/study arrangements to support student veterans and military spouses?

What do you think?  What challenges and benefits do you see with this model (in general) and its potential for veteran recruiting specifically?  Post your comments below!

Why the Zappos recruiting strategy could work brilliantly for hiring transitioning military


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Jaws dropped in the talent acquisition community last week when when Zappos announced that it was doing away with job postings.  Moving away from the traditional “post and pray” model, which generally results in an overwhelming number of applicants which makes it hard for amazing candidates to stand out, Zappos has created an “Insiders” group.  People interested in working for Zappos can join the group, which will allow them to engage directly with Zappos employees and respond to digital Q&A’s and contests which are designed to screen for cultural fit.

I think this model could work brilliantly for hiring transitioning military and veterans for the following reasons:

  1. Employers will learn far more about a veteran’s skills, capabilities and potential by actually talking to them and asking questions versus expecting the resume to tell the story
  2. The veteran will not be discouraged from applying by the jargon and industry-speak typically found in traditional job postings
  3. Transitioning military begin exploring civilian career opportunities far in advance of their service contract end date, making them ideal candidates to work within a pipeline recruiting model like this one
  4. Having tests for cultural fit and adaptability in advance of a hire will help dispel myths that veterans are rigid, command-and-control driven, un-creative and non-innovative
  5. Zappos is using software to sort those that apply for the Insiders group by skills and personal interests.  Presumably, software like that could help recruiters understand more quickly where an infantryman or a yeoman would fit within the organization since they have already identified the critical knowledge and applied skills required by position and the service member will indicate the knowledge and applied skills they have.

What do you think?  What challenges and benefits do you see with this model (in general) and it potential for veteran recruiting specifically?  Post your comments below!  Also, take a moment to vote on whether you like this recruiting model.

New OFCCP FAQ’s and Changes Coming to VETS-100A Form


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The Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) submitted a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPR) to the Federal Register this week “to propose revisions to the regulations implementing the reporting requirements under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended, (“VEVRAA”).”  The proposed rule is intended to simplify the reporting requirements that federal contractors have to meet.  Here are the highlights of the proposed changes:

  • Officially eliminates the VETS-100 form
  • Renames the VETS-100A form the VETS-4212 form
  • The VETS-4212 form would use the same veteran classification terms as defined in the new OFCCP VEVRAA regulation
  • Eliminates requirement for employers to collect hiring information on each sub-category of protected veteran because, as you may be aware, some veterans qualify in more than one category.

Thus, the new regulation would eliminate double counting and eliminate the possible, inadvertent identification of disabled veterans, etc.

By the time the regulations become effective (one year after after effective date of new rule, so no earlier than mid-2015), employers would only need to collect information for the aggregated number of “protected veterans,” instead of the numbers in each sub-category.

If your organization would like to submit comments for consideration on this NPR, they must be submitted by April 25, 2014.  Instructions on how to submit comments are in the NPR.

The OFCCP also published new FAQ’s for VEVRAA and FAQ’s for Section 503 on their website this week.

The Next Big Thing: Honesty

Originally posted on Veteran Transition Diary:

A few months ago I asked the question, “How Long Will Veterans Be Trendy?  Well, if social media is any indication, the answer seems to be, “Not much longer.” I think we are beginning to see a slight shift in message about veteran hiring, which in the end is a good thing.  I have a feeling the next big thing will be honest and forthright conversation. Stakeholders that are prepared to engage in the right discussions, at the right times, will ultimately be the most successful.

It wasn’t long ago that a Forbes article by Col . David Sutherland talking about the unsung value of veteran Non-Commissioned Officers was making its way around every veteran hiring group on LinkedIn.  This article spawned a lot of comments, many of them from disgruntled veterans who found the article sympathetic to their plight.  While these discussions between veterans may have been cathartic…

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Commitment to Veterans – Lip Service, Hype or True Investment?


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Recruiting veterans has become trendy.  Particularly around Veterans Day, I watch as company after company has its CEO or Director of HR stand on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, or on the Intrepid, or in front of the cameras of a major news network and state that the company has made a commitment to veterans and will hire some number (usually in the thousands, because that is the number it takes to get media attention) over the next 1-5 years.

Press releases are sent, pictures are taken with the President and other politicians, and corporate communications spends 3-4 days fielding calls and inquiries from the media.

And, then…what?

There are a lot of companies that think all they need to do is make a public announcement about their commitment to veterans, and resumes of qualified candidates will start falling out of the sky and perfect matches will quickly be made.  After all, we keep hearing the stats that there are more than 250,000 service members leaving the military each year and almost a million currently unemployed, so, seriously, how hard could this be?

(I can hear the experienced military recruiters snorting and chortling now)

Turns out, recruiting veterans is not as easy as you might think.  If all you are doing is posting jobs and showing up at random career fairs, you will quickly discover why those activities are not sufficient.  Service members have pretty good BS meters.  They apply online, and your applicant tracking system sends them a rejection notice 3 minutes later deeming them “unqualified”.  You sign up to attend 20 military career fairs and then send recruiters who don’t know the first thing about the military.  Or, the recruiters at the fair tell the E-7 with 20 years of experience that “we’re looking for people with a college degree”.  Or “we’re only interested in JMO’s (junior military officers)”. Or, your hiring managers say things like “how can we be sure you don’t have PTSD?” or “Hmmm, you just came back from a deployment with your reserve unit – how long until you get called up again?”

Results and statements like that are a red flag to veterans.  The BS meter will start ringing, and, thanks to social media, the veterans will begin letting their extensive network of fellow veterans know just what they think of your “commitment”.

Now, obviously, I am speaking to large companies in this blog.  If you are an HR rep in a small company that only plans to hire 10 people this year and would like 1 of them to be a veteran, this is not aimed at you.  But, if you are in recruiting for a large company that is going to hire hundreds or thousands of people in 2014, and you’d like some percentage (8%, for you government contractors out there who fall under the Office Of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs / OFCCP) of those hires to be veterans, then keep reading.

If your company has made a commitment, publicly or privately, to hire veterans, the first questions I would ask are:

  • Have we committed sufficient budget to this effort?
  • Have we identified a program manager, and does she/he have decision-making power?
  • Have we identified a team of recruiters who will focus on recruiting veterans?
  • What is our plan for training recruiters and managers on military culture and skills, so that more opportunities become available to veterans?
  • What changes or modifications do we need to make to our current recruitment processes to give a veteran’s resume a fighting chance of getting through the system?
  • How much time, effort and budget is committed to outreach?

As a point of comparison, examine what your company is spending for campus recruitment versus military recruitment.  Large, Fortune 100 companies typically hire anywhere from 1,500 – 15,000 new college grads every year.  The campus recruiting effort is typically led by a dedicated manager and that person may have 15-40 dedicated recruiters working to attract the best of the upcoming year’s graduating class.  The manager has a dedicated budget for the campus recruiting effort.

Consider these campus recruiting metrics from a Fortune 200 firm:

  • 157 colleges on targeted recruiting list (out of more than 6,000 2- and 4-year colleges)
  • 50-60 of those targeted colleges will get weekly in-person visits from campus recruiting team for typical two month internship/entry-level hire cycle
  • The remaining 90+ colleges will receive emails, brochures and other marketing materials but not in-person visits
  • The other 5,800+ colleges will not receive specific materials from this company, but the company welcomes and will consider applications from all students.

When you look at metrics like that, and then compare it to the effort your company is making to recruit veterans, how do the numbers stack up?  Making that comparison would be a good place to start deciding how much of a budget to set for military recruiting.

(One number I’d love to see is a comparison of the amount of money spent on the PR drive to announce the veteran hiring commitment versus the amount of money actually allocated annually to the military recruiting effort.)

For example, if the goals for veteran hiring are 10% of the goal for new college grad hiring for 2014:


Campus Recruiting

Veteran Recruiting

Total number of hires



Annual Budget



# of Recruiters



Chances are your campus recruiting program is more mature than your military recruiting program, so you should actually significantly increase the veteran recruiting budget and the number of recruiters for the first 3 years of the effort until you reach a level of program maturity.  Unlike college recruiting, military recruiting can occur all year long, as people transition from the military every month.

So, how many of you reading this are mad at me because I have pointed out something that makes you uncomfortable, and how many of you are sending this blog to your boss and saying “Now can we talk about our military recruiting program?”


The Value Of a Veteran is hosting its 2nd annual Veteran Recruiting Conference in Dallas, TX Jan 21-23, and our theme this year is “Commitment to Veterans”.  Most of our invited speakers are from companies that not only have made significant public commitments to hire veterans, but have “put their money where their mouth is” in terms of investing in changing processes and procedures to improve recruitment and retention of veteran.  They have invested in training recruiters and hiring managers.  They have put support systems in place to assist the veterans as they transition to civilian life.  They have created internship programs for wounded warriors.  And, many of the companies further invest in veterans through their corporate supplier diversity programs (buying from veteran-owned small businesses) and their corporate philanthropy divisions (donating to non-profits and schools that are providing direct services to veterans).  And, best of all, they are willing to share their journey to robust and effective recruiting programs with the attendees.

Why The Value Of a Veteran Doesn’t Offer Certification in Veteran Recruiting


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Since 2007 The Value Of a Veteran has offered comprehensive training on how to recruit and retain military veterans.  In that time we have trained thousands of recruiters, hiring managers and supervisors from hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies and higher education institutions.  We have delighted in watching our clients utilize what they have been taught to significantly improve their ability to hire and retain those who have served our country.

In the last few months we have received a few inquiries as to whether our training leads to the “Certified Veteran Recruiter” designation.  Perhaps organizations are firming up their 2014 training budgets and are trying to determine the difference between training products offered by The Value Of a Veteran and other companies.  People have also asked us if we plan to offer any kind of certification in veteran recruiting in the near future, whether for individuals or organizations.

The answer is “no” to both questions, and here is why:

1.  There is a big difference between being an “assessment based certificate program” and a professional certification program

  A.  Assessment based certificate programs are non-degree granting programs  that do three things:

  •   Provide a course of instruction with intended learning outcomes
  •   Evaluates participants achievement of those learning outcomes via an examination
  •   Awards a certificate ONLY to those who have taken the course and passed the examination

B.  A professional certification program is a non-governmental program  that:

  • Delivers an assessment based on industry knowledge, independent  from training courses or course providers
  • Grants a time-limited credential to anyone who meets the assessment standard

The main difference between the two is that one focuses on completion of training and the other focuses on an independent assessment of your knowledge.

2.   There are standards that must be met to have a professional certification program.  For example, the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) offers a well known and respected certification as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR).  In order to earn the PHR designation a person has to:

  • Have a minimum number of years of experience working in HR to even qualify to apply for consideration
  • Submit proof of experience and a job description which are evaluated before a test is scheduled
  • Pass a comprehensive 175-question test within 3 hours covering a body of knowledge over 5 functional areas and attain a passing score

Once earned, certification is good for 3 years, at which point the person must recertify by taking the exam again or provide proof of 60 hours of continuing education

3.  While not as comprehensive or demanding as the standards for professional certification programs, there are standards for creation of assessment based certificate programs.   The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a standards developer.  ICE developed a standard (ICE 1100) for creation of assessment based certificate programs so as to distinguish them from professional certification programs.  One of the things the ICE 1100 standard is very clear on is that the use of acronyms or letters after a trainee’s name is prohibited as it misleads the trainee to believe he/she has completed a professional certification program.  A quote from the standard:

a.      “The certificate provider shall not award an acronym or letters to certificate holders for use after their names upon completion of the certificate program

b.      The certificate provider shall publish and provide to certificate holders a statement defining the appropriate ways to reference the certificate.  This statement shall specify that certificate holders:

  •  May state that they hold a “Certificate in________”
  •  Shall not say that they are “Certified in _________”
  •  Shall not use acronyms or letters after their names to reference the certificate they hold”

So, no, The Value Of a Veteran does not offer the Certified Veteran Recruiter program.  The Certified Veteran Recruiter program is a 2-day training course offered by one vendor (which is not The Value Of a Veteran).  Despite the name, the “Certified Veteran Recruiter” program does not meet the standard of a professional certification program, and for someone to use the “CVR” acronym as a professional credential after his/her name is misleading as it implies completion of a professional certification program.

And, no, even though the idea of certification was first considered in 2011, The Value Of a Veteran has chosen not to pursue development and administration of a professional certification program for individuals.  Clearly, there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into developing and administering a professional certification program, well beyond the development of the body of knowledge to be assessed.

Our 6 years of experience in this space has also revealed one critical factor:  when an HR professional (recruiter, diversity pro, etc) is in a job where he/she is responsible for military recruiting or retention, he/she is very interested in learning how to do this well.  When he/she changes roles, moves on to a different focus area or moves out of recruiting/diversity altogether, the interest in continuing to learn about veteran recruitment drops precipitously, especially when the professional does not come from a military background.   As a certifying body, it would be very difficult to maintain a continuous level of professional certification if those that earn a professional designation do not recertify or maintain continuing education.

We have also refrained from creating any kind of “veteran ready” certification program for organizations.  The ones that exist require little more than for someone from an organization to attend a training program (again, offered by only one vendor) and to then get their organization to make a commitment to hire a certain number of veterans, as few as 1 (!), over the next year.

We feel the liberal use of “certified” and “certification” to describe what are simply training programs dilutes the true meaning of the rigorous process of “certification”.  A person or organization should have to do more than simply write a check and attend a class to be considered “certified”.

So, while The Value Of a Veteran won’t certify you or your organization, we do provide excellent training programs.  Our training courses are the only ones developed by someone with 22+ years of recent military experience and 16+ years of HR, recruiting, staffing, training and diversity program development experience, which is how we differentiate from other training providers.  And, our training workshops, webinars and conferences meet the criteria for and are approved by HRCI for recertification credits for those that need the continuing education credits for PHR or SPHR certifications.

If improving recruitment or retention of military veterans is on your agenda for 2014 and you are seeking training for your organization’s recruiters, hiring managers or supervisors, please contact us to learn more about our training programs.

How the Navy Yard Shooting Is Impacting Veteran Hiring


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I started receiving calls and emails within 24 hours of the Sep 15th Navy Yard shooting incident.  Aaron Alexis, a Navy Reserve veteran with a sawed-off shotgun, went on a rampage on a secure military installation in a building with controlled access.  The media wanted to know how someone with Alexis’ history of civil disturbances and inappropriate gun use could have received an Honorable discharge and what could his employer have done differently while conducting the background checks that led to his attaining a security clearance.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) interviewed me and posted an article about types of discharges.  I received many inquiries after the article was published from HR professionals who wanted a copy of paper I wrote on how to read and interpret a DD-214 (Transcript of Military Service).  Almost every person who requested the paper indicated they wanted some way to ensure that they were not taking a risk by hiring a veteran.  They felt that if they could have access to the veteran’s DD-214, they would find blemishes on his employment record, and then could use that info to screen out those who may be a risk.

It churns my stomach to know there is still a perception that veterans are potentially dangerous and unstable until proven otherwise.  I find this perception disheartening for several reasons:

First, the DD-214 is essentially an employment record.  Let’s imagine you are considering hiring John Smith, a non-military candidate who previously worked for Cisco, Dell and EDS.  If you contacted those 3 employers to ask for John Smith’s employment record, you would be lucky to obtain much more than his dates of employment.  Very few employers are willing to provide the employment record of a former employee, much less the reason that person no longer works for that company.  If John Smith was chronically late to work, verbally abusive to his co-workers, and/or had two DUI arrests from his activities off-the-clock, his former employer might have used those as reasons for dismissal, but you, the gaining employer, would not have easy access to that info, unless any of those activities resulted in an arrest and/or a conviction or made the newspaper.

Bottom line:  You are taking a risk with any person you hire, no matter how unblemished they seem on paper.  That a candidate happened to have served in the military indicates no greater risk.

Second, that employment record (the DD-214) is not considered public information.  You, as an employer, do not have a right to see the information.  You can ask to see it as proof of military service, but you cannot obtain a copy of it without the written permission of the veteran.  As I describe in detail in the paper, there are several versions of the DD-214, some of which contain more personal information than others.  Copy-4 of the DD-214 has the most detail, including the characterization of service (i.e., the type of discharge received) and a code that reveals the reason for the discharge.  That reason could be as simple as the fact that the service member reached the end of his contract.  It could be as personal as a medical or financial reason.  It could also reveal a person’s sexual orientation.  The codes exist for internal use by the military.  Certain discharge codes prevent a veteran from re-entering military service.

Bottom line:  You are opening up Pandora ’s Box by insisting on knowing the type of discharge and the reason for the discharge.  You do not know the circumstances that led to the discharge type or the code.  For you to pry into those circumstances could cause you to become aware of information that is personal and may have no bearing on suitability for a civilian job.  For example, the person might have received an honorable discharge in 2008 with a code that indicates she was discharged for being gay.  You now know something personal about that candidate that would otherwise be unlawful for you to have asked about directly.  I know of a female veteran who was discharged with an “Other than Honorable” characterization for punching her supervisor in the face.  What would be hard to deduce from a glance at a DD-214 was that the reason she punched him in the face is that, in that moment, he was trying to sexually assault her.

Third, that discharge code reflects a moment in time in someone’s work history.  75% of the military is made up of enlisted members, and the majority of them join the service right out of high school.  Young kids, 17-20 years old, away from home for the first time, have a knack for doing foolish things.  In the military, some of those foolish things could get you kicked out with an Other Than Honorable Discharge.  Does that mean that 6 years later, after maturity sets in and the former service member has completed college and got his life back on track, that his discharge type and reason should be used against him when he is pursuing civilian employment?

The Washington Post recently ran a story about a woman who was originally discharged from the Navy in 2010 under “Other than Honorable” conditions.  The characterization stemmed from a failed drug test, which was later determined to have resulted from proper usage of a prescribed medication.  The military has rules on disclosing prescription drug use PRIOR to submitting to a urinalysis.   She was eventually able to get the discharged upgraded to “Honorable” fifteen months later.  What might have happened if she had been trying to find employment after the military and the DD-214 revealed an “Other than Honorable” discharge for drug use?


Bottom line:  the discharge type is designed for government use to determine the types of benefits (medical, education, housing, etc.) someone is entitled to after service.  The Honorable Discharge makes a veteran eligible for all benefits, whereas the other types of discharges result in eligibility for few or none of the benefits.  It can be a misleading document in the hands of someone who does not understand military service or who believes that they can mitigate employment risk by using it to eliminate from consideration those who have anything less than an Honorable discharge.

My final thoughts:

  1.  It is acceptable to ask to see copy 1 of the DD-214 to confirm dates served in the military
  2. If you insist on seeing copy 4 of the DD-214 (the copy that shows the type of discharge and the release code) you had better have a good reason for asking for it (e.g., you are hiring for a government contract and the contract requires any veterans hired to have an Honorable Discharge for purposes of getting a security clearance).  Keep in mind – Aaron Alexis received an Honorable discharge and had a security clearance.  The DD-214 is not a Rosetta Stone that reveals all you need to know about someone’s background in order to make a hiring decision.  If the person you want to hire is the best candidate for the job and passes your standard background checks, then you have made the best decision you could have given the info to which you had access.

Final Ruling on Veterans from OFCCP – Cha-cha-cha-changes are coming!


The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has been exceptionally busy these last few weeks.

On July 31st it sent it’s final ruling on the amendment of the regulation governing contractor and subcontractor affirmative action and non-discrimination obligations toward veterans (otherwise known as Section 4212 of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act / VEVRAA) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review.  Today (Aug 27) the OFCCP released an announcement that the final ruling has been made and will be issued via the Federal Register in a few days and will become effective 180 days after publication in the Federal Register.  You can read the highlights of the final ruling here.

Just a few days ago, the OFCCP posted to its website its updated Federal Contract Compliance Manual (FCCM), which provides internal guidance to the agency’s compliance officers on evaluating federal contractors’ adherence to their affirmative action and equal opportunity obligations and investigating discrimination complaints.  This manual had not been updated in almost a decade, so now the almost 800 field agents will have a common set of standards to follow when conducting desk audits, complaint investigations and determining resolution for contractor non-compliance.

So,what does this mean for compliance folks within the companies that are subject to OFCCP?  It means you, too, can review the FCCM and see what the compliance officers can ask of you during the situations listed above and prepare for what you will be asked to do once the final rule on Section 4212 is issued.  For example, in the Notice for Proposed Rulemaking, where OFCCP first proposed all the changes it wanted to make to Section 4212, it mentions creation of “linkage agreements” between the contractor and organizations for purposes of recruiting.  The updated FCCM actually provides a sample linkage agreement letter.  So, if you were not familiar with what a linkage letter is or what it looks like or how it will be used, the FCCM will give you a clue before the final rule is issued.

I’d love to hear from some corporate compliance folks regarding the new FCCM and the final ruling on Section 4212 – what do you think?  What have you found to be helpful now that you can see the updated FCCM?  What concerns you?  Please type your comments into the section below.


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