Currently, U.S. employers struggle to find qualified talent for the more than 10 million job openings.
But what if we told you there is a highly educated and skilled untapped talent pool ready to work at your organization now?
America’s military spouses are highly educated – 88% of military spouses have post-high school education — yet these men and women face challenges in nearly every measurable employment category. They face a 22% unemployment rate and have difficulty finding meaningful work due to frequent moves triggered by their service members’ change of duty stations.
Interested in learning how your organization can hire military spouses, but not sure how to get started?
Hiring Our Heroes asked military spouse employment leaders at USAA, Amazon Web Services, and Booz Allen Hamilton to share their best practices for building a military spouse hiring strategy. Here’s what they said.
A Strong Strategy Starts With Understanding
Christy LeRoy, director and business process consultant at USAA, doesn’t have a military background. She didn’t serve in the Armed Forces. She isn’t married to a service member. Yet, she values the skills and experience that veterans and military spouses bring to her team at USAA.
She learned that as an employee at USAA.
“You don’t need to have a robust program from day one. Start with a peer mentor for military spouses.”Christy LeRoy, USAA
All talent acquisition team members at USAA receive annual training on reading and understanding military spouse resumes. This training helps the person reviewing the resume to look beyond employment gaps to identify transferrable skills.
“From an outsider’s point of view, when you look at a military spouse resume, you may think this person is a job hopper because they are switching jobs every two or three years, or there may be gaps in employment,” said Chryssy Johnson, senior advisor within talent acquisition operations at USAA.
Recently, Hiring Our Heroes and USAA co-hosted an Employment Roundtable – Deciphering the Military Spouse Resume webinar. Attendees learned best practices for reviewing a military spouse resume with a focus on transferable skills and fostering internal buy-in to promote military spouse hiring.
During this webinar, USAA lead business process consultant Steve Miller referred to a military spouse resume as a patchwork quilt. A military spouse resume may take many twists and turns. After earning a bachelor’s degree, the job applicant has career advancement for a short time. Then, this person works in a different industry (or two!). In many cases, the military spouse has a time period when he or she didn’t work due to childcare challenges or a relocation to an overseas military base.
“We have learned to relook at these resumes because often the resume does not provide a true representation of what they are capable of,” Miller said. “If you actually sit and have a conversation with them you would be surprised how much directly relates to corporate America.”
A successful military spouse hiring strategy starts with a strong foundation in education, said Ashley Owens, a military recruiter for the AWS SkillBridge Program. Owens recommends that organizations provide education for hiring managers, recruiters, and talent team members on the unique perspectives that military spouses bring to the organization.
Military Spouse Fellowship Program Provides a Pathway
When organizations come to Booz Allen Hamilton’s Senior Associate of Diversity Talent Acquisition Tom Downs asking for advice about military spouse hiring, he directs them to Hiring Our Heroes.
“Partnering with Hiring Our Heroes is the first step that I tell every company, no matter their size or number of hires that they are desiring to make,” Downs said. “The quantity and quality of events that HOH facilitates along with the ability to access their Military Spouse Fellowship Program ensures that companies have a multifaceted approach to brand themselves as a military spouse-friendly employer and also solve for the ‘how’ to find, screen and hire this dynamic and diverse talent pipeline.”
The Military Spouse Fellowship Program provides military spouses with professional training, networking, and hands-on experience for a six-week period. The professional development and direct connection to local employers offered through the program enable military spouses to quickly build their networks and gain localized job experience.
“Partnering with Hiring Our Heroes is the first step that I tell every company, no matter their size or number of hires that they are desiring to make.”Tom Downs, Booz Allen Hamilton
Since 2019, USAA has hired 45 military spouse fellows. Like Downs, Johnson praises the HOH fellowship program.
“Hiring Our Heroes has been instrumental in identifying successful talent for USAA,” Johnson said.
Onboarding Is Only the Beginning
After a military spouse is hired, that isn’t the end of an organization’s military spouse hiring strategy. It’s only the beginning, these leaders told Hiring Our Heroes. Many recommend a military spouse resource group for support and connection.
“Amazon offers military spouse networking opportunities through virtual coffee chats and resource groups,” Owens said.
At USAA, they created VETNet Spouse which connects the internal military spouse community across the enterprise to resources and other spouses to provide support, mentorship, and advocacy.
This support within an organization demonstrates a corporate culture that appreciates military families. It demonstrates that your organization is more than military friendly; it’s military ready.
“Internally,, it’s extremely important to have military spouse employees tell their stories. You want to get them in front of leadership and show the value that they bring to your organization,” Johnson said.
And if your organization isn’t ready to launch an employee resource group, you can still make an impact.
“You don’t need to have a robust program from day one. Start with a peer mentor for military spouses. Make sure they have the right support and you are connected with Hiring Our Heroes,” LeRoy said.