The U.S. military is the most trusted institution in America, according to Gallup surveys. Honoring service members is a no-brainer for businesses looking to please consumers. Even people who oppose current military engagements want to support the troops. Yet despite all this goodwill, many recent veterans find it hard to transition into the civilian labor force. In 2012, nearly 10 percent of veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan were unemployed, compared with 7.9 percent of the general population, according to federal statistics.
The typical veteran of recent conflicts is under age 35, a demographic group that has a higher-than-average unemployment rate. While some of the 2.6 million recent veterans suffer from health problems that affect their ability to work, most have a much less obvious problem: They don't have résumés that hiring managers understand. A 25-year-old Iraq war veteran may have significant leadership and technical experience, but he may not have a two- or four-year college degree, two or more years of nonmilitary work experience, or references from past employers. It's not immediately clear how his experience prepares him to work in, say, a bank branch.
In 2011, President Obama challenged the private sector to hire and train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. Since that time, dozens of employers have made vocal commitments to do so, and last August, first lady Michelle Obama announced that these efforts had already led to 125,000 hires. At the same time, corporate commitments to hiring veterans and reintegrating them into the civilian workforce have forced many companies to take a hard look at their hiring practices.