Overcoming unconscious bias in veteran hiring

Findings of a CERIC-funded research project have identified employer bias regarding veteran working style and point the way for how career professionals can best support veterans in making the transition from military to civilian careers. The research, which has implications for veteran job exploration, search and retention was undertaken by Challenge Factory, sponsored by the Canadian Armed Forces and supported by Veterans Affairs Canada.

There are more than 430,000 Canadian veterans who are currently employed or seeking employment, according to the 2016 Life After Service Survey from Veterans Affairs Canada. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces retire from service anytime between their early 30s to their late 50s.

The project, titled A Question of Style, involved administering psychometric assessments from Target Training International (TTI) to currently serving members and veterans. Employers also completed assessments where they were asked to answer as if they were a veteran, capturing unconscious bias.

The research found that employers expect veterans will communicate and work in significantly different ways compared with their existing employee base. The bias is to believe that veterans will be more direct and competitive in their approach (characteristics of dominant or commanding styles) and may lead employers to make assumptions about candidates who are more withdrawn, collaborative or passive in networking or interview environments.

Key findings include:

  • Employers believe that veterans will be 33% higher in dominant communication style than the Canadian norm, whereas veterans were only 10.5% more dominant
  • Veterans in the study are 16.9% less likely to use relationship building (influence) as a primary method of getting work done compared to their peers
  • Veterans are 8.9% more likely than the general population to be motivated by intellectual drivers (lifelong learning, learning new things and the pursuit of truth)

The results offer key learnings for career professionals, recruiters and hiring managers, such as the importance of providing veterans with more data and procedure to help with self-direction, role awareness and sense of purpose during change. It is also recommended that veterans could benefit from networking techniques as they may overlook the value of building relationships with potential employers, focusing instead on how they meet job requirements.

Project learnings are captured in two new tools: an infographic and a self-assessment for career practitioners and employers to evaluate their understanding of veterans as a hidden talent pool.

The study remains open and data collected since September 2017 will be analyzed in July 2018 to generate updated findings. You can learn more at: https://www.challengefactory.ca/veteranhiring.