Four States That Give 'Absolute' Preference to Veteran Job Seekers

Caltrans, one of the many state agencies that give veteran preference in hiring (photo courtesy of Caltrans).

You know that government jobs give preference hiring points to veterans. But some states kick it up to a whole new level: absolute preference.

"Absolute preference" gives veteran applicants a bump to the front of the hiring line even if other, non-veteran candidates are more qualified. That's an edge job-seeking veterans can't ignore.

Starting after America's Civil War, veterans were given certain preferences for federal and state jobs. But the rules weren't uniform or written into law. It wasn't until the Veterans' Preference Act passed in 1944 that Congress ordered the federal government to favor returning war veterans when hiring new employees. Soon after, state governments began to follow suit.

Still, those hiring preferences don't guarantee an open gig for a veteran job applicant who can meet the required benchmarks. Absolute preference offers more to vets.

Currently, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Dakota provide "absolute" preference, which means they hire veterans with a passing civil service test score ahead of all non-veterans. The other 46 states use a point system similar to the one used by the federal government.

Related: Search for Veteran Jobs

Here are the details of the states' programs.

1. Massachusetts

The Bay State is the only one of the four that is PsychArmor Veteran Ready certified. That means that all Department of Career Services staff are trained and certified using the organization PsychArmor's educational platform to ensure their staff and volunteers are better prepared to interact with the military veteran community.

Massachusetts has a user-friendly veterans career website that is a one-stop shop for connecting with a veteran employment representative, searching for jobs by military occupational specialty or finding information about veteran job fairs or conferences. You can even find out about transportation resources.

2. New Jersey

The Garden State distinguishes itself among the four as the only state to offer veterans preference for the parent of any veteran who died in service, as well as the spouses of disabled veterans and surviving spouses of disabled veterans.

In addition to its absolute preference for civil service jobs, New Jersey also offers a Veterans Tuition Credit Program. According to its website, "veterans attending any approved educational institution may apply for the Veterans Tuition Credit Program. Under the program, partial reimbursement is provided to the institution to offset the cost of the veteran's tuition. Maximum reimbursement is $400 per year for full-time students, $200 for part-time students."

To find out about veterans employment opportunities, visit New Jersey's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

3. South Dakota

The Mount Rushmore State has a mountain-sized commitment to vets with a robust veterans department that offers soup-to-nuts career services. According to its website, Department of Labor and Regulation staff is trained to provide the best personalized career services to all veterans.

Some services they provide include:

  • Interest/aptitude assessments
  • Brushing up on interview skills
  • Career planning
  • Job search help
  • Resume and cover letter writing

They also offer job application assistance, job training programs and certification in National Career Training, which shows employers that applicants and employees possess essential skills necessary for workplace success by taking three WorkKeys® assessments: reading, math and locating information.

To find out more about South Dakota's commitment to veterans, visit the Department of Labor and Regulation.

4. Pennsylvania

The Keystone State rounds out the list with an impressive veterans career website that is matched only by the laundry list of extensive career services its veterans' employment officers offer.

Pennsylvania's CareerLink office representatives provide standard services similar to those the other states offer, but there is also a military occupational specialty translator that helps match available careers with a military MOS.

According to the CareerLink website, "the Veterans Program provides a full range of employment services to assist veterans in their search for work. Specially trained veteran employment representatives in PA CareerLink® offices provide veterans with a full range of employment services, including referral services, job development, referral to training, and referral to government and community veteran service agencies. These representatives help veterans match their job skills to employer job openings and contact employers on behalf of the veteran for consideration in hiring."

Pennsylvania also offers a veterans registry that "allows veterans, family members and people who work with veterans to connect with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to request information related to the valuable state benefits, programs and services offered."

To find out more about veterans preference and career services, visit CareerLink.

If you're a veteran in transition, you might want to consider one of these states to call home. If you're not privileged to live in one of the four, your state likely has veteran representatives who are trained to help you search for a job, assist with writing your resume and connect you to state employment opportunities.

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