Veteran-Friendly Company Case Study: CarMax


Veterans might leave the military concerned that they will have a hard time transitioning. Not all companies are committed to supporting service members during the transition to the civilian workforce, and not all can boast a veteran-friendly culture with values that align with those of the military.

CarMax is looking to avoid that category. Known for providing career opportunities for veterans, transitioning service members and their families, and supporting military communities, CarMax is the nation's largest retailer of used cars, operating more than 160 stores in 37 states and still growing. CarMax, along with The CarMax Foundation, has pledged a total of $1.4 million over the next three years to organizations supporting the military, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes; KaBOOM!, a nonprofit that helps communities build children's playgrounds; and The Mission Continues, which connects veterans to opportunities in underserved communities.

Jack McCarthy, CarMax's military recruiter, shared some thoughts about what veterans should do when preparing for job fairs or submitting job applications:

  • Do their research. Sometimes, though, you will go to a job fair without knowledge of the companies that will be there, and then it's more about making a good impression with the recruiter.
  • Don't just talk about yourself; ask questions.
  • If you can find out what companies will be there, ensure you bring your resume and target it to the position.
  • Remember that, just as the military is more than infantry, a company has more job opportunities than the first one that pops into your mind.

For example, CarMax has many positions other than sales associates available, including manager in training, mechanic/automotive technician, buyer, operations manager, business office associate and inventory/supply associate.

Interview with Jack McCarthy, CarMax Military Recruiter What actions are you taking to further your veteran engagement?

Jack McCarthy: "Annually, nearly 10% of the associates we hire are military, and we expect that number will continue to increase. CarMax has partnered with a number of military bases across the country and respected military recruiting organizations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes, GI Jobs and RecruitMilitary, to introduce the military community to why CarMax is such a great place to work."

MC: Why do companies such as yours care about hiring veterans? What makes veterans stand out?

JM: "With more than a quarter-million service members transitioning each year out of public service, we have a tremendous opportunity to connect them to careers at CarMax that align with the skills and experience they gained while active in the military. Skills such as teamwork, communication and leadership are highly valued at CarMax, and we are a company based on integrity, so transitioning service members and veterans are a natural fit for us."

MC: What opportunities are there for career advancement at CarMax? Do veterans bring anything to the table that helps them advance faster than non-veterans might?

JM: "At CarMax, we know that when we put our associates first, they put our customers first, so we place a strong emphasis on helping our associates grow, both personally and professionally. Associates at CarMax are offered unmatched training and personal and professional development opportunities.

"In fact, CarMax has been recognized as a 'Top 125 Training Company' by Training magazine for the past nine years. Veterans have strong potential to advance in their careers at CarMax, because they share the same core values of integrity, respect, teamwork and honesty."

MC: Do veterans have to start over when they come to your company, or is this one more step in their career?

JM: "CarMax supports our nation's veterans, service members and military spouses for their selfless commitment, and we are hiring them for their integrity, values and unmatched skill set. CarMax has a strong training program, so having a background in the automotive industry is not a prerequisite for most positions at CarMax.

"We encourage those with a military background to join the CarMax team, because we believe it would be a smooth transition from their previous careers with strong growth potential. We welcome them to check out available jobs at”

Interview with Jason Lowery, Veteran and Regional Vice President of Service Operations How do you feel the culture at CarMax compares to the military?

Jason Lowery: "There are three key direct themes that I have noted that correlate between the military and CarMax. First, both organizations have an intense foundation of integrity. In the Air Force, our first core value is: 'Integrity first.' This is key to accomplishing any mission -- and building strong trust and solid relationships.

"At CarMax, integrity is woven throughout the organization, because it is the principle our company was founded on. I truly respect this company for implementing policies that focus on maintaining a culture of integrity and treating associates with respect, which are core to how we work and operate as an organization.

"Second, both organizations invest considerable time and energy in emphasizing personal growth and development. In the Air Force, I was a professional military instructor for six of my 10 years. I saw firsthand the impact that training and development had on our ability to develop skills and leadership abilities.

"At CarMax, there's an intense focus on not only developing the functional skills to accomplish your job, but also the considerable investment in growing personally and professionally. CarMax is also focused on growing careers, which I feel like I'm an example of. When I joined CarMax, I started as a training specialist. Within six months, I received the feedback and individualized development plan to become a manager in the organization. I next moved on to leading a larger team as director of talent management.

"Most recently, CarMax continued to invest in my development as I pursued a new career path in a field operational role. I am currently the regional vice president of service operations, responsible for 16 stores and nearly 1,000 associates. I never would have had the skill set to accomplish this without what I learned in the Air Force and the continued growth and development opportunities at CarMax.

"Lastly, CarMax revolutionized the auto industry by delivering the honest, transparent and high-integrity, car-buying experience customers want and deserve, such as no-haggle pricing and exceptional customer service. This sense of having a higher purpose or mission is exactly what I felt in the military, and I am excited to feel this sense of ownership again.”

MC: Was it a smooth transition?

JL: "My transition from the U.S. Air Force to a civilian job at CarMax was much smoother than I anticipated. When I left the military in 2006 after serving nearly 10 years in active duty, I worried I would never again be part of an organization whose sense of values, inclusiveness, development and family were as strong as what I experienced in the armed forces.

"Soon after joining CarMax in 2007, my worries were relieved. I found an organization that not only has these components -- but exemplifies them. I'm proud to call myself a CarMax associate and would encourage any current or former member of the armed services to do the same."

MC: What have you learned from this experience, and what lessons can you pass on to other transitioning veterans?

JL: "When searching for a job, I learned that doing my research on the companies I was applying for was incredibly important. Just because I had the experience or skill set that the company was recruiting for did not mean they were necessarily a culture fit for me. Making sure that the core values of a company are aligned with my own personal values is what's going to determine whether I see my time with a company as just a job or a long-term career path.

"As for me, I couldn't have made a better decision for myself and my family when I hung up the 'Air Force blue' uniform and put on the 'CarMax blue' shirt. I would encourage any military member to consider CarMax not as a job -- but a new and exciting career with some very familiar and foundational themes of integrity, development and mission/purpose."

CarMax has made car buying more ethical, fair and stress free by offering a no-haggle, no-hassle experience and a large selection of vehicles. CarMax makes selling your car easy too, by offering no-obligation appraisals good for seven days. CarMax will "buy your car even if you don't buy ours"®. CarMax has more than 22,000 associates nationwide and for 12 consecutive years has been named as one of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®. For more information, visit

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