He had me at "Derby pie." Then he followed up the traditional Louisville, Kentucky, chocolate nut dessert with two of my other favorite words: veteran hiring.
Alan Rupp, president of Kern's Kitchens, reached out this week because he wants to hire more veterans -- something a lot of employers are thinking about since National Hire a Veteran Day is coming up on July 25.
Rupp told me in an interview that he had great luck with veteran hires in the past. His production manager and office manager were both Army veterans, each staying with the firm more than 20 years. Rupp also had excellent short-term veteran hires who stayed until they figured out their next steps.
Why does he want veterans now? "They are detail oriented and task oriented," said Rupp, who is currently looking for an assistant production manager to add to his full-time staff of nine. "Get it done and get it done right is a real big strong part for them."
Yet in the current labor market, small businesses are competing in a climate where corporate giants can pay a higher wage and can staff a team of veteran recruiters hiring dozens of transitioning military. If you are a small business or small manufacturer, how can you access that veteran or spouse worker?
Here are nine ways that small employers can attract veteran hires.
1. Start Local. Stay Local.
One of the most motivating employment factors for veterans and spouses is location. When military members own a home in your area or they have kids who are happy in local schools, the urge to stay in their current town is strong.
You can start with Military.com's Installation Guide, which lists military bases by state to find out which branch of the service is located near you. If you don't have a local installation, veteran hiring is more difficult unless you are hiring remote workers. More about that later.
2. Call the Transition Assistance Program
Once you know the name of the bases near you, Google the largest one with "transition assistance program." This is the on-base government program that provides job-hunting services to transitioning service members. Tell them that you are a small local business interested in hiring vets. The transition manager can connect you with their job fairs and tell you about their local listings and about local military spouse hiring services.
3. Make Friends with Saints and Angels
Once in a while, you will find a dud staffing the Transition Assistance Program -- just like anywhere. In my experience, however, these offices are mostly staffed with committed, knowledgeable saints and angels. These folks are devoted to helping veterans and spouses find work. They often have an encyclopedic knowledge of local hiring, and they know all the regulations.
Don't just talk to them once. Instead, add them to your network by asking for an informational interview with one of them. Over time, they can become your best source of knowledge about how to reach the local population.
4. Open a Military Door
At the Veteran Employment Project, we tell our community of job seekers that they should look for an employer with what we call a "military door." A military door comes in many shapes and sizes and is designed to let veterans know they have a good chance of getting hired, because your company has hired veterans before.
Some companies simply have "veteran hires" on their dropdown menu or "Veterans and Military Spouses welcome." Other companies feature a story or photo about a veteran or spouse employee or mention their participation in an internship program like Hire Our Heroes. Others are part of a statewide program like Kentucky's HIRE Vets Medallion program or Virginia's Virginia Values Veterans employer certification program. Make sure this notification is not buried at the bottom of a page but is featured in the top two or three screens.
5. Emphasize Meaningful Benefits in Your Job Listing
Since Kern's Kitchen is a small manufacturer, it can't always meet or beat the competition when it comes to salary. Yet salary isn't everything. Many military members are looking for meaningful work when they leave the service.
If your pie is the best in the business, tell them about it. If the job you offer is clean, temperature-controlled and features some independence, tell them about it. Emphasize your company's story, too. For Kern's Kitchen, Rupp should emphasize the local Derby Pie tradition and how the company was started by his grandparents in the 1950s. Belonging to a friendly workplace is a blessing to people when they leave the service.
Also, at the bottom of your job listing, add the words: Military veterans and spouses encouraged to apply.
6. Explore Remote Staffing Options
One way to add military spouses, veterans, caregivers and survivors to your team is through remote staffing. Look into an agency like Instant Teams that specializes in connecting employers and the veteran/spouse community. Founded by military spouses, Instant Teams connects you with qualified and skilled remote applicants.
7. Access Older Veterans
One of the things I love about my job is when I hear from veteran job hunters in their 60s or 70s. So many of these guys are detail-oriented, hard workers who like having a job. They aren't interested in super long hours or high-octane stress anymore. Instead, they want a place to work, contribute and belong. Rupp told me that he had good luck reaching this pool of applicants through a Catholic newspaper.
8. Take Care of the Employees You Have
People get jobs through their network -- the people they already know. If you have veterans or spouses or caregivers currently on your staff, treat them well so that they are proud to tell people where they work.
9. Brainstorm Solutions with Us
At the Veteran Employment Project, we offer consulting services to employers to help them identify opportunities to find veterans, train their recruiters, craft their listings and increase their veteran hires. Reach out to us on LinkedIn or on our Facebook page.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
Learn More About the Veteran Employment Project
To get more tips on how to make a successful military transition, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.