MUSCATINE, Iowa — When Bob Loter gives a talk to employers about hiring veterans to fill job openings, he knows what he’s talking about.
He’s a veteran himself.
Loter, the veterans program coordinator for Iowa Workforce Development, served for 20 years in the U.S. Army in the infantry and as a recruiter — two of those years recruiting people in Muscatine.
With foot problems and hearing loss suffered during his years as a soldier, he’s also a disabled veteran.
“I can’t run up a hill anymore in my combat boots,” he said with a smile.
Loter delivered a “Hiring our Heroes” talk Tuesday to the Muscatine Employers Council, a group that works to meet the workforce needs of local employers.
Among his tips to companies considering hiring veterans:
- When interviewing a veteran, expect these traits from the applicant, he said:
— A self-confidence sometimes bordering on arrogance
— The person may be unsure how to interview or how his or her military experience relates to the job opening
— The person may sit during the entire interview at attention, very rigid, unsmiling and maintaining strong eye contact.
“Veterans don’t interview like normal folk,” Loter said. “Just get them to calm down and relax. Sometimes you have to work to pull information out of a veteran.”
- Because of the way promotions are handled in the military, veterans come to civilian jobs with high expectations. They want to know how they can earn a promotion and a pay increase. Since they received full benefits in the military, many — especially veterans with families — are looking for something comparable. And because the military trained them to be leaders, they expect fair and equitable treatment and recognition for their accomplishments.
- They’re also used to making above-average salaries. While the average wage in Iowa is about $37,000 per year, a private first class with two years’ experience makes about $38,000 annually — and it’s tax-free when he or she is deployed to a combat zone, Loter said. “Our servicemen and women get paid pretty well,” he said. If the applicant’s salary request is higher than what the local market bears, just tell the veteran to lower expectations, Loter suggested.
- Surprising to some people because it’s a lower figure than they expect, Loter said, is the current unemployment rate among all veterans 18 and over — 6.6 percent, as opposed to about 8 percent overall nationally and 10.9 percent for veterans who’ve recently returned from service.
- Employers would do well to remember that military personnel “are always tasked with additional job duties,” he said. Some learn to be safety officers, while others handle equal employment opportunity cases for their unit. Those skills and others are transferrable in the civilian world, he noted.
- Feel free to ask a veteran about years of service, grade or rank, military occupation and work experience and training received.
But stay away from questions like “Are you going to be called for duty anytime soon?” or “Did you see any action while you were in?”
That second question could be interpreted as fishing for confirmation of a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. The PTSD rate among veterans is 13.8 percent, about double the non-veteran population.
“Most veterans you’ll hire have no issue with it,” Loter said. “Most veterans can do the job just fine. Don’t let that fear keep you from hiring a veteran.”
Learn more: Visit www.iowaworkforce.org/veterans or phone 515-281-9327