After Hire Heroes USA founder John Bardis met veteran Justin Callahan – who lost a leg when he served in Afghanistan – playing basketball, he got the idea to start Hire Heroes USA.
Hire Heroes USA’s mission is to provide career placement assistance to returning service men and women, and the program specializes in the placement of those injured or with any level of disability. Created in 2007, the program works with hundreds of veterans and pairs about eight to ten veterans each month with jobs. The group serves veterans from all branches of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard, Reservists and Coast Guard.
Hundreds of different, diverse companies help recruit veterans through Hire Heroes, which is based in Alpharetta, Georgia. Recruiting companies include Waste Management, Cardinal Health, Med Assets, Sanofi and Aventis.
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“The big problem that veterans have is that most haven’t written a resume or had an interview,” said Brian Stann, executive director of Hire Heroes. “They don’t know how to communicate their experience.” Stann is a graduate of the Naval Academy, who became spokesperson for Hire Heroes in 2008 and executive director in January 2009.
Also, the transition back into civilian life can be challenging for service men and women, especially those wounded or disabled. As they seek to establish new civilian careers, many young veterans find themselves behind other job applicants in terms of employment experience and networking in the civilian sector. Hire Heroes helps to ease the veterans’ transition into civilian life.
Hire Heroes helps veterans by teaching them how to write resumes, prepare for job interviews, network and hunt for jobs.
Job types vary. “A lot of guys looking into security and a lot want to get into a new phase,” Stann said. Some favor jobs in IT, health care and public service.
Hire Heroes matches the skills and interests of returning veterans with the needs of participating hiring companies nationwide.
When veterans communicate with Hire Heroes through their web site or an office, Hire Heroes does an intake, and then helps the veterans to create and spruce up their resumes. It usually takes two or three weeks to get veterans signed up and ready to use their resumes to apply for jobs, Stann said.
Stann estimated that Hire Heroes hears from and helps about 120 new veterans a month. Sometimes, nonveterans apply initially to get help, but Hire Heroes staffers and volunteers verify that applicants have their DD214 papers, which is final paperwork that verifies veterans’ service work. Six full-time staffers and 25 volunteers work for Hire Heroes, and they are in Washington, DC, Baltimore, St. Louis, Atlanta and Florida.
Sometimes, Hire Heroes sends veterans to weeklong retreats in Boswell, Pennsylvania, and St. Louis where they’ll get schooled on resume writing, making goals, and the like. It costs about $1,200 to $1,300 to send a veteran to such retreats, and the group sends about five or six veterans to retreats about every other month.
The program helps veterans nationwide. Asked whether certain geographic areas are the most popular with veterans, Stann said, “A lot of times, most of the people we work with want to go back to their hometown, which is pretty common with everybody and not just veterans.”
Some of the veterans may come from small areas, and they want to work a specific job, but the area might not offer that type of job.
Veterans discuss with Hire Heroes whether they are willing to relocate and, if so, where. Hire Heroes also helps out with relocation costs, Stann said.
According to the Hire Heroes web site, the unemployment rate among the nation’s 2.5 million service-disabled men and women is 15.8 percent, or three times that of the general population.
As for what’s unique about the volunteers who work for Hire Heroes who try to get veterans hooked up with jobs, Stann said, “What’s unique is that they’re selfless” and totally donate their time, even though everyone is busy. “They help because they truly appreciate the service of these young men and women,” he said.
Craig Leener, president of Burbank, California-based My Eye Media, has been recruiting veterans through Hire Heroes for jobs since July 2008. Michael Kadenacy, My Eye Media’s founder and chief executive officer, is also a veteran of the US Marines.
My Eye Media is a technical and postproduction services company that offers solutions and consultancy to major Hollywood motion picture studios and independent content producers. The company has hired one person through Hire Heroes.
As for how hiring a veteran through Hire Heroes has been working out, Leener said, “Our work is highly specialized, so that has limited the number of qualified candidates Hire Heroes USA has been able to send us. That said, the organization seems truly committed to finding the right match. And they’re not just going through the motions – they’re genuinely interested in both the process and the outcome.”
Asked if he thinks there any qualities that veterans tend to have that make them good job candidates with his company, Leener said, “We’re always looking to recruit responsible individuals who can deal effectively with the pressure of deadlines and understand the concept of working as a team. When you think about it, that’s really the definition of a combat veteran.”
For more information about Hire Heroes USA, go to their web site.