Human Resource Management Review 25 (2015) 68–79
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Human Resource Management Review
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/humres
Factors affecting hiring decisions about veterans
Christopher Stone a,⁎, Dianna L. Stone b
a University of Texas at San Antonio, One UTSA Circle, San Antonio, TX 78249, United States
b University at Albany, State University of New York, c/o 866 Fawnway, San Antonio, TX 78260, United States
a r t i c l e i n f o
⁎ Corresponding author.
1053-4822/© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
a b s t r a c t
Military veterans have numerous problems gaining and maintaining jobs in the U.S., and their
unemployment rates are consistently higher than nonveterans (Bureau of Labor Statistics
2013). Despite these problems, little theory and research in Human Resource Management
(HRM) has focused on understanding the factors affecting hiring decisions about military veterans
(e.g., Bordieri & Drehmer, 1984). Thus, the present paper modified an existing model of the
treatment of persons with disabilities (Stone & Colella, 1996) to explain the issues that influence
selection decisions about veterans. We also offered hypotheses to guide future research on the
topic. Our modified model indicated that the (a) attributes of the veteran, (b) the characteristics
of the observer, (c) the nature of the job, (d) the perceived transferability of skills from military
to civilian jobs, and (e) the differences between military and civilian organizational cultures
influence hiring decisions about veterans. We believe that an increased understanding of these
selection decisions will help organizations utilize the many talents and skills that veterans bring
to the workforce, and enable veterans to enjoy a more fulfilling work life and career.
© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Although military veterans have many skills that should make them attractive to employers (e.g., discipline, leadership, teamwork
skills), they often have numerous difficulties gaining and maintaining employment. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics (2013), Gulf War II veterans have a 10 percent unemployment rate compared to 6.4 percent for non-veterans. In addition,
64 percent of U.S. veterans who served in the military after 9/11 revealed that they have difficulties adjusting to civilian life
(Prudential, 2012). Furthermore, a large number of veterans (i.e., 69 percent) report that finding a job is their greatest challenge
(www.whitehouse.gov, 2011). These reports indicate that organizations are not always using the many talents and skills that veterans
bring to the workforce and these individuals may have fewer opportunities to enjoy a satisfying work life than nonveterans.
Among the many potential reasons for the employment problems of veterans, some analysts argued that veterans are more likely to
have a disability or health condition than nonveterans (Prudential, 2012). Estimates indicate that 66 percent of veterans have health con-
ditions or disabilities stemming from their military service, and a corresponding unemployment rate of 20 percent (Prudential, 2012).
Furthermore, even those without a disability are often perceived as disabled. As a result, the stereotypes and biases associated with peo-
ple with disabilities are often attributed to veterans, and serve as major obstacles to their employment (Stone & Colella, 1996). Although
in some cases there are positive characteristics attributed to veterans (e.g., discipline, adept at teamwork, leadership), reports suggested
that veterans are often stereotyped as withdrawn, bitter, mentally ill, depressed, or drug and alcohol abusers (Bordieri & Drehmer, 1984).
Another reason for veterans’ employment problems is that they may lack civilian work experience, and employers do not always
understand how military experience transfers to private sector jobs (www.whitehouse.gov, 2011). For example, the military trained
approximately 10,000 health care workers and 10,000 truck drivers after 2011, but these skills are not always recognized by private-
69C. Stone, D.L. Stone / Human Resource Management Review 25 (2015) 68–79
sector employers or licensing agencies (Prudential, 2012). In particular, veterans trained in health care or truck driving often go
through new training and licensing tests before applying for private sector jobs. Recently, 34 states adopted laws that “waive behind
the wheel” tests for truck drivers so that veterans with relevant military experience can gain access to these jobs (www.
whitehouse.gov). However, despite the shortage of health care workers in the United States (Department of Labor, 2012), military
medical experience does not translate into private-sector health care jobs, and veterans must get a diploma from an approved nursing
program or pass licensing exams before applying for health care jobs.
In an effort to increase employment opportunities for veterans, Congress recently passed legislation that offers employers tax
credits for hiring veterans (www.whitehouse.gov). In addition, a larger number of employers have made a compelling business
case for hiring veterans because they often have high levels of performance. For instance, 29 percent of private sector employers de-
signed specialized programs to recruit veterans (e.g., Amazon, General Electric, Wal-Mart, Charles Schwab, USAA, Dupont, JB Hunt,
etc.) (Harrell & Berglass, 2012). Research showed consistently that employees’ military service was positively related to performance
on civilian jobs (Harrell & Berglass, 2012), and other studies found that veterans with disabilities perform as well as nonveterans with-
out a disability (Gurchiek, 2011). Research also revealed that compared to nonveterans, veterans are more likely to: (a) have advanced
technology training, (b) be adept at skills transfer across contexts and tasks, (c) display good teamwork skills, (d) exhibit cultural sen-
sitivity and acceptance of diversity, and (e) possess high levels of resiliency, integrity, and loyalty (Syracuse University, Institute for
Veterans and Military Families, 2012). These results suggested that many of the stereotypes attributed to veterans may be unfounded
(e.g., rigidity, bitter, lack of adaptability to new contexts), and that hiring veterans may be quite beneficial for organizations.
Despite the employment problems experienced by veterans and employers’ interest in recruiting them, little theory and research
in Human Resource Management examined the factors that affect hiring decisions regarding veterans. Some notable exceptions in-
clude research in the journal of Military Psychology regarding stigmas associated with veterans (e.g., McFarling, D’Angelo, Drain,
Gibbs, & Olmstead, 2011; Sudom, Zamorski, & Garber, 2012). However, much of this research focused on: (a) barriers to rehabilitation
and mental health or drug abuse treatment for veterans (McFarling et al., 2011; Sudom et al., 2012), (b) affective responses to treat-
ment for mental health and substance abuse (Gibbs, Olmstead, Brown, & Clinton-Sherrod, 2011; Kim, Britt, Klocko, Riviere, & Adler,
2011; Olmstead et al., 2011), and (c) self-stigmas (Dickstein, Vogt, Handa, & Litz, 2010).
To our knowledge, only one study addressed the factors affecting hiring decisions about veterans (e.g., Bordieri & Drehmer, 1984).
As a result, the primary purposes of this paper are as follows: (a) expand an existing model (Stone & Colella, 1996) to explain hiring
decisions regarding veterans, (b) present hypotheses based on the model to guide future research on the topic, and (c) offer strategies
for organizations and individuals to overcome the challenges faced by veterans in the employment process. We believe that an under-
standing of the factors affecting selection decisions concerning veterans is important for organizations trying to hire these individuals,
and for the veterans who want to enhance their job and career opportunities.
2. Modification of the Stone and Colella (1996) model
We expanded a model of the factors affecting the treatment of persons with disabilities by Stone and Colella (1996) (hereinafter
referred to as the disability model) to explain the variables thought to influence employer decisions to hire veterans. The original
model is presented in Fig. 1, and a depiction of our modified model is noted in Fig. 2.
We believe that the Stone and Colella (1996) model provides a compelling explanation of the factors that are likely to affect hiring
decisions about veterans because it: (a) focuses on stereotypes associated with individuals with disabilities and many veterans are
perceived as disabled or actually have a disability, (b) identifies a number of key factors that are likely to influence hiring decisions
(e.g., attributes of the person, attributes of the observer, and nature of the job), and (c) provides strategies that can be used by
organizations and veterans to ameliorate the challenges faced by veterans in the hiring process. Although the disability model focused
specifically on people with disabilities, we believe that the factors in the model apply to hiring decisions about members of all stigma-
tized groups (e.g., veterans). Furthermore, we added two unique factors to the existing model because the situations facing veterans in
the hiring process may be somewhat different than those facing people with disabilities. As a result, the two new factors included the
(a) degree to which military skills are perceived to transfer to civilian jobs, and (b) differences between military and civilian role
requirements and organizational cultures. Therefore, we describe the existing model and our modifications and extensions to the
model in the sections that follow, and offer specific hypotheses to guide research.
It merits noting that we present hypotheses in this paper rather than propositions because our predictions are based in a specific
theoretical framework. A number of research methodologists argued that hypotheses are relational predictions that are based on
theory, and can be tested empirically (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000; Stone-Romero, 2011). However, propositions are broad statements
that are typically used with exploratory research (e.g., not based in theory), and cannot be directly tested (Kerlinger & Lee, 2000).
Thus, we presented hypotheses because we wanted to include specific predictions based on a theoretical model, and believe that
they will advance our knowledge of the factors affecting hiring decisions about veterans.
2.1. Categorization and stereotyping of veterans
In their original model, Stone and Colella (1996) used a social cognitive framework to understand the cognitive factors that affect
the treatment of people with disabilities in organizations, and we believe these same processes apply to hiring decisions regarding
veterans. As a result, we modified the original model to focus on applicants who are veterans. For example, the disability model argued
that when individuals apply for jobs, raters: (a) assign them to a category (e.g., post 9/11 war veteran), (b) use the categorization to
generate stereotypes about the individual (e.g., veteran is mentally ill, rigid, an alcohol and drug user), and (c) apply the stereotypes to
Fig. 1. Original model of factors affecting the treatment of disabled individuals in organizations (Stone & Colella, 1996).
70 C. Stone, D.L. Stone / Human Resource Management Review 25 (2015) 68–79
generate job-related expectancies or anticipatory beliefs about the person’s behavior (e.g., the veteran is mentally ill, and he or she
will not be able to perform the job in a satisfactory manner). As a result, if there are negative expectancies about the veteran’s job
performance then the observer will rate the veteran as less suitable for jobs than others, and they will not hire them for jobs.
The explanation above illustrates clearly that hiring decisions about veterans are influenced by the categorizations, stereotypes,
stigmas, and job expectancies associated with one’s veteran status. Stereotypes are often defined as over-generalized beliefs about
members of a category that are typically negative (Ashmore & Del Boca, 1981; Brewer & Kramer, 1985). For instance, a number of
analysts argued that veterans are stereotyped as mentally ill (e.g., depressed, having post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], bitter,
withdrawn, rigid, angry, and lacking skills needed for private sector jobs etc.) (Beckerman & Fontana, 1989; Bordieri & Drehmer,
1984; Mangum & Ball, 1987).
Similar to a stereotype, stigmas are defined as deeply discrediting negative characteristics (e.g., mentally ill) (Jones et al., 1984)
that reveal that one’s actual identity is discrepant from one’s virtual identity or the identity which is expected in society (Goffman,
1963). As a result, stereotypes can be stigmas when they are extremely discrediting for the person. For example, some reports indicate
that post 9/11 veterans are perceived as ticking time bombs ready to explode with anger at any moment (Harrell & Berglass, 2012).
Fig. 2. Factors affecting hiring decisions about veterans.
71C. Stone, D.L. Stone / Human Resource Management Review 25 (2015) 68–79
This inference may be a stigma because it severely damages the individual’s identity and reputation. Stigmas are “actual or inferred
attributes that serve as the basis for the person being perceived as atypical, aberrant or deviant and thus being discredited by those
who are not stigmatized” (Stone, Stone, & Dipboye, 1992: 388).
Many of the stereotypes about veterans are very inconsistent. For example, on the one hand they are often viewed as rigid, bitter,
angry, withdrawn, and mentally ill (Bordieri & Drehmer, 1984). However, they are also perceived to be disciplined, with good lead-
ership and teamwork skills (Dickstein et al., 2010). Although research on inconsistent stereotypes does not clearly indicate how
observers process positive and negative information, stigmatizing information (e.g., veteran is mentally ill) is likely to have a greater
impact on hiring decisions than stereotypically positive information (e.g., person is disciplined, a good leader) because selection
processes are often a search for negative information (Cascio & Aguinis, 2005).
Furthermore, the existing research on inconsistent stereotypes revealed that observers often explain away information that is not
consistent with the prevailing stereotype or resort to subtypes to defend negative stereotypes (Wigboldus, Dijksterhuis, & van
Knippenberg, 2003). For example, if the veteran is perceived as rigid, but also a good leader, then a rater might say that this person
is the exception rather than the typical veteran. Similarly, some research found that observers’ inferences are determined by their im-
plicit assumptions about whether human attributes are fixed or malleable (Plaks, Stroessner, Dweck, & Sherman, 2001). If observers
perceive that traits are fixed then they are likely to focus on stereotype consistent information (e.g., veteran is rigid, mentally ill). How-
ever, if they believe that traits are malleable then they are likely to focus on inconsistent information (e.g., veteran is disciplined, has
teamwork skills) because it has the greatest informational value. Given that there are often inconsistent stereotypes about veterans,
research is needed to determine how raters process positive and negative information about veterans’ attributes.
The original disability model argued that several factors affect hiring decisions including: the attributes of the applicant, attributes
of the observer, and the nature of the job. Each of these variables is included in our modified model, but we also added two other
factors to the model that may be unique to veterans: the difference in military and civilian organizational cultures, and the degree
to which skills transfer from military to civilian jobs.
2.1.1. Attributes of the veteran
The attributes of the veteran are thought to play a crucial role in the stigmatization and hiring process. For example, the original
disability model maintained that a number of variables affect the degree to which an individual’s social identity is discredited. For
example, based on the work of Jones et al. (1984), Stone and Colella (1996) indicated that the nature of an actual or perceived disabil-
ity, danger/peril, disruptiveness, aesthetic qualities, origin, and course influences the extent to which individuals are stigmatized. We
included most of these factors in our modified model, and will consider them in the paragraphs below.
188.8.131.52. Presence/nature of a disability. Even though all veterans are not disabled, research revealed that many veterans are perceived or
stereotyped as having a disability (e.g., depression or PTSD) (Beckerman & Fontana, 1989; Bordieri & Drehmer, 1984; Mangum & Ball,
1987). In other cases, veterans may have experienced a loss of limbs or disfigurement in a war, and these individuals often have a
double disadvantage in the hiring process. For instance, they may be stereotyped as veterans, and also perceived as a person with a
disability. Alternatively, they may be stereotyped as having few private sector job skills, and also viewed as mentally disabled
(Stone et al., 1992). Given these multiple stereotypes, research on interpersonal attraction suggests that they will be liked less, and
thought to have less desirable characteristics than non-veterans (Byrne, London, & Reeves, 1968).
Results of research on multiple stereotypes revealed very mixed findings (Hosoda, Stone, & Stone‐Romero, 2003), but studies on
persons with disabilities indicated that there is a hierarchy of disabilities. For instance, individuals who are stereotyped as mentally
disabled are viewed more negatively than those with sensory (e.g., hearing impairments), or physical disabilities (e.g., paraplegia)
(e.g., Tringo, 1970). In particular, Richardson, Goodman, Hastorf, and Dornbusch (1961) found that individuals reacted more negative-
ly to those who were former mental patients than to those who had physical disabilities (e.g., paraplegia) or sensory (e.g., hearing
impairment) disabilities. As a result, we argue that veterans may have difficulty gaining access to jobs because many of them are
stereotyped as having a mental disability.
Despite the arguments noted above, there has been very little empirical research on the stereotypes or stigmas associated with
veterans. Most of the stereotypes associated with veterans have been promulgated by the media, and are based on anecdotal rather
than empirical evidence. One notable exception is the work of Bordieri and Drehmer (1984) who found that Vietnam era veterans
were perceived as having higher levels of psychological problems than non-veterans. The same research also revealed that
Vietnam veterans received lower hiring recommendations than non-veterans despite equal qualifications. Other research by
Dickstein et al. (2010) indicated that veterans were more likely to be stereotyped as mentally ill, violent, and personally responsible
for their own plight than non-veterans.
Given the lack of empirical research on stereotypes and stigmas associated with veterans, we believe that some of the first research
on veterans should focus on identifying the specific stereotypes and stigmas attributed to veterans. An understanding of these stereo-
types can help organizations and individuals dispel myths about veterans. As a result, we offer the following propositions to guide that
Hypothesis 1. Applicants who are veterans will be more likely to be stereotyped as having: (a) mental illness, (b) depression, or
(c) having post-traumatic stress disorder, than those who are not veterans.
Hypothesis 2. When applicants who are veterans are perceived as mentally ill, they will be (a) rated as less suitable for jobs and
(b) less likely to be hired for jobs than those who are not perceived as mentally ill.
72 C. Stone, D.L. Stone / Human Resource Management Review 25 (2015) 68–79
184.108.40.206. Danger/peril/disruptiveness. Another factor in the disability model that should affect hiring decisions about veterans is the
degree to which the person is perceived to have attributes that are dangerous, perilous or disruptive. For example, some research re-
vealed that veterans are often stereotyped as violent or ticking time bombs that may display their anger on the job at any point in time
(Dickstein et al., 2010). Given these potential stereotypes, some raters may view veterans as dangerous and disruptive, and perceive
that they are a hiring risk because they might harm themselves or others. As a result, the degree to which veterans are perceived as
dangerous or disruptive may have a negative impact on job-related expectancies and hiring decisions. To our knowledge, only one
study has directly addressed this issue (Dickstein et al., 2010), and we present the following proposition to guide research:
Hypothesis 3. Applicants who are veterans will be perceived as more (a) dangerous, or (b) potentially disruptive than non-veterans.
Hypothesis 4. When applicants who are veterans are perceived as dangerous they will be (a) rated as less suitable for jobs, and
(b) less likely to be hired than those who are not perceived as dangerous.
220.127.116.11. Aesthetic qualities. A third factor that may affect ratings of veterans is their aesthetic appeal or attractiveness (e.g., Stone &
Colella, 1996). Research showed consistently that applicants who are attractive are rated higher, and receive higher salary levels
than those who are less attractive (Hosoda, Stone-Romero, & Coats, 2003). For example, a meta-analysis by Hosoda, Stone-Romero
et al. (2003) revealed that unattractive applicants were rated more negatively than attractive applicants regardless of the type of
job, and a study by Commisso and Finkelstein (2012) found that raters were more willing to terminate unattractive than attractive
Some veterans have experienced the loss of limbs or other types of disfigurement in war zones. As a result, when veterans have lost
limbs or experienced physical disfigurement, especially facial disfigurement, they should be viewed as less aesthetically appealing
than those without disfigurement. In support of this argument, Goffman (1963) argued that abominations of the body, especially
facial disfigurements or amputations, elicit feelings of disgust or revulsion in others. Thus, our model predicts that when veterans
are perceived as unattractive or disfigured they will be less likely to be hired for jobs than when they are not viewed as unattractive.
Although this argument seems plausible, we know of no research that specifically examined the extent to which hiring decisions
about veterans are influenced by their aesthetic appeal. However, research on people with disabilities showed that applicants in a
wheelchair were offered fewer interviews than their able bodied counterparts (Johnson & Heal, 1976), and raters were more likely
to avoid those with an amputated leg than those without a disability (Kleck, 1968). In contrast, other research indicated that
applicants with physical disabilities were not rated differently than those without a disability (Krefting & Brief, 1976).
However, it merits noting that the results of the research noted above may have been influenced by social desirability or impres-
sion management artifacts. As a consequence, research is needed to assess the degree to which veterans who are viewed (a) as phys-
ically unattractive or (b) have physical disfigurements are rated as less suitable for jobs and less likely to be hired than those who are
attractive or do not have disfigurements. Thus, we offer the following hypothesis to foster that research:
Hypothesis 5. When applicants who are veterans have visible physical disfigurements they will: (a) be rated as less attractive, (b) be
rated as less suitable for jobs, and (c) be less likely to be hired than those without a visible physical disfigurement.
18.104.22.168. Origin. The original disability model claimed that the origins of the stigma, or the extent to which individuals are perceived as
responsible for their plight affect ratings of individuals. As a result, our modified model noted that another factor that may influence
stereotypes, stigmas, and ratings of veterans, is the degree to which the rater views the veteran as responsible for his or her own fate.
However, this issue may be more complex for veterans than those with other types of stigmas. For instance, veterans who joined the
military because they were patriotic or wanted to protect their country should be rated more favorably than those who joined the mil-
itary for other reasons (e.g., to escape a prison sentence or they had few job opportunities). One reason for this is that those who are
patriotic should be viewed as having greater integrity than those who joined the military for other reasons. Furthermore, raters are
less likely to view patriotic veterans as responsible for their own fate compared to those who had to join the military for other reasons.
However, those veterans who joined the military because they had few job opportunities or were required to join by the courts
should be viewed as more responsible for their own fate than others. For example, raters are likely to perceive that those who joined
the military because of poor job-related skills should have developed skills in high school, college, or training programs. As a result,
they may perceive that the veteran is responsible for his or her own fate because they had no other job-related options but to join
the military. We know of only one study on this issue, and its results revealed that veterans were rated more negatively than nonvet-
erans because they were perceived as personally responsible for their fate (Dickstein et al., 2010). Given that there is relatively little
research on this issue, we present the following hypothesis to guide research:
Hypothesis 6. Veterans who joined the military because they are patriotic will be rated (a) higher in terms of job suitability and
(b) more likely to be hired than those who joined because they (c) had no other job opportunities or (d) were ordered to join by
22.214.171.124. Course. The disability model maintained that the course of the stigma, or the degree to which it is temporary or long term, also
influences ratings of the individual. We included this variable in our modified model, and predicted that when raters believe that a
veteran has a long term physical or mental disability they should be less likely to rate the veteran as suitable for a job than when
the person is viewed as having a short term disability. For example, if a rater perceives that a veteran has mild anxiety he or she is
73C. Stone, D.L. Stone / Human Resource Management Review 25 (2015) 68–79
likely to rate the person more positively than when the veteran has PTSD, typically a long term impairment. In support of this argu-
ment, research on disabilities showed that when an applicant had a long term disability (e.g., cancer) the person was rated more neg-
atively than when he or she had a temporary disability (e.g., broken leg) (Stone & Colella, 1996). We know of no specific research on
this issue with veterans, and provide the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 7. When applicants who are veterans have a long-term disability they will be (a) rated as less suitable for jobs and (b) less
likely to be hired than those who are perceived to have a short term disability.
126.96.36.199. Other attributes of the veteran. Although the Stone and Colella (1996) model argued that applicants’ previous performance
level, gender, race, ethnicity, and social status may influence hiring decisions, space limitations preclude a detailed discussion of all
of these issues. However, some of them (e.g., previous performance or skill levels) are considered indirectly in the nature of the job
2.1.2. Attributes of the observer
Consistent with the disability model, we believe that the attributes of the observer are key variables that affect hiring decisions
about veterans. Therefore, we included observers’ attributes in our modified model. In particular, we argued that observers’ values,
personality, previous military experience, and previous contact with veterans should influence stereotypes and ratings of veterans
in the hiring process. Each of these attributes will be considered in the sections below.
188.8.131.52. Observers’ values. Observers’ values about military service, patriotism, and war are likely to influence their reactions to vet-
erans. For example, observers vary in terms of patriotism or how much they value military service. Those who are high in patriotic
values should be more likely to value military or national service than those who are low in …