Hire a Hero? Identity Management of Job Seeking Veterans


jobsMICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY – Recent years have shown an increasing number of veterans entering the civilian workforce. Despite efforts from organizations to assist job-seeking veterans, this group still faces challenges in obtaining employment.
Veterans’ perceptions of employer views as well as experienced discrimination affected whether job seekers avoided discussing their veteran’s status, concealed it during job search or attempted to counter stereotypes about veterans. Those high in job search confidence were likely to search with more effort and intensity when they perceived employer views of veterans as more negative.
As an increasing number of veterans enter the civilian workforce they are encountering both positive and negative perceptions of their veteran status. According to Kleykamp (2010), previous military service can produce potentially contradictory information for employers. This paper examined the identity management techniques veterans utilize in their job-search to address these potential reactions.
First, perceptions of interpersonal discrimination were directly related to identity concealment but perceived discrimination toward veterans was not directly linked to identity avoidance or concealment. Interestingly, perceived ethnic discrimination was strongly linked to identity avoidance and concealing behaviors; note the avoidance and concealing here is of one’s veteran’s identity, not one’s ethnicity.
Existing research on identity management in the workplace has rarely examined multiple identities simultaneously (Kulik, Roberson & Perry, 2007), and we know of no other studies that have looked at spillover effects of discrimination based on one identity affecting how one manages other potentially stigmatized identities.
Second, in line with models of motivation and disclosure (e.g., Chaudior & Fischer, 2010), veterans who had a performance-avoid goal orientation tended to use identity avoidance and identity concealment behaviors. Conversely, veterans who had a performance-prove goal orientation tended to use behaviors that promoted identity acknowledgement and countering negative stereotypes.
When veterans thought that employers had less positive beliefs about veterans, they tended to exert higher levels of job-search intensity and effort. On the other hand, when veterans thought that employers had more positive beliefs about veterans, individuals tended to exert less job-search intensity and effort.
Interestingly, this suggests veterans try to prove employers who think more negatively of veterans wrong by being more committed and vigilant about their job-search efforts. These findings are in line with stereotype reactance effects that have been found when gender stereotypes are made explicit (e.g., Kray, Thompson & Galinsky, 2001).
One implication of these findings is that organizations vested in helping veterans may want to have more vigorous discussions about how veteran perceptions of interpersonal and racial discrimination can affect the behavior of veteran job-seekers. The pros and cons of various identity management strategies might be openly discussed.
Replication of the inverse relationship between positive beliefs about veterans and job-search intensity and effort is needed. A specific research focus on the identity management behaviors exhibited by veterans with disabilities might include measures on perceived discrimination toward those with disabilities.

  • Resource: HireVeterans.com
  • Information compiled by team of researchers Michigan State University


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