A simple tweak to Google Search now helps veterans to find jobs

Image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
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The current extremely low rate of unemployment for US veterans is disguising some unpleasant truths.

Though the rate stands at only 3.7%, only about half of all veterans in the US participate in the workforce at all (meaning they either have a job or they’re looking for the work.) Another 10 million veterans are still not employed, but are also not in the market. Either because of a disability or a sense of frustration, they’ve stopped knocking on proverbial doors.

Part of the problem, according to veterans, it that it’s often not that obvious where they should send their resumes. Emblematic of the disconnect they feel between their old and new life is the very language the military uses to describe jobs. Veterans arrive in their new civilian lives with a code to describe what they did in uniform. For instance, the army and marines use a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code. These strings of letters and numbers tell other insiders exactly what they did every day, but what does “MOS 0369” mean to a bank recruiter or tech startup?

If you’re going through a major life change, it can be difficult to translate military terms while parsing buzzwords favored by recruiters.

Google is now launching what could become a powerful tool to bridge that gap. It has added a feature to its job search function that allows a veteran to add his or her MOS code to a search bar along with the term “jobs for veterans” to be given a list of positions for which their skills are needed.

The basic job search function, which was launched last year, already uses machine learning to find openings in your geographic area. You don’t have to do anything special to access it. When you search for words like “project manager” or “bartender,” you’ll notice job ad results, aggregated from major job sites, at the top of your search results. Click in and you can dive deeper into what’s available. This newest tweak supports veterans by helping them find results tailored to match their existing strengths.

According to a Google spokesperson, veterans who have tested the service inside and outside of the company say it’s effective, turning up wanted ads that are not always the most obvious candidates. They also appreciate that it takes into account their soft skills, like high levels of adaptability or dedication to teamwork, picked up running missions in conflict zones or other posts.

A screenshot of Google's new jobs for veterans search tool
Google will now decode a military designation like “32E3G.”
Image: Courtesy Google

If Google’s new search function works, it could chip away at high turnover rates, another issue among veterans in private companies, according to the public radio show MarketPlace. It’s a problem that’s at least partly attributable to applicants finding themselves in the wrong job to begin with.

Ironically, some argue, this particular problem may have been fed by the spate of new programs created to hire veterans at major firms, including Google, Amazon, and Facebook, and at banks like Goldman Sachs. Mark Brenner, CEO of the Los Angeles nonprofit Veterans Career XChange recently told MarketPlace that the firms were too indiscriminate in their placements. “They’re looking more into quantity than they are into quality,” he said.

Maybe the algorithms will be more precise strategists.