10 Success Factors for Military Recruitment

Despite best intentions, many organizations are failing to recruit and retain the nearly three million military personnel who have made the transition from military to civilian life and employment since 2001. Traditional resume and job matching strategies simply don’t work for veteran recruitment. Employers — particularly federal contractors who now must meet an annual OFCCP benchmark of 7 percent for protected veterans – want to increase their hiring of veterans. The problem is that they don’t know how.

To address this issue and offer pragmatic solutions, Chicago-based Society of Talent Acquisition and Recruitment (STAR Chicago) recently hosted a discussion and invited me to moderate. The panel included Erica Jeffries, director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs; Gordon Paisley, talent committee chair, United Airlines; Christine Hendrickson, senior counsel, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, and Len Harris, director of veterans programs at National Able Network.

The audience of over 50 HR and senior recruitment professionals also contributed their best practices for military recruitment. Many great ideas were shared; the following made our list of “top 10” success factors:

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  1. Be authentic. Organizations considering a formal military hiring program should do it for the right reasons; not to fill quotas or for PR value.
  2. Commitment needs to start at the top. As with any major initiative, senior level leadership buy-in is absolutely critical since this type of initiative requires investments in time and resources.
  3. Educate and actively involve hiring managers. They need to understand why it makes good business sense to hire veterans based on the experience they bring to the table.
  4. Make hiring managers accountable. Veteran hiring should be part of their performance goals.
  5. Articulate and communicate your rationale for the program. Build a business case for investment beyond compliance or “checking a box.”
  6. Dedicate resources. Establish a veteran Employee Resource Group to facilitate recruiting, onboarding, development, and retention of veterans.
  7. Relax the requirements. Rewrite “must have” job requirements in position postings to eliminate industry specific requirements that may unnecessarily discourage veterans from applying. Instead, focus on veterans’ transferable skills, competencies, and abilities.
  8. Align job openings with veterans’ interests. Rewrite job descriptions to appeal (without over-selling) to a veteran’s perspective and interests.
  9. Approach veteran recruiting like you would marketing: with a focus. Know your target audience, determine your target roles, and build an outreach strategy that specifically targets veterans possessing the transferable skills and abilities you desire. This will generate better hiring results and alignment with OFCCP regulations than national, broad sponsorships, job fairs, and/or online postings.
  10. Conduct high touch onboarding. This is critical for retention and needs to start pre-hire and ideally involve current employees who are also veterans.

If your organization is eager to hire veterans, incorporating these success factors into an overarching, systemic approach will increase your changes to better attract, hire, and retain veterans. It’s a great way to honor the commitment these service men and women have made and, at the same time, add great experienced talent to your workforce.

About the Author

Carl has spent the last 20 years helping employers from startups to global organizations optimize their talent practices, processes, technologies and strategies. A pioneer in encouraging employers to embrace online recruiting, Carl helps employers gain competitive business advantage by enabling them to compete more effectively in attracting, recruiting and retaining the best talent. He transforms outdated and inefficient systems, strategies and processes into leading-edge recruiting practices that fully support the ever-changing talent needs of their businesses.    

Carl founded and successfully ran Tiburon Group Inc, a talent consulting and recruiting company. After a decade, he sold the company to Capital H Group LLC. He joined TalentRISE in 2009 to grow the business revenues and manage key client relationships.

His passion for helping employers and job seekers connect effectively extends beyond work hours. He is an active volunteer and past board member of the Staffing Management Association of Chicago and serves on the Chicago Leadership Advisory Board for UpwardlyGlobal.org, helping immigrant professionals successfully navigate their U.S. job search. In 2010, the Chicago Area Minority Recruiters Association honored him with the prestigious “Staffing Management Consultant of the Year Award.”

Carl frequently speaks at industry events, trade shows and private corporate annual meetings on topics relevant to talent risk mitigation, recruiting and leading social media practices and trends. Carl is a graduate of Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, with a B.S. in Psychology.

  • Jason Cavness

    I just retired from the Army and I experienced this disconnect first hand. You provide some great advice on how to bridge the gap between recruiters/hiring managers and Veterans. I can’t tell you how many job descriptions I saw that had a “must have” requirement. Well it hard for most Veterans to have these requirements if they are only found in the business world.
    Another challenge is recruiters/hiring managers having no idea what we do in the military and most don’t even try to learn. For example, I was once told that I should apply for a lower level position than the one I did. The reasoning was that the position I applied for would have 5 direct reports. When I tried to explain that I would often be in charge of many more people than that while in the Army. I was told that in the business world direct reports would not just follow my orders as my soldiers did in the Army. To say this blew me away would be an understatement.
    Another issue is that most Veterans are having to take positions that are below their experience and expertise level.
    There is a lot of talent leaving the military and from my point of view who ever figures out how to recruit them will have an advantage.

    • Dimitris Dedes

      It is a wrong assumption that a recruiter must have hands on experience of the position he’s hiring for.A recruiter must know if a person is capable for the job without having even brief experience of a current cituation.Veterans must not lay a finger at the recruiting field.Their organisation value must be rewarded of course, but at the position they had already mastered.There is no such thing as promotion to a “higher” position for them specialists.The person that must have a brief (only) experience of the situation, is an “emotion administrator”, keeping employ’s will and labor focused, productive and not leaving the organisation, a diplomat for the personel, a bridge between the employ and the executive.