Sourcing Beyond the Resume – Military Talent

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Nov 28, 2011

I spent the last week in the north woods of Wisconsin deer hunting — sitting in a tree, watching, waiting, hoping my preparations were done right, hoping I was in the right spot. I spent the week without a 3G signal on my cell phone. My phone was suddenly just a phone – no news feeds, no Internet, no emails.  Like a primitive caveman, all I had was the single function of dialing and receiving calls.  So of course, my mind started to wander and I had time to reflect and compare how very similar hunting and sourcing really are.  And since there were no emails, text messages, or social media invitations to distract me, I had time to think about methodology for hours on end. I thought about past searches, future searches, tools I would like to create and build in hopes of saving time down the road, and how all that technology that I didn’t have access to could help me. I worked a little bit, but I did it old school style with a phone conversation and a pen and paper to jot notes down on. A little after mid-week it hit me that no matter how much technology we have at our fingertips, the most precious piece of sourcing is connecting with the candidate, talking with them, and understanding them.

As sourcers, when taking on a project or effort we are often given a list of specific requirements that the ideal candidate will possess. With that, our search begins and we hit the proverbial pavement armed with our list of wants and needs looking for that person and conducting our searches with keywords, Boolean strings, and all the tools we’ve developed over the years. We burn through resume after resume and profile after profile flipping them into folders and buckets based on whether or not the right word or phrase is on that resume. Did you know there’s a whole population of viable candidates that get passed by because they don’t show up in your keyword search?

Yes – this candidate population is in the military.

One of the biggest challenges the military member faces in their transition to corporate America is not just having their resume seen by someone, but having that someone understand who they are. For someone without at least a small working knowledge of the military, seeing that resume could be confusing, intimidating, puzzling, or all three combined. Rather than putting that resume in the “other” pile, pick up the phone and take that next step to learn more about the person on the other side of that resume – you just might find what you’ve been looking for.

Due to the nature of the military and its jobs and duties that people fill, many resumes look alike. That’s also one of the best parts – you know you can take a Logistician from the east coast and put them on the west coast and they can do the job and be effective with no down time. But take a second look at the resume — rather than looking for keywords and that 4-week certification course completion, look at the big picture. Did this person get their degree; have they shown progression in their career by taking additional coursework; do they have some semblance of a common skill set to what you are looking for? When you pick up the phone and start that conversation, rather than going down the checklist of what you are looking for, just have a conversation; learn about the candidate, learn about the “whole person,” and see if there is a way it might work out.

One of the most positive attributes to the military member seeking their next career is that they are “teachable.” These are individuals that on day one didn’t know how to fly a plane, drive a tank, or reassemble an M-16 service rifle — but they were taught, they learned, and were then able to execute. They possess a motivation to learn and adapt, and find a way to get the job done and done well. The downside to their transition is that these abilities can’t be quantified on a resume for you to review. Given that most careers in corporate America don’t have a 100% direct, immediate translation to a position in the military, you have to use a bit of gut instinct in matching the candidate to a job.  These transitioning military job seekers have developed the ability to learn while in uniform.  All too often in our recruiting and hiring efforts, the decision makers are looking for someone that can do a task today – without thinking that in six weeks or six months, that set of skills may become obsolete or secondary.  Bringing a candidate to the table who can tackle the tasks today as well as constantly develop and learn for the future for him or herself provides a lot more value in that single hire.  Keep the resume. Pick up the phone and take the next step.

Once sourced and screened, presenting these candidates to the hiring manager may take a bit of creativity in packaging. Some advice for doing this: don’t sell them on the candidate’s past skills — sell them on their future potential. Present hiring this particular candidate as an opportunity to hire on potential, which is rare in today’s market. When that hiring manager hires a military member, they are betting on the future. They are betting that the person they hire today and take a little bit of time to mentor and train and acclimate to their business culture will, in the next year, be a better employee than if they had hired someone from a business competitor. And most likely, at a cheaper cost.

When you’re trudging through those resumes and find that transitioning service member, take that time to pick up the phone and learn more. Then take the time to step back from your search criteria and ask yourself the question, “They don’t have it now, but could they learn it quickly?” It is a tremendous investment from both you and the hiring manager. The company gets a motivated employee and future leader within that organization, and the sourcer opens up an entirely new network of referrals from that candidate.

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