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May 4, 2011

One of the best places, often overlooked, when looking for candidates is the military.

Often times, a client or hiring manager will have specific needs for a skill set that can be found in a military environment. Sourcing within the ranks of seasoned military members can often lead to an entirely new language found on their resumes. There is a vast sea of well skilled and qualified candidates in the military culture, and not knowing where to search can lead to tremendous frustrations.

Setting aside the advantages and disadvantages of service members transitioning from the military, I’ll share some effective tips and ideas on how to reel in your specific skill sets. 


This is one of the most publicized items in the military. Many job boards use clearance levels as a searchable item, but when searching social sites, or areas without that sort function, using the “clearance” as a search word can yield a good starting point. As the clearance level required increases, the population of qualified candidates shrinks. Through time and repetition you will learn which job areas in the military require specific clearance levels and it will become an automatic part of your screening process.

Branch of Service

There are countless social networking groups populating the Internet that can be tapped to find military talent. LinkedIn, YahooGroups, MSNGroups, and Facebook are some of the common spots for military personnel to set up gathering points. There are a few ways to break down the types of social groups for military personnel.

The most common group breakout is by service branch. But, by digging deeper, social groups are formed around numerous things: job specialty or Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), being stationed onboard specific ships or units, alumni groups from ROTC or military academy educational institutions, and many others. Alumni groups are an outstanding way to get in touch with the skilled people you are looking for because of the tight bond that the members share with each other, and their willingness to share job-seeking information.

Job postings can, and often do, spread like wildfire though personal referrals amongst service members because of the wide social networks they have been exposed to. Due to the mobility of service members, the clustering of people in specific geographic areas, and the “togetherness” that they share in both living quarters and job priorities, they possess a very large social networking structure that is hard to replicate in most other industries. One of the most interesting observations to note is the willingness to share opportunities with each other. Contacting one military member for a position will likely yield numerous referrals because of the willingness to help each other in their transition out of uniform.

Job Specialties (MOS)

Military members are often identified by the job classification that they hold, or “billet” that they hold. While each branch of the service will have the same need for a specific skill set, they all have a different title associated with it – wreaking havoc on your searches. As an example, if you are looking for a logistician from the military . . .

  • In the Marine Corps they have a MOS code of 0401, 0402, 0431, 04xx, and are called logisticians, or embarkation officers, or assigned to Combat Service Support units.
  • In the Army, they use a numerical classification such as 90A, 91A, or 92A and are called transportation, quartermasters, or ordnance officers.
  • In the Navy, they are called Supply officers and are a part of the Supply Corps.
  • In the Air Force they have a numerical classification of 2X and are part of the Maintenance and Logistics community.

Every skill has a different MOS code associated with it and can easily be looked up online with minimal effort. The same job title can mean different skills across the different branches, which can lead you down the wrong path and into a bed of frustrations. As an example: a Quartermaster in the Navy is responsible for plotting the ship’s course; while a Quartermaster in the Army handles supply chain and logistics issues; while a Quartermaster in the Air Force and Marine Corps is simply someone that holds all the quarters and spare change for use in the vending machines.

Because of the general background and wide exposure to multiple skills a person may have, searches for skills may yield thousands upon thousands of hits. One way to identify candidates with specific skills is to not focus on the person and training, but to identify the types of units/organizations at which those people would be stationed. Again, using logisticians, they are often found in the S/G/J/N – 4 office (S/G/J/N representing different branches or levels; the 4 representing the numeric designator to that area of responsibility), or in Maintenance Battalions (Army), or Logistics Groups (USMC), or Supply Corps (Navy). Then, if you are constrained by locations, start looking for military units located in your search area. Identify the type of unit you are looking for and talk to the people associated with that base or unit. Nearly every military installation has a Family Service Center that is a central point for transitioning military members to attend classes on their transition or talk with career counselors about options outside of the military.

There are many ways to skin a cat. Sourcing viable candidates from the military requires patience and creativity to narrow the search terms. With the standardized training that military personnel receive, and the similarity of jobs across the globe in specific skill fields – once you have found your target area, close in and fire for effect

Please leave a comment below if you are interested in learning more or need help in “translating” military resumes, or even if you just want advice on how to hone your searches, I would be delighted to provide any help I can and I am sure there are others in the sourcing community who will contribute here as well!

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