Sourcing Military Talent – Basic Training In Recruitment Do’s and Don’ts

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Jul 1, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Increasingly, organizations are committing to hire veterans, whether because it is the right thing to do, or because veterans are an invaluable source of talent or because, as a government contractor, they must comply with a 6.9% hiring benchmark. Or the effort to hire veterans may stem from a combination of all three of these reasons.

Regardless of any business’s motivations, good intentions do not guarantee results. Many of these organizations fail to hire veterans (and/or subsequently retain them) because they rely on “traditional” recruitment strategies and practices, while hoping for different results. Organizations often WANT or need to hire veterans; they just don’t know HOW.

Based on our work in this area, we share several “do’s” – as well as a couple of “dont’s” – below that will lay the groundwork for a good strategy for military recruitment.



Develop a targeted strategy.  First, approach veteran recruiting like you would any other highly specialized role: 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 better alignment with OFCCP regulations than a costly, national “shotgun” approach with broad sponsorships, job fairs and/or online postings.

In fact, before you get started, have a laser-focused military recruitment strategy in place. Knowing, for instance, what branch, department, and roles in the military have the highest concentration of people with the transferrable skills you desire will make sourcing the desired talent so much easier. In addition, knowing the veteran populations (by service branch and specialization) targeted by the various veteran job fairs and job board vendors will go a long way to increasing your chances of making a veteran hire while reducing your recruiting expenses over the long term.


Do think like a veteran job candidate.  At the individual candidate level, know your target candidate profile by, again, doing your homework prior to your first attempt at outreach. Align job openings with veterans’ interests. Rewrite job descriptions to appeal (without over-selling) to a veteran’s perspective and interests. Understanding the culture, the mindset and the language of military veterans is critical. Don’t overlook how these characteristics will impact the messages you use for recruitment for your open positions, whether online, on the phone or in person. Translate and note specific transferable skills/experience desired for the job and link them to examples of military roles or experiences that would be acceptable when communicating civilian job requirements in your job posting opportunity descriptions.



Desired Experience / Job Requirements

2 or more years of industry experience or having achieved the military rank of E-5 or O-3 OR similar experience in a role where you managing P&L budgets of $10M and lead teams of 10 or more people


Do 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.



 “Must have 4 years experience in the banking industry” – could be rewritten as “prefer 4 or more years experience working in a financial cash management or financial management leadership role” 


Do tap into referral sources.  Military veterans share a camaraderie not typically seen in the civilian workforce. There is a veritable goldmine of referrals that can be tapped into using both high and low-tech communications. Use these networks to promote your opportunities and get referrals. The National Guard and Reservists have talent populations and referral networks who possess both military and civilian job experience so they should be among your top sources to consider.


Understand sourcing compliance requirements.  Ensuring compliance with new OFCCP VEVRAA requirements should be elevated to the “must do” list from the “to do” list. Sourcers need to know and adhere to the sometimes complex reporting requirements so be sure that your team has a basic grounding in ALL of the reporting requirements.



Inadvertently send messages that turn off veteran talent.  There are many things that a recruiter or a hiring manager may do during the recruiting/sourcing process to make it extremely difficult to recruit a veteran. In particular, be authentic. Organizations considering a formal military hiring program should do it for the right reasons; not to fill quotas or for PR value.  So, clearly articulate and communicate your rationale for the program. Build a business case for investment beyond compliance or “checking a box.”


Don’t assume that everyone is on the same page.  Senior leadership, hiring managers, HR, and your recruiters should all be on the same page with regard to your organization’s commitment and desire to recruit and hire veteran talent. Be sure to formally and regularly communicate your hiring goals, successes and areas for improvement so everyone can do their part towards advancing closer towards your goals. Train anyone who is involved in the recruiting and hiring process on veteran recruiting, interviewing and on-boarding tips and techniques so that there is consistency in the interpretation of a veteran’s resume, experiences and their relevant fit with your employment opportunities.


Don’t exclude veteran employees from helping you recruit and retain veterans.  Your existing employees are your greatest brand ambassadors. Veterans choose to “be of service” when they volunteer for the military so they will gladly sign up for any opportunity to help your recruiting team and hiring managers recruit, interview, hire and on-board more veterans into the organization.


Finally, don’t rely on conventional techniques.
Don’t assume that what works for sourcing with other talent pools will work with veterans.  If what you are doing today is not working, it is probably because you are doing just that and you need to take a step back and revise your strategies and approach if you want different results in the future.

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 experienced talent to your workforce.

For more information on the tailored military recruiting and consulting solutions, TalentRISE offers, click this LINK to learn more.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.