Hacking Veteran Recruitment – What You Need to Know

There is nothing more offensive than companies paying lip service to pander to their consumers. Therefore, as a military veteran, it truly irks me to see companies parade themselves as “veteran-friendly” when they are in-fact only using that term to add social value to their brand. Without doing the heavy lifting of engaging, hiring, and retaining highly qualified veteran talent, an organization is not genuinely veteran-friendly.

While this is a problem with multiple factors, there is something that we, as talent acquisition professionals, can do to champion and drive our organizations into a more competitive stance. The thoughts in this article will focus on U.S. service members, but the same principles can mostly be applied globally with different resources.

Why Should We Make the Effort?

Hiring veterans isn’t just about doing a service to those who have served and sacrificed; it is smart business. Not only can you potentially receive tax credits for hiring veterans (up to $9,600 each), but veterans also hold a variety of valuable skills and traits ingrained in them from the beginning of their military career that readily transfer to most civilian jobs.

  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Maintaining effectiveness in extremely stressful situations
  • Creative problem solving and extreme resourcefulness
  • Risk-management and sound decision-making skills
  • Resiliency and perseverance in the face of adversity
  • Ability to lead and develop team members
  • Holding themselves accountable for their actions and responsibilities
  • And so much more. . .

What Can We Do?

As sourcers and recruiters, we are the tip of the recruiting spear. We are the front-line warriors, sourcing and engaging with talent on the daily. With such a competitive market, where veteran unemployment is LOWER than national unemployment, we need to be ever-more creative in our efforts to source veteran talent. This includes using a variety of paid and unpaid resources, doing the hard research and genuinely understanding the veteran talent landscape.

Research Topics

Much of what we do involves research to understand the specific demographic we are targeting. Veterans are no different; we have our ways of communication, colloquialisms, and gathering points. It pays to understand our values and beliefs and to use that understanding in your engagement.

Differences in the branches – understanding each branch of the military and its overall role in the Department of Defense strategy will help you better understand some of the typical functions they might have. I’d recommend conducting some in-depth research to understand their missions, values, and beliefs as an organization, as those are ingrained in us from the very first day we serve, all the way through our departure from the military.

MOS Codes – a MOS code is a unique alphanumeric identifier that the Department of Defense uses to classify each job within the military. Each branch has its version of codes, so it can become quite confusing when looking across different branches. Knowing the structure of MOS codes will help you better distinguish what you see on a veteran’s resume (if they choose to include it).

Jobs for Veterans – Google – Go to www.google.com and type in “Jobs for Veterans.” The search results will populate a secondary search bar where you can enter a MOS code to identify jobs that might be a match. This isn’t an exact science, MOS translators typically aren’t the best but can give you a baseline for something to work from. You can use this as a tool for your research to understand some of the underlying hard-skills that veterans possess in certain positions.

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Common Terminology – the military LOVES acronyms, but they could very easily confuse an outsider. Spend some time and research some of the military acronyms so that you can understand what FOB, BN, BDE, etc. stand for. There are hundreds of different acronyms that we use to describe everything from systems and equipment to the types of units we serve in. Some of them are official acronyms, and some are cultural colloquialisms.

Differences between ranks and pay grades – If the MOS codes aren’t confusing enough, take some time to investigate the differences in ranks and pay grades across branches. The Army and USMC have similar titles for their paygrades and ranks, while the Air Force and Navy have some extreme differences. Understanding the difference between a 1SG and an MSG (different rank but same pay grade) will help you know some of their responsibilities and experiences during that period of their service.

Military Careers – One of the unique things about a career in the military is that nearly every assignment, every deployment, every training is selected and scheduled for you. For some, the promotions were automatically based on their time in service. This automation of employment progression is meant to ease the burden on the service-member and allow them to focus on serving and growing in their roles, but it robs them of the opportunity that their civilian peers receive to create a resume, market their skills, and land a job based on merit and accomplishments instead of a system telling them where to go (this is mainly a generalization, there are some competitive roles within the military that require building a resume-equivalent and going through a hiring board).

As a result, there are many resources out there to help veterans and service members write effective resumes and build a foundation for interviewing skills. One of the resources that I pledge my time to each month is Veterati, a peer to peer mentor network that allows veterans and their spouses to connect with veteran and civilian mentors aligned with their interests or that might be able to help them understand a business topic a little better. I spend time each month with veterans helping prepare their resume, fine-tune their job search strategy, and discuss interviewing skills that are key to their successful transition.

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)

Identifying and engaging with qualified veteran talent doesn’t require someone with decades of experience. It requires taking the time and making an effort to learn about the differences in those candidates, understanding their backgrounds, and being empathetic in your engagement. Don’t expect us to go easy on you just because your company is “veteran-friendly.” Be prepared to show us HOW your company is veteran-friendly. Demonstrate that your company legitimately values the unique and vibrant skillsets that we have acquired through our time in service. We are just as unique as any diverse group of candidates, and word of mouth travels quickly in our circles.

Michael is an Army Veteran who spent three years on active duty and two years in the Reserves. His professional civilian experience is centered in talent acquisition, talent sourcing, and using mass-email marketing techniques in candidate attraction and candidate engagement.

Michael has partnered with corporate recruiting teams from over one-hundred Fortune5000 companies to build and support their veteran hiring initiatives using a wide variety of employer branding, talent attraction, and talent sourcing strategies. He is extremely passionate about helping his fellow veterans in their transition back to the civilian life, as well as helping corporate partners better understand how to engage with such a talented and diverse candidate pool.

Michael is currently working at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where he is developing creative and unconventional sourcing strategies targeting educators in the K-12 Education field. He spends his free-time devising ways to implement unconventional tools into his sourcing strategies, as well as focusing on his personal and professional development through reading, researching, and networking. 

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