Graham Plaster

culture + diplomacy + ethics + smart power + technology + humanities + entrepreneurship + philosophy

How to [correctly] build a veteran recruitment program

It has been a pleasure over the past few years to refer highly qualified veterans to some exciting companies and job opportunities.  Following my own transition out of the military, I wrote an eBook with some advice on professional networking for national security work.  Subsequently, I have been asked on several occasions how I would formalize a veteran recruitment program for a company looking to hire highly competitive veterans.  If your company is interested, I would be happy to discuss it, but as a preview, here are my top 10 tips for putting a program in place:

  1. Don’t Isolate – the best way to ensure you are picking the cream of the crop is to hire based on real market competition.  Rather than hosting a veterans only hiring event, keep it open or invite veterans to meet your company at an open event. This is good for you and good for them because it helps them to transition culturally and helps you to see them alongside non-veteran competitors.
  2. Don’t Stoop – veterans were recruited to serve in a worthy cause.  They want to be recruited to another worthy cause, not thrown a bone.  Show your recruiters how your company values line up with military core values, and communicate this in your recruiting efforts.  You will end up with the kind of employees that reinforce your brand and who are always faithful to the company values.
  3. Don’t Assume – the military is a large bureaucracy, but you may be surprised to discover just how entrepreneurial and creative veterans can be.  Don’t get stuck in the stereotype that veterans are best suited for middle management or non-creative corporate positions.  In order to recruit creative, entrepreneurial veterans, you might want to start attending events like the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum or the Bunker.  Check out the podcast Entrepreneur on Fire – the host is a veteran!
  4. Create a Pipeline – veterans are familiar with programs that have a training period and a mentorship pipeline.  If your company doesn’t have something like this formalized yet, then hire a veteran to build it for you. Everyone (not just veterans) want upward mobility, and a program that clearly articulates this as a possibility is going to attract the best people.
  5. Be Reserve Friendly – there are laws that prohibit discriminating against drilling reservists, so be sure to avoid any appearance of that.  Some companies do an extremely good job of working with reservists to allow for drilling and annual training.  Your company can leverage this as part of your veteran recruitment program through word of mouth.  Additionally, reservists are able to nominate their companies for awards based on military-friendly policies.  If you treat your reservists well and they nominate you for an award, you can use that in your veteran recruitment program literature.
  6. Value Camaraderie – many veterans miss the camaraderie of the military after they transition to the private sector. This may be something you have been trying to build up in your company but were not sure how to reinforce. When you are hiring a veteran, explain to them that one of the things you value is the strong camaraderie of the military and that you want them to bring that aspect to your team.  You will be glad you did.
  7. Value Problem Solving – hard skills are important, and culture fit is maybe a close second place.  Both of these make up the 90% solution for what you need.  But veterans who are problem solvers often get pigeonholed as “jacks of all trades, masters of none”.  Problem solving should not be undervalued. Make sure your hiring process identifies and appropriately values this skill.
  8. Advertise Personally – veterans resonate with a personal call to a great mission.  Uncle Sam pointing at your chest saying, “I want you”, means something to them.  If you only advertise with generic job ads and job boards without adding the personal touch, you are essentially treating job seekers as numbers.  You won’t get your best people that way.  Send your recruiters out to socials to mingle with motivated job seekers.  Build up a word of mouth reputation as a company that really values veterans.
  9. Educate Vocationally – there may be an experience gap between the veteran’s military work and your company’s hard skills requirement.  If you can afford it, create a short vocational education program that transitioning veterans can do online as a pre-screener for working at your company.  If they show up to their interview having completed it, that should show you a little bit about their drive to gain the hard skills required at your company.
  10. Close the Culture Gap – there have been a number of studies over the past decade that indicate a growing cultural divide between those who have served in the military and those who haven’t.  Your company can play a role in veteran reintegration.  This is a public service and part of how you can support our national security, by being a link between those who serve in uniform and those who serve out of uniform.

If you would like to chat about any of these more – please leave a comment via LinkedIn

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