5 Ways to Recruit Former Military Personnel

John Krautzel
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Military personnel are trained to overcome obstacles and bring an industrious mentality to their work, but they are not always prepared for a seamless transition back into civilian life. Even though military veterans often embody the qualities of leadership and perseverance, recruiters might easily overlook these transferable skills if they don't use an effective recruitment strategy. Use military-oriented networks to connect with top talent, and tailor your recruitment language to reflect the mindsets of men and women who crave a challenge.

1. Commit to a Recruiting Initiative

In the 2014 Veterans Talent Index survey, less than 45 percent of employers participated in recruiting events for veterans, while 68 percent admitted they did not have retention programs for veteran employees.

Military personnel often have different job-search priorities than civilians, especially if they are midway through a transition from active duty. Veterans may be stationed outside the country or disinterested in jobs without training or advancement opportunities. They might also have disabilities or lack familiarity with changing employment trends. Businesses should take the initiative to develop military-specific recruiting programs that address these issues.

Recruiters can ask for recommendations from existing veteran employees or use military-oriented career networks to search for candidates. Advertise your recruitment goals through veteran service organizations, military job fairs, trade organizations or American Job Center locations. Extend your outreach efforts to disability organizations to find veterans you might overlook in a broad search. For example, defense company BAE Systems developed the Warrior Integration Program to recruit wounded veterans.

2. Adopt Military Language

Learn common military codes, acronyms or general military lingo so you can effectively market the features of each job position. Improve your company's chances of finding relevant resumes by understanding how titles and codes relate to a veteran's experience and skills. Similar to traditional recruitment, leveraging the right keywords can make your organization more attractive to military personnel and help them determine whether their qualifications are compatible.

Make military values a recurring theme in your job postings and hiring materials, says Lisa Rosser, a leading veteran recruiter and former service woman. Rosser advises recruiters to emphasize a company's superior strategies and accomplishments to attract service members who desire challenging work with an elite company.

Rosser also identifies a community-oriented workplace as a prime selling point for former military personnel. If you value camaraderie and teamwork, make sure you convey those qualities through your website and job postings. Mention the type of policies you use to foster a family atmosphere.

3. Promote Career Paths, Not Jobs

Less than 50 percent of VTI report respondents were concerned about hiring veterans, and 27 percent of employers with reservations were most concerned about how military skills translate to corporate jobs. Skill-building is a constant feature of any military role, and service members are trained to quickly adapt to new environments. Be prepared to accommodate a learning curve, and recognize that many veterans adjust easily when you demonstrate how their new duties rely on skills they already have.

Transitioning service members are partial to companies where they can learn, grow and advance, says Rosser. Highlight the steps your company takes to help veterans strengthen their careers, especially if you offer tuition reimbursement or continuing education opportunities. Outline your training programs, and stress your interest in advancing employees from entry-level positions to management roles.

4. Nurture Transitioning Service Members

Start communicating with military personnel in the early stages of a transition, which may take six months to a year to complete. Find out the priorities, skills and separation timeline of different recruits, and build an up-to-date network of hirable talent before your positions needs to be filled.

Detailed profiling is equally useful when recruiting active veterans. For example, JPMorgan Chase established a dedicated military recruiting team that responds to applicants within five days. The company conducts regional searches to pinpoint cross-compatibility with different roles based on the applicant's skills and experience. The program helps the company by matching candidates with positions in which they are most likely to perform well.

5. Use Military-Friendly Branding

Successful recruiters demonstrate a track record of supporting service members. Major companies, such as Disney, Walmart, Amazon and Microsoft, have an Internet presence dedicated to their recruitment efforts, and smaller organizations should follow their lead.

Promote your business as a place where former military personnel can find meaningful work. Tell a compelling story of how your service or product improves conditions for the user or has a significant impact on the public.

Use your current veteran employees as brand ambassadors. Feature service members in your marketing materials, emphasizing how they made smooth transitions to civilian life or found a rewarding career path. Create military-oriented promotional materials, such as pens, hats or buttons.

Roughly 250,000 military personnel leave the armed forces each year, and you can build a skilled, dedicated workforce by tapping into this diverse population. Focus on creating a recruitment pipeline that makes it easy for service members to learn about your company, and market the distinct benefits that make your business a good fit for veterans who are transitioning into their next career phase.

Photo Courtesy of Pennsylvania National Guard at Flickr.com


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  • William Browning
    William Browning

    I believe one good way to have a military-friendly company is to bring an expert consultant on board to help recruit more members of the military for a company. Places with a large military presence, such as Texas, Washington D.C. and California, would benefit the most from this. Surely there are consulting firms all over the country that can help businesses brand themselves as military-friendly, especially with so many veterans leaving the service in the next few years. Military vets are some of the best people companies can hire due to their dedication, ability to get things done and their critical thinking skills.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks again for the comments. There are many sites dedicated to helping military members translate military lingo into civilian speak. For example O*Net or military.com MOS translator to name a few. The veteran just needs to take the time to do this instead of infusing their resume with lingo that is more than likely not going to get past the gate keeper. @Erin times are changing quickly and there is a definite movement out there to have the laws changed so that veterans can have their service animals at work. But not only in the work environment but in all walks of life - the law is trying to be changed to accommodate service animals. I am happy to see that the laws are changing and also that the public is now aware of what these heroes face when they return home. In the past all of this would have been hidden - with the service member put away in a home or something - or even becoming homeless because of PTSD. Truly happy to see that it is getting the attention it deserves.

  • Erin Jean
    Erin Jean

    Is there any way a business could better accommodate veterans with PTSD and/or service animals? This can be a tumultuous problem but the normalcy of a career can often help a veteran to cope.


    Can you provide some examples of how to adopt military language? I can see how this could be appealing to veterans you are trying to recruit. I think another good suggestion would be to use the language that the military uses in describing skill sets. This could ensure that veterans know they are qualified for the jobs.

  • Lorri Cotton
    Lorri Cotton

    I agree with the need for programs to re-integrate returning veterans. I read the comment below from Jacob T and I am quite shocked. How is creating a recruiting scheme for veterans part of a PR campaign? I didn't see anything in the artifcle that even suggested that any of this is publicized. I only saw ideas to make it better for returning vets. I agree, especially, with the need to incorporate military equivalents into job descriptions. It will aid in the ability of the veteran to correllate private career skills with their military skills. If many employers knew how to incorporate this language into job posts, they may be surprised at the quality of employee they can get from a returning veteran.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    This article makes a lot of good points about how best to bring in qualified military personnel to fill vacancies, but using veterans and creating aggressive marketing campaigns for recruitment seems more like a PR move than a quality hiring practice. When I see companies that are telling the rest of us how great they are to veterans with marketing materials, I feel like that is actually advertising directed at the general public more than a recruiting tactic for veterans. I don't know if Wal-Mart actually tries to hire veterans (or what veteran would want to work for them) but every time I see a military themed ad it feels like Wal-Mart trying really hard to tell me how great they are no, not the veterans.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    @Abbey I have a background in government contracting, and I agree with the article about the importance of incorporating military language into recruiting materials. Former military have niche skill sets that can translate into the civilian workforce. But job seekers with military background may not know how they can use these skills if companies don't recruit using this language. It pays off to understand which candidates have which potential skills because you can match individuals with appropriate positions without giving overall preference to one group or another.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for your comments. @Erin thanks for telling us about Disney. It is true that they offer so much more to veterans and there is an even several lodges there that cater strictly to military members. I know that offends some people but I always loved that Disney did that as a thank you. @Abbey it is true that some people might be offended when a company makes a push for military members and that they advertise that they are doing it. A lot of backlash when Walmart did it a few years ago. No company wants to slight non-military but I am guessing that they are required to have a certain percentage of employees who are veterans just like they are supposed to hire so many ethnics groups as well as so many women. Some might think that it's discrimination but, for the most part, the general public is behind the companies all the way.

  • Erin H.
    Erin H.

    As a former Disney Cast Member, I know that they do indeed recruit former military personnel and support military families within the organization as much as they can. I like the author's suggestion of promoting skill building and career paths as opposed to just working at a job. I think that we all strive to achieve more and companies that use this as motivation touch on personal success and professional success.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    I understand the need to support our veterans, but I also know that some people feel slighted by companies that seek so desperately to hire former military members. How does a company strike the right balance between veterans and civilians without offending one group or the other? Should we ignore qualifications to give veterans preference? Doesn't this open the door for feelings of discrimination?

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    I love the idea of assigning veterans as brand ambassadors. I know from my experience as a teacher that my students put more stock in what their peers have to say. Veterans who are satisfied and fulfilled by what a company has to offer can naturally market and recruit to their peers or fellow veterans.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Kellen thanks for that. I have to agree that I felt it was unfair when Walmart did that huge push for veterans. We received a lot of comments from job seekers about not even wanting to apply to Walmart because of it. It was truly discrimination. But, on the flip side, we heard from veterans who applied and didn't get hired because of.... name it: age, location, qualifications and so on. You are right that companies should strive to blend the veterans in with those who did not serve. Makes for a more rounded workforce.

  • Kellen P.
    Kellen P.

    I agree with Nancy that a company (like Walmart) needs to be careful not to "pander" to veterans. The general public may feel like they are less likely to find employment because they don't have any military experience. The best outcome for everyone is that "blending" of military and non-military. In the U.S., the military is revered and considered to be elite. This can lead to tricky situations for hiring managers, who may feel like it's their patriotic duty to hire veterans.

  • Kellen P.
    Kellen P.

    It's a difficult situation, blending military and non-military workers. It would be valuable to teach your non-military workers about PTSD, for example, but it would be difficult to do without making your military workers feel like an "other" that needs examining. It could prove alienating.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. Military lingo is almost a language unto itself. It is better for the former military to concentrate on and learn the civilian lingo instead. @Katharine trying to infuse a job description with military lingo probably would be discriminatory since only military members would understand. A company can't discriminate against a non-military member in their hiring unless they are advertising only for military - and even then they would leave themselves open to lawsuits. Last year or the year before, Walmart made a big push for former military and it wasn't received very well by the general public. @Jay I don't think that training would be a good idea, either. When a person leaves from the military, their first order of business is to learn how to merge into society outside of the military society. It's truly a culture shock. But, they don't want to be singled out once they get hired by a company. They want to blend - to become part of the team. Nice thoughts though.

  • Katharine M.
    Katharine M.

    Is there a risk that infusing job descriptions with military lingo will discourage/deter qualified applicants who don't have a military background and therefore don't understand what the job description is saying?

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    Could companies design training courses to help current non-military employees embrace and accept their current/new military colleagues? It could include topics like PTSD (myths, facts, way to support people with PTSD etc.) and a basic military lingo breakdown. Would a training course of this nature be legal and sensible, or would it be considered discriminatory somehow?

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