It sounds simple. You and your company have decided to follow the lead of other Fortune 50 companies and hire U.S. military veterans. It makes business sense, patriotic sense, and may generate some good PR.
So, you place an opening on a job board and highlight your desire to hire vets. But your results don’t meet your expectations. You wonder if you’ve made the wrong decision. Maybe vets aren’t interested in working outside of the military or maybe they don’t have the skill sets you seek in your opening. Is it time to reconsider?
NO. As my colleague Jim Lose recently wrote in his blog, hiring veterans isn’t just patriotic; it makes great business sense. You’ve made the right strategic decision. Now you need to improve your tactics.
As someone who’s worked for the military, married into the military, and recruits military candidates, here are five key tactics to employ when hiring veterans.
TACTIC #1: THEY ARE ACTIVE—NOT PASSIVE—CANDIDATES
My civilian recruiting colleagues consistently communicate to employers that the clear majority of candidates they’re seeking are “passive” candidates, not actively engaged in a job search until they stumble upon what may be the right opportunity. They have a job, are often very successful at it, and are not posting resumes to job boards.
Veterans are very different. They know the exact date when their commission ends and they need to walk out of military employment and directly into civilian employment to continue to support their families. There is an urgency to their job search. Understand that urgency and act quickly to effectively recruit veterans.
TACTIC #2: THEY’RE WELL CONNECTED
The finest universities in the world often tout their alumni connections as a powerful reason to attend their schools. Those networks are invaluable after graduation, providing a supportive infrastructure for finding their calling and thriving in their careers. Count the military academies, and the military network, among those institutions.
Veterans are connected. They’ve been doing their homework. They’ve talked to their colleagues in multiple industries. And, like their Millennial peers, they know which companies are attractive and which are not worthy of their time. They know for whom they want to work and are ready to engage.
As the job market heats up, employers need to actively recruit military candidates. A passive approach never works in the service and it won’t work with veterans actively looking to leave it.
TACTIC #3: THEY’RE ANXIOUS AND THEY NEED STABILITY
The veterans we place at Lucas Group are successful professionals. They’ve managed large numbers of people, worked in highly team-oriented environments, handled adversity, and have been rewarded for results—not processes.
And to the surprise of many, they’ve been paid well for their work. They’ve also received benefits like subsidized housing, per diems, educational incentives, and family-based benefits. They’ve been very secure in their military environment and that bubble of security is about to burst wide open. These Type A personalities are suddenly experiencing a high degree of insecurity stepping through the military-to-civilian transition and (often) bringing their families with them.
Address that anxiety throughout the recruiting and onboarding process.
TACTIC #4: RECRUITING DOESN’T END WITH THE INTERVIEW
Interviews are important. But there is so much more to military recruiting than the interview. Onboarding, training, and mentoring are critical elements of differentiation and important for being credible with veterans. If your company has a good training pipeline for vets, they’ll know it. But if you’re just looking to fulfill a hiring quota and generate a little positive PR—with no real transition plan, mentorship program, or follow-through—you’re significantly behind your competitors.
An important flash point that I’ve discovered in placing vets is the site visit. They need more than a guided tour and haphazard conversations with whomever happens to be around. They need structure, purpose, and engagement with some of your best, especially if those people are veterans themselves. Far too often, I’ve heard about site visits where vets engaged with unhappy employees and it changed their entire attitude about the company. It’s an instant turn-off for veterans who are seeking familiar environs, security, and engagement. Their families depend upon them and they need support in making that transition. Make sure your site visit delivers.
TACTIC #5: SPEED MATTERS
We start advancing candidates roughly three months before their discharge and many of our candidates receive multiple offers within that timeframe. Understand this and don’t hesitate to hire great talent with due speed. While veterans may have been paid well, money isn’t always their top motivation. If someone beats you with an offer, a larger offer from you may come too late in the process. For vets, a bird in the hand is often more important than a promise of more money. Move with speed and don’t play the negotiation game. Make a credible offer first, and keep your competitors on the defensive.
The business world has evolved appreciably when it comes to hiring U.S. veterans. It’s a point of pride and a product of success. But vets bring distinctive challenges and opportunities to the recruiting process. Employ these tactics and your ability to compete for top military talent will improve demonstrably.
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