At the start of the hiring process, it’s not unusual for recruiters to get a laundry list of characteristics a client is looking for in the ideal candidate. And the list can be daunting. They should be competitive but humble, a self-starter who loves teamwork, a leader that enjoys carving their own path and taking direction from others—I could go on. It can start to feel like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack or even a unicorn.
If this sounds familiar to you as a recruiter or a hiring manager, I’m going to clue you in on my favorite recruiting hack: Stop looking for a unicorn, and start looking for a female veteran.
There are few opportunities more fertile with leadership and teamwork training than branches of the military. And while I’m not the first to point out the value of hiring veterans, I’d posit that female veterans, in particular, are the ideal candidates when it comes to finding dedicated, conscientious, and adaptable hires.
A unique training ground
First, let me say that any veteran in your candidate pool is worthy of your consideration. On the whole, veterans have been put through a rigorous and unique crucible that is hard to replicate in the civilian world. We are trained to work well under pressure and be solution oriented. We are taught to be selfless and courageous. We are conditioned to give more than is asked, pay attention to detail, think about the greater good and respond well to coaching.
In fact, when you commit to service in the military, you are committing to leadership and to being challenged in a way that few people can truly understand. And for better or worse, there are challenges and opportunities that female veterans face throughout their service that will shape them into unique and exemplary teammates both in the military and beyond.
A cut above
It’s no secret to women in business that the playing field favors their male colleagues, and it shouldn’t come as a shock that our armed services are male-dominated. When I was a Marine, fewer than 10 percent of my colleagues were female, and that number hasn’t changed much since I was discharged.
While I’m not here to debate gender biases, I believe—in part, because I’ve seen firsthand—that when women are in the minority, they have no choice but to earn their male colleagues’ respect, rising to the occasion by not just competing with their colleagues but edging them out.
Like it or not, the standards have been higher for female veterans than their male counterparts throughout their careers. Female veterans have to beat the standards to earn the trust and respect of their teams. So a female veteran isn’t going to shy away from adversity. In fact, she’ll probably welcome it.
And while women in the military might not necessarily be able to exert control over their teams with a style that resembles the Hollywood stereotype of a drill sergeant—all brute strength and aggression—female officers are adept at finding their own way of winning over teams, because they’ve had to be creative problem solvers. They know how to leverage their brainpower and emotional I.Q. They are quick to acknowledge, respect, and trust the expertise of their group to forge a team that can overcome any challenge.
Despite the stereotypes, female leadership styles are welcomed in the military. There’s space for a variety of leadership styles and personalities, in fact. So female officers often thrive when given the opportunity, further preparing them for management when they are discharged.
Which is why the next time an impossible candidate request crosses your desk, I challenge you to consider a female veteran. I guarantee she won’t disappoint.
Are you a veteran—whether male or female? Share your stories of how military training left you better prepared for your civilian career in the comments below.
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