Experience, personality and upbringing play a larger role in hiring decisions than a particular military background or ranking.

In my experience as a Military Recruiter for the Fortune 1000, daily I am faced with the challenge of recommending the best military profile to corporate clients.  Who’s better?  The bottom line is that it depends on the employer, position and company. Some firms want to hire a particular group, rank or branch of service (for instance, Navy Nukes, Fighter Pilots, etc.).  However, 99% of the time, clients come to learn that it’s a military candidate’s unique experiences, upbringing and personality that matter most.

Junior Military Officers (JMOs) are degreed leaders with the spark and spunkiness that corporate America loves in Operations, Sales, Engineering and other roles.  I tell clients to picture the collegiate athlete with an academic scholarship, who leads and raises the bar for the workplace.  The other profile is the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs). They have the same qualities you get in JMOs but have more technical abilities and life experiences.  While NCOs tend to be older than JMOs, in some roles, increased life experience is an advantage.

My clients tend to start with stereotypes about JMOs and NCOs, yet the irony is they often hire the profile they didn’t expect to pursue. For example, I work with a Fortune 100 company whose team is almost all former JMOs. They normally hired JMOs for technical acumen, schooling and engineering experience, similar to their own.  Early on we broke this mold after I introduced an Air Force NCO whose experience bridged the gap between R&D, Manufacturing and Customer Field Services.  Seven years later, he’s driving business success for America’s largest agricultural equipment company and leads a team that includes civilians, Officers and other NCOs.

Conversely some employers preferred NCOs because they thought their hires should be former blue collar types, similar to many NCOs.  A Fortune 150 firm I work with focused on NCO hiring exclusively until 2015.  Through mutual trust they realized JMOs we presented to them possess these same “salt of the earth” traits they historically only found in NCOs.  Since then, this well known paper and packaging giant has now made four times as many JMO hires as NCOs.

To close the debate on JMO vs NCO – honestly one type is not better than the other.  Companies need to be open to reviewing and hiring both.  In my eighteen years in corporate America and nine years working in military headhunting, I’ve found an individual’s experiences, upbringing and personality, not rank, make them an ideal military hire for corporate America.

Have you hired military Officers and NCOs based on background, rank or branch before? Share your experiences with us below.