How Civilian TA Pros Can Better Recruit Military Talent [Veteran Recruiting Webinar Transcript]

How Civilian TA Pros Can Better Recruit Military Talent [Veteran Recruiting Webinar Transcript]

Veteran Recruiting Webinar Transcript - "How Civilian TA Pros Can Better Recruit Military Talent" 


[watch the full webinar here]

Emily Tanner: [00:00:00] Welcome to this #RecruiticsEDU session. #RecruiticsEDU is a live webinar series that helps educate and inform the recruitment marketing, and talent acquisition space. In this particular webinar, we're hosting a panel of experts, as you can see, and we're excited to jump in.

So, we're going to cover a variety of topics on the webinar. As a quick agenda, we're going to hit introductions, of course, and why employers should recruit veterans, translating skills in the workplace, decreasing biases and misconceptions, and best practices for veteran recruiting. And then, of course, Q&A at the end.

We probably could speak to each of those for an hour, but we're going to do our best to stay on time and hit these high-level topics that you all have shown interest in during the registration process.

So we're going to do introductions first. I am Emily Tanner, VP of Marketing at Recruitics. And if you don't know who Recruitics is, we're a data-centric recruitment marketing agency. We make it easy for the world's leading brands to attract and hire top talent.

Now I'm going to kick it off to Evan Guzman of AliroVets to introduce himself.

Evan Guzman: [00:01:51] Hi everyone. Evan Guzman here. I'm the Chief Veteran Advocate for AliroVets. Prior to joining the AliroVets team, I was Global Head of Military Programs and Veteran Affairs for Verizon. I'm very happy to be here with all of you.

Julie Sowash: [00:02:06] Hi everyone. I'm Julie Sowash. I am the Executive Director of Disability Solutions. We help companies hire people with disabilities, including a lot of veterans with disabilities. I'm also a military spouse, and I am the cohost of a podcast called Crazy and the King. I'm happy to be here.

Jasen Williams: [00:02:23] Hi everybody. I'm Jasen Williams. I'm currently the Senior Vice President of Growth and Strategy for RecruitMilitary, Bradley Morris, and MBA Veterans. Thank you to Recruitics for putting this all together. I spent about 10 years in the Marine Corps. I started as a machine gunner, was a grunt, moved to sea duty and then embassy, and then married an Army Colonel's daughter and lived happily ever after here in Southern California. So, to the veterans and military spouses that are on the call -- hoorah -- we're certainly glad you're here. Emily, thanks for pulling this all together.

Emily Tanner: [00:02:57] Of course! We're so excited to have each of you on with us. And I think what's most interesting is that each of you bring a unique perspective, and I love that.

I did the math and I think there's over 75 years of industry and/or military experience between the four of us combined, so there's definitely something valuable here, haha!

We're going to go ahead and jump in. Again, I'm excited to speak with each of you today on this topic.

We're going to start with the section of why employers should recruit veterans and military talent. Obviously, that is a big topic of conversation, right? Let's look at the audience first. These stats come from a DOD demographic report. There's a vast market of military and veteran population out there -- 24 million people. It's important that we're considering this when it comes to recruiting. I mean, it's a huge talent pool of highly skilled and highly trained people, right? Employers should be tapping into that. Let's talk a little bit about why. Why should employers be looking to recruit military talent and veterans and their spouses. Which by the way, those numbers don't include military spouses, so it's an even bigger population that we are talking about.

I want to hand this off to Jason to start us off. What do you think here?

Jasen Williams: [00:04:14] You know, it's certainly no secret that companies depend on skilled and technically competent people to do what all of us need them to do.

I think our ability to expand is dependent on our ability to recruit and retain high quality talent - people who are capable of leading others to achieve strategic objectives that we have in our organizations. And that, I think, is something that's inherent to the military. There are three aspects that I found to be important over the years as we hire a people and retain people here at our own company and helping others do it themselves. One is the bonded-ness of the employees.

And what I mean by that is we're always putting them through screening and interviews and background checks, checking references, et cetera, and that's certainly something that's inherent within the military. We're accustomed to a high level of scrutiny and transparency and obviously, these are efforts to ensure high levels of personal integrity with all that we do. Sometimes we're operating in very small units.

On the other two notes, I think the authority and responsibility piece is an add. You know, veterans are motivated by clear lines of authority and responsibility. I think we work harder when we have the authority to use our own judgment. I think typically they exercise reasonable caution when they're held responsible for their actions.

On a final note, Evan, I like what you have to say about this, and Julie as well, I think of the commitment, the camaraderie and the teamwork. You know, it's kind of ingrained, so once they've started something and become a part of the team, even if things aren't necessarily going as desired. I think they're less likely to abandon a team because of their experience in the military, and typically they bond with their peers and try to work things out.

I hope that I communicated that clearly. Evan, I think you've had some good experiences in this regard, as well.

Evan Guzman: [00:06:21] Yeah! You know what's interesting is I look at this question and I flip it back to employers and say, "what do you look for in the candidates that you hire?"

And a lot of what I hear is "someone who can follow direction, can take the lead, can take an initiative, can work in teams independently." My response is always, "well, that's exactly what the military training is for. So why wouldn't you want to hire individuals who have already been preconditioned for success into your business?"

I keep it simple, and you'd be surprised how people just look at you like, "okay, thanks for clarifying that for me."

Julie Sowash: [00:06:56] I think it's always interesting that we're still having this conversation because I guess I know -- because I help veterans get hired and I'm married to a veteran -- how much value veterans bring to the table.

So, what Jasen and Evan have said is absolutely spot on. The risk mitigation, the leadership training, the ability to take on a new mission when they have a culture that they're a part of and that they can be engaged with. And, with all those things, I'll be the cheesy one here -- it's also an amazing privilege to be able to help someone move to the next step in their life or to grow in the next place in their life.

I like to get out of bed because I have a mission every day. And when you can think about the nuts and bolts of talent acquisition, but then also the personal impact that everyone in this room has on helping to change veterans' lives and helping to get them to that next place. That's amazing reason to do this.

Emily Tanner: [00:07:55] I totally agree. And it seems obvious, right? I mean, why wouldn't anyone want to recruit veterans and military talent? There's so many good qualities in that talent, but it is a question that comes up all the time and it's something that is constantly being discussed.

And Jason, you said something that leads right into the next question. There's maybe a lower likeliness to abandon a team once they're part of it. And that is being found in studies.

For instance, this study is from Orion Talent and it shows that acceptance rates and retention rates are possibly higher with veterans than they are with civilians.

So, Evan, why do you think that is?

Evan Guzman: [00:08:36] You know, I think it varies and I think I've seen improvements in how companies engage with the military community and what they're communicating as far as career opportunities, but I must say that when you're transitioning out of the military and you've got a family to support, you know, you're probably going to accept the best offer you can get in the market, being that it's very competitive.

However, when it comes to the retention rates, that is what I've seen to be very compelling. We've hired veterans in different roles and service members tend to thrive in jobs where they're challenged constantly and solving problems. So, if they're able to assimilate into an environment that they're used to, which is sort of controlled chaos for the most part, and learning to do different things, I think that the resiliency plays a key role. Their ability to kind of find a solution to get to an outcome that's desired versus just giving up, I think all contribute or attributes that lead to better retention for the military community.

But the key is you need to keep them engaged, because there are reports that say that with service members, while the unemployment rate looks good, the under-employment is still high, which basically means that they feel they're not being used their full potential.

Jasen, given the work that you've done, I'd be curious to get your perspective on what you think here, why veterans do stay longer in addition to, or keep me honest and to what I just shared.

Jasen Williams: [00:10:08] Sure. And I think I'd like to speak first to the acceptance rates.

You know, at Bradley Morris, we place thousands of transitioning service members into gainful employment, so that insight has been very helpful to us.

So a few things we picked up was, at least on the enlisted side, it's fairly easy to determine, since such a large number of them come with a specific technical platform, they are targeted by recruiters for specific positions that are almost surgically aligned to match their skillset. And whereas the younger, non-college civilian that's in their maybe early twenties -- their search might not be as finely targeted. So, they may be much more likely to get offers that are not as attractive to them as they would have expected. And for officers, it's certainly a little similar as well, but I think they come with more of a focus on where they want to be -- what industry, what levels of position, what location, what their market value truly is -- and they're probably less willing to engage with things at the beginning that will lead them to decline the position later.

So I think the intangibles drive focus and maturity levels due to what they have experienced. They have focused on what we call a tighter group shot or tighter shot group, in a shooting reference, so to speak. So, in their career search, they're much more specific and determined in that regard.

I have some thoughts on retention, Evan, but before I jump into that, I'll finish retention with some things from Julie. Julie shared some insight yesterday that I think is invaluable for all of us on the call.

Julie Sowash: [00:11:56] Thank you. Through the programs that we've built that include veterans with disabilities, we do see higher acceptance rates, but what I love is higher retention rates.

Through our partnership with Pepsi, for example, we have veterans who've now been employed for five plus years, and we're on average running about 14 to 15% higher than the general population in similar roles. So, we are seeing that veterans are staying longer, and those retention rates are great.

Where we're seeing it have the most impact and where companies are getting that best return is where veterans are able to bring their whole selves to work and able to be a part of an organization that values their service. I do think, to Evan's point, that there is still too much under-employment in the veteran community. We talk to employers every day about not making assessments based on prior experience or their own biases, because that can drive veterans into lower roles, which will increase turnover. So we have to think more holistically about them as, as a transition, not just as what they did in the military.

Emily Tanner: [00:13:05] That's great. And Jasen, did you have anything else to add on the retention rate piece? We're going to go into biases and misconceptions in a bit.

Jasen Williams: [00:13:14] Sure. Some insight that we've realized from placing these individuals over the years, and from a service member standpoint, it's not an option in the military to just bail on a job or a task or responsibility because they aren't happy with it. You know, we kind of must stay the course and make the best of it, so they're not as programmed immediately to think, "I need a quick escape,” whether it's an assignment or a task or a mission.

And part of that is also to enhance our career, we should stick to it and work towards that next promotion. And just quitting the military is not an option. I think for many, the military has been the only job they've ever had, so again, they're just not conditioned to immediately think about moving to another company because their mindset is that you go to work for a company and you stick it out.

So, I've seen this over the last five or ten years, anecdotally and just on a couple of final notes, it's about pride and competitive instincts.

Maybe that's just the Marine Corps in me, but you know, we're ranked against our peer groups. So many of us become exceptionally competitive and can't stand the thought of losing or quitting and we're kind of ranked on our abilities, so we get good at that. And then the pride -- being able to work through tough situations drives a lot of veterans.

And finally, Julie, I wanted to turn this over to you, as I think with military spouses and families, we're all kind of used to working tougher schedules and being away from family more than the typical civilian candidates. So, when they have long work hours, you know, it's just standard. And on top of that, enlisted personnel, which is what I was a hundred years ago, we never got time and a half for working extra hours. Now in the civilian world and I've worked over eight hours a day or 40 hours a week, it was kind of cool to have that extra pay.

I hope some of you found some things relevant within that. Julie?

Julie Sowash: [00:15:18] You said it so perfectly, it is being a military family. I've seen this on the enlisted side and the officer side. You do what must be done to keep the unit together and functioning at the highest possible levels, and as a military spouse, that means extra hours, extra work, more time away your spouse than you would like to. And it's an entirely different kind of focus as a unit, and that commitment to the company or the military at that time is just ingrained in how the family works. It's amazing to be a part of and to watch in action.

Emily Tanner: [00:15:55] You each made such amazing points. And I think the reasons for veteran recruiting are not because there are higher offer acceptance rates and retention rates. That's just a natural reproduction because of the type of people that are in the military, which is cool. But obviously, it's more than just the why.

The why is apparent in many ways, but it's not necessarily easy to recruit military talent. I think a lot of that comes with translating the skills into the workplace.

For instance, with the Orion Talent study we were just talking about, there's another stat that says this is the number one challenge that military candidates have when they enter the workforce -- matching their skills with what experience they should have in finding a job.

So, how can employers make it easier for veterans and other military talent to match up their experience from the military into a career path?

Evan Guzman: [00:16:57] There are many great resources out there to help with military translation into civilian resume.

I think what we're overlooking is the job description itself and the types of job titles that we use. What we put in the job descriptions contribute to whether service members apply to it or not. Sometimes we rely too heavily on these translation platforms, but you still must include language that resonates with the military community. And when you talk about of job titles, there are some job titles in the marketplace that resonate better with veterans than others.

For instance, supply tech or field service tech. These are things they understand. Warehouse managers, logistics coordinator. I recently saw a job for "HR Analyst" at a company, but it was supposed to be a "Director of Diversity and Inclusion." Why was it labeled as HR Analyst? Why would anyone apply to that?

It's funny that Julie said, why are we still talking about this... Because many companies still are struggling with this kind of stuff. They invest in a lot of different resources, but sometimes you need to start from the inside out.

Start with using terminology in a job description. If you need help with that, then get a few veterans together or an ERG group of veterans and ask for their help with job descriptions for a field in the market. Ask them about language that would resonate well for people in the field.

Recruiters are challenged already with trying to find the right talent, but then they must work through this system that can be very complex. Maybe by tweaking something in a job title or description can make all the difference for a service member or the company that's looking to recruit them.

Jasen Williams: [00:19:09] What I've found works best is just to keep it simple -- focus on the work categories that probably make the most sense and build a plan around those. That's a good starting point.

It's good to keep in mind what skill sets are going to be a good match for your organization. I think some forget what we do in the military. We maintain stuff. We operate it, we repair it, we secure it, we destroy it. So, it's good to keep that in mind when you're coming to us with software engineering roles, for example, and, pharmacists and things like that.

Julie Sowash: [00:20:09] You're spot on because that is probably the biggest challenge. You need to spend time with your ERG to understand what a person in the military does.

And as a civilian, I had no level of understanding until I saw what it takes to move through a job, to move through a rank. And as recruiters, we need to spend a little bit more time understanding what happens at the different levels of employment and that kind of thing in the military so that we can be consciously thinking about how we include that in our job descriptions, how we help recruiters understand and uncover those skills or leadership traits within an interview so that they can have those conversations.

Evan Guzman: [00:21:10] One of the best resources that our military community has is other people. And it's working through them and platforms like AliroVets that allow you to refer people that you think would be great for a job.

This is why technology is there -- to help people connect differently, but make it relevant, right? So, if I know Jasen, and I saw a job opportunity... It might not be the best fit for me. But you were my buddy in the Marine Corps. We did all this stuff together. I thought of you. I think you'd be a great fit knowing what I know.

That's part of the ecosystem that we're all talking about creating and cultivating here. But again, it's other people that can make a big difference for veterans and military talent that are looking for some help and knowing where to go.

Emily Tanner: [00:21:58] It's interesting, I think all three of you mentioned ERGs, and I just want to make sure that everyone knows what that means-- ERG, employee resource groups. I would love for one of you to quickly review what we're talking about there.

Evan Guzman: [00:22:22] Well, an employee resource group in my world is the veteran employee resource group, so it's a VERG, but it's about having a group of veteran employees that have a voice within the business to share ideas and concepts that can help with recruiting, with governing opportunities for veterans as they come in, and to help the business engage better with the military community.

That was one of the charges we had in different companies that I've represented as an ERG is a great resource that you can leverage and task with duties, like job descriptions, or we need some help with some recruiting or we need some assistance with trying to communicate or create events so that our veterans feel appreciated.

So, ERGs are important in more ways than one, but every company does leverage them in their own way. But at the end of the day, it's working with each other and creating an environment where they feel respected and valued.

Julie Sowash: [00:23:17] One thing that we talk to companies about with ERGs, with both veteran and disability, is to make sure that you're giving employees a reason to be a part of that organization. Veterans don't have to self-disclose. So, when you're thinking about how you build your ERG, what's in it for them? And that can be a great benchmark that you create in terms of bringing high potential individuals in to make business impact and start to grow their career and be a part of that.

So, for us, the messaging isn't just about, here's what you can do for the company. It's also how do you grow within this organization by leveraging the veteran ERG.

Emily Tanner: [00:24:00] Thank you both for going on that tangent with me. I just wanted to make sure ERG was understood and addressed because sometimes we use acronyms in our industry, and really all industries, and people don't necessarily know what they mean, so I wanted to make sure we hit on that very quickly, but it does lead into our next question.

So, speaking back to the skill sets and what candidates bring to the table is key. The idea of matching skills is where sometimes things get lost and civilian TA pros want to look to MOC/MOS, or military occupation code or specialty, and how that correlates to a career path and how military experience is relevant to a specific career. 

Julie Sowash: [00:24:42] I'm going to tell this story as a civilian to kind of give you all an example of how MOC and MOS has worked. My husband is an 11 Bravo. He was an enlisted infantry mechanic. At one point when he retired, he was a Drill Sergeant. My brother, on the other hand, is also an 11 Bravo, and he was airborne. He went to Farsi school. He worked in the transition office in HR for a while. And so, for me, just typing 11 Bravo into any sort of MOC/MOS Translator system is not going to give me the full range of what each one of them went through in their military journey and the very different skills and experiences that they bring to the table for employers now. For me, that was eye-opening. Evan and Jasen can get more into that but as a civilian in the talent acquisition space, that's just one thing that we need to learn, that we must get deeper than just expecting that a translator is going to solve all our opportunities to find the right veteran. This is about getting much deeper into what they did in the military and how they worked through their transition in their careers.

Evan Guzman: [00:26:18] On that, we also must understand that not every service member that's leaving the military or had experience in, let's say supply chain and logistics, is interested in a career outside of the military doing that same thing. And so, where the challenge comes in is, well, they're working from strength, which is, I did 10 years of this. But now I want to get into this other role, which they don’t have a lot of exposure or experience to. And sometimes having that conversation where we talk peer to peer is, "I want to be very honest with you. I don't know if that's going to be the most successful route for you because it'll be pretty much starting over."

But they must understand that's the reality of it, to get them to make the right decision for what's the best track for them. But at the end of the day, when you're honest with them and just tell them, Hey, you know, this is what I see in my experience. Try to find something and then grow from within somehow.

Like if you're in IT and work for an IT company, but you're trying to get into marketing, maybe there's a better way for you to get there than just going into a company saying, "I want to do marketing, but I have no relevant experience." So, that can be a challenge that I've seen when I was doing a tabletop recruiting and career fairs.

Jasen Williams: [00:27:33] Yeah. Good feedback. I think what military experience taught us is how to learn and apply that experience to several unique situations under varying degrees of environments that we deal with. I encourage some to think about how that might apply to your organization.

53% of the people on average are getting out of the military with soft skill sets, and what I mean by “soft skill sets” is those skills don't directly relate to a civilian job. And if you take that into consideration, you run into people like me where I was just looking to be an asset to your organization. I was willing to apply my ability to be flexible and nimble and operate in different environments under different levels of stress.


This is a partial transcription of the webinar. You can listen to the entire webinar below, or you can download the full veteran recruiting webinar and watch it here


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