A Guide for Military Veterans to Understand Recruiters.

This post is intended to offer some information to help bridge the gap between transitioning service members and corporate recruiters based on my experience. I am not a recruiter, those who are please feel free to add your insights in the comments section.

In an article by Jake Lowary he reports a recent study “indicates veterans are sometimes led to believe they will have smooth transitions to civilian jobs, but civilian hiring managers are often put off by the veterans’ attitude and lack of preparation for work in the civilian sector.”

These are examples of conversations I have seen on LinkedIn that further highlight this:

Corporate Recruiter: A veteran sent me an email and wrote “Here is what I did in the military, what jobs do you have for me?” Can you believe that?

Veteran: They promote themselves as being military friendly but they didn’t respond to my email.

The problem is that transitioning service members and recruiters don’t understand each other. The problem begins with the experience a service member has in joining the military.

Military Recruiters will try and find a job for every qualified candidate whereas the Corporate Recruiter must find the best qualified candidate for every job. It’s a big difference.

Military Recruiters

My experience with military recruiters is mainly with the Army so the other services process may be slightly different. The Army recruits more people in a year than most Fortune 500 companies but does so with far more recruiters than any other organization I know. In general, an Army recruiter has a requirement to have two to four candidates sign a contract to join the service each month. This may vary for recruiters concentrating on certain specialties like, chaplains, medical, special forces, etc. The military recruiter does not need to find the best qualified candidate, just the person who meets the qualifications for the various job fields. This is determined based on the score achieved on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The better the score the more options that are available to the candidate. The recruiters job is to get as many qualified candidates to sign a contract as possible. No need to match specific skillsets because the Army provides basic training. As a military recruiter it is usually OK to exceed your hiring goal. As a candidate the recruiter will take time to explain the various options available to you. If your contract doesn’t have you leave for basic training for several months the recruiter will follow up with you until you leave for basic training. They do this because if you don’t “ship” to basic training then the candidate must be replaced. This is where the “What do you have for me” mindset comes from.

Are you transitioning out of service and not sure where to begin? Maybe you want to contact a non-profit or for-profit company that helps place veterans. These organizations can help you with your resume and provide you coaching.

Profit/Non-Profit Placement Agencies

For many leaving service our first “civilian” recruiter is a military headhunter. Many of these companies/non-profits are made up of veterans and they get us. We speak in acronyms and they don’t look at us like we are speaking a foreign language. They work with companies to understand their requirements and they help the candidate find a job. It seems like a similar model to the military but unlike the military recruiter who gets a set pay these organizations make more money the more people they place, either through direct pay or the ability to generate increased donations. Threaten to walk out of their office if you don’t get what you want they probably won’t follow you out the door like the military recruiter did. Want to work at a company where they don’t have a contract/partnership and you may find them encouraging you to look elsewhere. It can be a similar experience to entering the military recruiting station wanting a specialty that is in high demand. Some companies organize career fairs to introduce veterans to companies which builds on this misperception that it’s about us. Sounds easy but many companies don’t want to pay these fees and when they do they want a person yesterday. These companies are a great resource to help you IF their customers are seeking your military experience and you are flexible on which company you work for and where you live.

If you want to work at a specific company or live in a certain city you may have to learn about the corporate recruiter.

Corporate Recruiters

Corporate recruiters are not career counselors and few of them have served in the military and understand what we have to offer their company. It is not their job to look at your resume and find a good role for you. If you want the corporate recruiter to care about you then you need to help them understand why you are exactly the person they need for a role or function within the company. The recruiters I have meet since leaving the Army have 20-40 open requisitions open at any time that must be closed in 30-60 days. According to a survey done by CareerArc in 2015 the average job has 219 applicants. As much as they might want to help, they don’t have enough time in the day to help every transitioning service member or veteran that approaches them via email, LinkedIn and at events. Start with the company career website and review their jobs and the career fields in the company. Find someone who can help you understand more about the company and these roles before speaking with a recruiter. When you reach out to a corporate recruiter the question you want to ask is “I’ve done, A, B and C in the military, does your company accept that as experience for the XXX role you have posted on your career website?”or “Do you accept military experience in lieu of a college or advanced degree?”

If you are a veteran understand this, Military Recruiters will try and find a job for every qualified candidate whereas the Corporate Recruiter must try and find the best qualified candidate for every job. It’s a big difference. If after a certain time period the corporate recruiter has been unsuccessful the hiring manager may seek support from a military headhunter.

Have other thoughts, please add them to the comments section!

This post does not represent the viewpoints of my employer, the Department of Defense, or any other company/non-profits. All ideas and errors are solely my own.

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