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Increasingly, I am receiving inquiries from employers asking my opinion about whether they should invest in a military skills translator tool for their military recruiting career page.  These applications are a significant expenditure for companies, and they want a level of assurance that they do actually work.

If you are unfamiliar with military skills translators, the majority of them are derived from the military-to-civilian crosswalk feature of O*Net Online.   As marketed, all the service member needs to do is simply input their military occupational code (MOC) into the translator tool and the application quickly compares the various skills and attributes of that MOC to open positions at a company.  The veteran is then presented with a list of open jobs at that organization to which it would be appropriate for them to apply.

Example of a Military Skills Translator Tool

Example of a Military Skills Translator Tool

While I am generally very supportive of any tool that assists recruiters and service members to better communicate, I continue to be disappointed with the results of the tests I conduct on these skills translators.  I am also frustrated that some employers are viewing these tools as a “silver bullet” that will magically make it easier for the veteran to apply to the right positions, thereby eliminating the need to have an actual conversation with the service member to tease out what the translator did not reveal.

Real Test Results:

  1.  I used the military skills translator of a major retailer and input my MOC: 25A (Signal Communications Officer).  The results indicated that I should apply for positions such as a Master Plumbing Specialist or Cashier.  I bet you I’d make a better Department Manager or Store Manager than a cashier or plumber.
  2. Through an energy company website I tried 14T (PATRIOT Launching Station Enhanced Operator/Maintainer).  14T’s have a lot of experience with troubleshooting and maintaining electronics systems (a skill set definitely in demand in the energy industry).  Unfortunately, the skills translator tool said “No jobs found that match your profile”

If the service member goes to your career page, inputs his/her MOC into the military skills translator tool, and the result is “No jobs found that match your profile” – what message did you just send to the veteran?  That may be his/her first and last attempt to find a career with your company.  They may not take the extra minute to try keyword searching, which in example #2, would have yielded better results.

While vendors continue to improve their translator tools, I recommend you add a statement very prominently on the skills translator that says something to the effect of:

“If you received a message stating ‘No jobs found that match your profile’ – do not be discouraged!  Try searching by keywords and see if you receive better results.  You may also *click here* to request a conversation with one of our Military Recruiting Program team members who has experience in translating your military background.”

{cue the sound of a thousand recruiters sucking in their breath}

Yeah, you read that correctly.  I want you to offer to have a conversation with the veteran about their military background.  What recruiters need to understand is that there is so much more nuance to the veteran’s military experience than just the MOC they held.  Depending on how the skills translator has been programmed, it may be inadvertently mis-translating certain skills.  The translators don’t always consider the inherent transferrable skills a veteran has, such as operations experience, problem solving, initiative, etc., either.  That is something the human mind can do better than an algorithm – continue to ask relevant questions and assess potential.

ERE recently had an article on why using performance based interviewing techniques is helpful to determine what skills the service member has.

Successful military recruiting requires patience, military cultural awareness, a willingness to dig for information and a “high touch” (versus “high tech”) approach.  Embrace the work, for the result is worth it.

I’d love to hear from recruiters who have experience with these translator tools – do you find that the tool helps military veterans connect with appropriate jobs at your company?

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