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Recruiting veterans has become trendy.  Particularly around Veterans Day, I watch as company after company has its CEO or Director of HR stand on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, or on the Intrepid, or in front of the cameras of a major news network and state that the company has made a commitment to veterans and will hire some number (usually in the thousands, because that is the number it takes to get media attention) over the next 1-5 years.

Press releases are sent, pictures are taken with the President and other politicians, and corporate communications spends 3-4 days fielding calls and inquiries from the media.

And, then…what?

There are a lot of companies that think all they need to do is make a public announcement about their commitment to veterans, and resumes of qualified candidates will start falling out of the sky and perfect matches will quickly be made.  After all, we keep hearing the stats that there are more than 250,000 service members leaving the military each year and almost a million currently unemployed, so, seriously, how hard could this be?

(I can hear the experienced military recruiters snorting and chortling now)

Turns out, recruiting veterans is not as easy as you might think.  If all you are doing is posting jobs and showing up at random career fairs, you will quickly discover why those activities are not sufficient.  Service members have pretty good BS meters.  They apply online, and your applicant tracking system sends them a rejection notice 3 minutes later deeming them “unqualified”.  You sign up to attend 20 military career fairs and then send recruiters who don’t know the first thing about the military.  Or, the recruiters at the fair tell the E-7 with 20 years of experience that “we’re looking for people with a college degree”.  Or “we’re only interested in JMO’s (junior military officers)”. Or, your hiring managers say things like “how can we be sure you don’t have PTSD?” or “Hmmm, you just came back from a deployment with your reserve unit – how long until you get called up again?”

Results and statements like that are a red flag to veterans.  The BS meter will start ringing, and, thanks to social media, the veterans will begin letting their extensive network of fellow veterans know just what they think of your “commitment”.

Now, obviously, I am speaking to large companies in this blog.  If you are an HR rep in a small company that only plans to hire 10 people this year and would like 1 of them to be a veteran, this is not aimed at you.  But, if you are in recruiting for a large company that is going to hire hundreds or thousands of people in 2014, and you’d like some percentage (8%, for you government contractors out there who fall under the Office Of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs / OFCCP) of those hires to be veterans, then keep reading.

If your company has made a commitment, publicly or privately, to hire veterans, the first questions I would ask are:

  • Have we committed sufficient budget to this effort?
  • Have we identified a program manager, and does she/he have decision-making power?
  • Have we identified a team of recruiters who will focus on recruiting veterans?
  • What is our plan for training recruiters and managers on military culture and skills, so that more opportunities become available to veterans?
  • What changes or modifications do we need to make to our current recruitment processes to give a veteran’s resume a fighting chance of getting through the system?
  • How much time, effort and budget is committed to outreach?

As a point of comparison, examine what your company is spending for campus recruitment versus military recruitment.  Large, Fortune 100 companies typically hire anywhere from 1,500 – 15,000 new college grads every year.  The campus recruiting effort is typically led by a dedicated manager and that person may have 15-40 dedicated recruiters working to attract the best of the upcoming year’s graduating class.  The manager has a dedicated budget for the campus recruiting effort.

Consider these campus recruiting metrics from a Fortune 200 firm:

  • 157 colleges on targeted recruiting list (out of more than 6,000 2- and 4-year colleges)
  • 50-60 of those targeted colleges will get weekly in-person visits from campus recruiting team for typical two month internship/entry-level hire cycle
  • The remaining 90+ colleges will receive emails, brochures and other marketing materials but not in-person visits
  • The other 5,800+ colleges will not receive specific materials from this company, but the company welcomes and will consider applications from all students.

When you look at metrics like that, and then compare it to the effort your company is making to recruit veterans, how do the numbers stack up?  Making that comparison would be a good place to start deciding how much of a budget to set for military recruiting.

(One number I’d love to see is a comparison of the amount of money spent on the PR drive to announce the veteran hiring commitment versus the amount of money actually allocated annually to the military recruiting effort.)

For example, if the goals for veteran hiring are 10% of the goal for new college grad hiring for 2014:

Metric

Campus Recruiting

Veteran Recruiting

Total number of hires

5,000

500

Annual Budget

$800,000

$80,000

# of Recruiters

40

4

Chances are your campus recruiting program is more mature than your military recruiting program, so you should actually significantly increase the veteran recruiting budget and the number of recruiters for the first 3 years of the effort until you reach a level of program maturity.  Unlike college recruiting, military recruiting can occur all year long, as people transition from the military every month.

So, how many of you reading this are mad at me because I have pointed out something that makes you uncomfortable, and how many of you are sending this blog to your boss and saying “Now can we talk about our military recruiting program?”

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The Value Of a Veteran is hosting its 2nd annual Veteran Recruiting Conference in Dallas, TX Jan 21-23, and our theme this year is “Commitment to Veterans”.  Most of our invited speakers are from companies that not only have made significant public commitments to hire veterans, but have “put their money where their mouth is” in terms of investing in changing processes and procedures to improve recruitment and retention of veteran.  They have invested in training recruiters and hiring managers.  They have put support systems in place to assist the veterans as they transition to civilian life.  They have created internship programs for wounded warriors.  And, many of the companies further invest in veterans through their corporate supplier diversity programs (buying from veteran-owned small businesses) and their corporate philanthropy divisions (donating to non-profits and schools that are providing direct services to veterans).  And, best of all, they are willing to share their journey to robust and effective recruiting programs with the attendees.

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