In late August Kroger announced that it was going to hold open interviews nationwide on Sep 15th for all veterans and family members, looking to fill a significant number of more than 20,000 permanent positions across all divisions with veteran tjob fairalent.  Military members were asked to simply apply online and then show up at a store on September 15th for an interview.

Kroger sent out press releases which were picked up by Monster (which owns and US Veteran magazine as well as many news outlets.  With two weeks of extensive marketing like that, it would be easy to assume that veteran resumes poured into the ATS and service members were lined up for interviews on the designated date.

Except that they didn’t.  Many stores reported receiving only one application.  Some received none. In its mid-Atlantic region alone Kroger has 120 stores across six states (Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia) that were looking to fill some 900 open positions.  The veteran event yielded 50 veterans and family members hired across that entire region.  Given that those six states comprise some of the largest populations of active/guard/reserve military and veterans in the US, it is surprising that there were not more applications and hires.

The purpose of this post is not to pick on Kroger, which 3 years ago made a commitment to hire veterans and family members and currently employs more than 29,000 service members and spouses across more than 2,600 stores nationwide.  This post is an illustration of how challenging it can be to conduct effective outreach to attract veterans, even if your organization is a Fortune 20 company with a recognized brand in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

It is time to revisit the discussion on “high tech” versus “high touch” when it comes to veteran recruiting.  A blog I wrote almost 2 years ago addressed this in depth – how it takes more than a public proclamation that your company intends to hire XX number of veterans in X number of years to actually attract, consider and hire veterans.

Processes have to change.  Procedures have to be adjusted.  Recruiters and hiring managers need to be trained to understand and properly evaluate military experience.  Government and non-profit resources need to be leveraged as part of the overall sourcing strategy to drive applications and attendance at events such
as the one Kroger created.  And, most importantly, “high touch” marketing tactics need to be employed early and often, especially by companies in certain industries (such as retail) that are not necessarily the first place military members consider after their service concludes.

What does “high touch” recruitment marketing look like?  It means:

  • Customization of the message to the military audience
  • Making the effort to explain things that you think are obvious
  • Investing effort and resources to explain what your company does and how military skills will be repurposed into civilian careers with your company
  • Providing opportunities to connect directly with transitioning military/veterans/spouses 1:1 or 1:many to discuss your company

Companies like Walmart and UPS have invested extensive resources to educate transitioning military members and spouses on how military skills are repurposed into careers in retail and transportation. UPS has video vignettes explaining common job descriptions and a military transition career guide.  Walmart has a military talent community and sends out monthly newsletters to its members, spotlighting real military/veteran/spouse employees, and providing advice on how to manage common transition challenges after the hire.

Lockheed Martin offers frequent online chat opportunities for transitioning military to speak with recruiters and ambassadors.  AT&T conducts online advisement sessions weekly.

In addition, dozens of companies provide employees to conduct 1:1 mentoring of transitioning military and veterans through programs like American Corporate Partners and the US Chamber’s eMentor Program.

If you are a small company looking to hire 10 people this year and you’d like one of them to be a veteran, then clearly these tactics are overkill.  But if you are a large corporation and have made a public veteran hiring commitment or are a federal contractor with a significant OFCCP veteran hiring benchmark to meet, these are the types of tactics you need to be considering as part of your outreach and engagement strategy.

These leading practices and more are exactly the types of topics we will be covering in depth during our 2016 Veteran Recruiting Conference (Jan 20-22, 2016 | Dallas, TX).   Join over 100 of your fellow talent acquisition and diversity professionals as we dive deep into effective veteran recruitment and retention practices.  Featured speakers include Starbucks, Bank of America, Exelon, Eaton, Progressive, Williams, NASA, Humana, and Baker Hughes.  Visit to view full agenda and registration information.