Studies have shown veterans to be overrepresented not only among the ranks of leading CEOs, but also able to survive almost twice as long on the job and outperform the stock market’s main benchmark index. It’s no wonder companies with a military hiring program have a significant competitive advantage. Despite the nation’s economic outlook (which is a matter of varying opinion), companies are actively seeking out military talent. Corporate America needs employees who can lead today, not tomorrow.
The announcement of this year’s Most Valuable Employer (MVE) for Military® award finalists will spur scores of savvy military experienced job seekers to apply to military-friendly companies, and rightfully so. However, military experience is not a guaranteed foot in the door. So if you are among this group, you may be wondering how to better your chances of landing a coveted MVE career. The following steps will lead you in the right direction:
Step 1. Get inside their heads.
What motivates MVE and other companies to consistently dip into the military talent pool? Why do military-experienced employees mesh well into these organizations? According to Eric Salzman, Executive Consultant at Bradley-Morris, Inc., the nation’s largest placement firm focused solely on military-experienced talent, “documented leadership experience” sparks a company’s initial interest in military-experienced candidates. “Military leaders have been pushed and tried earlier and harder than most of their civilian counterparts and they are not easily overwhelmed,” he said. When asked what keeps his clients coming back to Bradley-Morris, Inc. for their hiring needs, Salzman replied, “Because hiring military works… companies see a return on their investment.” Understanding what drives companies can go a long way in helping you to sell yourself.
Often, a company-specific answer can be uncovered through a little networking and research. Before applying, research the company of interest online. Pinpoint defining core values by analyzing the company’s history, reputation, products and services, and vision statement. Without asking for a job outright, connect to military-experienced employees through professional networking sites. Seek to understand what they bring to the table as individuals and as a group, gain insight into the company’s corporate culture and hiring needs, and discover your potential value-add.
Coming up empty-handed? Many military-to-civilian executives attribute their corporate success to leadership traits acquired unequivocally through military service, including excellent communication skills, a deeply rooted sense of ethics, the ability to calmly make sound decisions under pressure, defining a goal and motivating others to achieve it, organizational skills such as strategic planning and the effective use of limited resources, and adaptability. I think it’s safe to say most companies value these traits and most military leaders possess them.
Step 2. Target your sales pitch.
Through research and networking, let’s say you’ve uncovered a company’s penchant for loyal workers who work well as a part of a team, inspire healthy competition and goal attainment, and can maximize resources/manpower and minimize waste/downtime. Simply stating your ability to minimize waste, for instance, in your military resume or in an interview is not enough. You must prove it. Always backup something intrinsic, i.e. “cost-conscious”, with something extrinsic, i.e. “…saved $30k quarterly by developing and managing a first-of-its-kind parts reclamation program…” According to Salzman, “Companies want to see quantifiable data attached to experience such as number of people led, total value of a project or budget, and cost avoidance… that’s a big one.”
Step 3. Don’t make a you-know-what out of you and me.
Just because a company has a track record of hiring military experienced job seekers, don’t assume a military jargon-laden resume copied straight from your performance evaluations is going to do the trick. Salzman warns, “Your résumé should be easily understood by everyone from the HR specialist to the CEO.” As the former director of MilitaryResumes.com and a current recruiter at Bradley-Morris, Inc., I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands, of military resumes. However, I have yet to master the meaning of every acronym or understand the purpose of every command, program, system, or specialty for every branch of service.
Briefly describe your command (mission, services, “customers”, etc.), the technical makeup and capability of military-specific systems/equipment (if applicable), and the scope of your duties to establish due context, no matter the target company. Focus not on your formal, DoD-approved job descriptions, but on the skills derived from each job with respect to the company and job opportunity at hand instead. Finally, add plenty of individual accomplishments to make you stand out as a top-notch performer worthy of corporate recruitment.