Has this happened to you? You are sitting in a recruitment strategy meeting where it is decided that your company wants to add military veterans to the list of diversity targets for the coming year. Not having much familiarity with the military, you are scrambling for ideas on where to find these candidates. A quick Google search turns up information about military career fairs, so you make plans to send a recruiter to exhibit at some upcoming events. Sounds simple, right?

The number one mistake I see companies make when launching a military recruiting initiative is that they immediately jump into a sourcing strategy – typically attending a career fair of some kind – without having a clear picture of the type of military talent they seek and an idea of whether they are looking for specific occupations or general skills.

It’s not surprising then, when reviewing the results of exhibiting at these events, the recruiters report that they did not encounter service members that would be appropriate for current open positions. A few more experiences like this and many companies will give up on targeting military all together, believing that their roles are not a good fit for those with a military background.

It takes more that showing up at a military career fair to develop a successful veteran recruiting initiative. You have to understand the differences in experience, levels of responsibility, salary expectations, levels of education, and transition planning timelines of our military members.

  • Do you know the different between officers and enlisted? And, what the heck are non-commissioned officers and warrant officers?
  • Are you looking for degreed candidates because it is a convenient screening criterion, or will 4-6 years of actual work experience in a similar position be a good substitute?
  • When looking for specific military occupations, do you know which service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps) has those job positions?
  • And, what about those combat arms professionals? You know – the guys who shoot things, blow things up and run things over with tanks? Do you have any idea what intangible skill sets they have in abundance that may be a great fit for your company?
  • Ever wonder why you are getting service members approaching your table asking about jobs and available work locations who say they aren’t leaving the service for another 8-18 months? Why in the world are they attending a job fair now?

Clearly, it helps to understand the military before jumping into a specific sourcing strategy. Once you have a clear picture of who you are looking for within the military, I think attending targeted military career fairs is a great idea.

If you are looking for a way to get a handle on this quickly, I offer a webinar entitled “Translating the Military Resume and Interviewing Tips” which will answer all of those questions and more.

Otherwise, track down your veteran-employees and get them to assist you in answering these questions. Bonus tip – bring some of them with you to the next military career fair and have them engage with the service members, particularly those who claim to be 8-18 months from leaving the military. You may also choose to engage with a military recruiting firm that is already tracking the most highly sought after transitioning military profiles (some of whom may have a job secured before even leaving the service).


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