Sourcing Veterans on a Limited Budget
By Lida Citroën
When hiring veterans, many employers struggle with how, where, and when to source and recruit job candidates. Unfortunately, there is not one central place where all veterans go to post their resumes and pursue civilian jobs after military service. The good news is that companies recruiting veterans have learned that they don't have to spend a fortune to attract, hire, and grow these employees.
To get the attention of veteran job candidates, here are some creative and low cost strategies your company might consider:
Participating at a military-specific job fair can be an expensive endeavor. Some events charge $500 - $5,000 for a booth or table, a listing in the event materials, and speaking time at the event. To get more value from job fairs targeting veterans, consider these tactics:
- Offer onsite coaching to candidates. Likely the veterans approaching your booth or table will be nervous and inexperienced at small talk and networking. Offer some on-the-spot coaching and tips to help them sell themselves effectively. Perhaps offer a handout on networking strategies, or provide some guidance when a candidate fails to introduce themselves well.
- If you have veterans on your team, bring them along. Veterans will feel more comfortable seeing that you have hired other veterans. This is also an opportunity for your current veteran employees to tell potential candidates about the company culture, systems, and business.
- If you will be distributing materials to job candidates, ensure you accurately represent today's veteran. Include diversity in your marketing materials to show understanding of the community you are targeting.
It might seem like an obvious strategy to approach your local military base or installation and recruit service members getting ready to retire or separate. While on-base recruiting can be a good strategy, consider the following:
- It will be critical to build a good relationship with transition assistance teams on base. Some military bases are skeptical of employers who might try to entice service members after they leave active duty. Don't pitch your company to the team; build rapport and a relationship with them. Trust is very important at this step.
- To show your commitment to the veteran community, offer workshops, coaching, or mentoring to transitioning veterans. This approach will help the transition professionals learn more about your company and what you offer and will help you gain positive positioning with service members transitioning now and later.
- Remember that not all who leave that base will want to stay in the area. Oftentimes, a service member will transition to a career closer to where they are originally from, not the area of their last duty station. Consider this as you recruit from active duty service members.
Savvy employers use personal referrals to build their employee base. After all, referrals come with testimonials from people you trust! When building your referral-based recruiting tactics, consider:
- The military is a family-like culture. They look out for each other long after taking off the uniform. They will be inclined to refer their fellow soldiers, sailors, and airmen to your company if they have had a positive experience or believe it is a good opportunity.
- Along the same lines, brand building is important. When a veteran feels good about your brand, values, and commitments, they will be more comfortable referring you to fellow veterans. Elevate the knowledge of your brand by highlighting what your company believes in, not just what product you make or sell.
- Consider a formal referral program, wherein you encourage and incentivize employees to refer job candidates for open positions.
It's been said that in the 21st Century, "content is king." The more you can publish, share, promote, and create to highlight your knowledge of the veteran experience, alignment with the values veterans carry, and opportunity to grow the veteran employee, the better. For instance:
- Publish articles on your website highlighting veteran employees who have successfully built a career with your company. Or, consider listing tips for veterans in transition who might consider working in your industry.
- Produce and share articles about your industry or your company (targeting the veteran reader) on social media. Veterans are typically very active online.
- Consider writing an article for a military-to-civilian transition publication or site. Many of them would be interested in hearing about career opportunities in your industry, from your perspective.
The veteran job candidate is likely inexperienced at the traditional hiring process. During their military career, they generally did not apply or have interviews for jobs. Consider innovative and non-traditional strategies to get the attention of the veteran job applicant.