Strategies for Building Your Veteran Talent Pipeline

There’s good news for tech recruiters whose talent pipelines are running dry: Nearly 250,000 service members transition out of the armed services every year, according to Military.com.

Even better, many of these returning vets have the experience and work ethic to tackle civilian roles in operations management, IT asset management, project management, logistics and supply chain, customer support or technical sales.

And vets with experience in computer security, troubleshooting or network admin may have the opportunity to enhance their skills and marketability by enrolling in an immersive coding bootcamp or certification course paid for by the G.I. Bill.

However, soon-to-be-veterans aren’t just changing jobs, they’re reinventing themselves. Recruiters who use traditional sourcing and outreach techniques may have a tough time finding suitable prospects and keeping them directed and engaged.

“Only 20 percent of active duty service members have a profile on social media, so you probably won’t find what you’re looking for on LinkedIn or GitHub,” noted Mike Slagh, CEO of Shift, a site that translates military experience into civilian skills.

Here are several recruiting practices that will help your company or staffing agency attract veterans to your pipeline.

Appoint a Point Person

Appointing an outreach leader to spearhead your veteran recruiting efforts, preferably someone with a military background from the tech department, can help your recruiting team decipher military jargon, recognize transferable skills and identify candidates that align with your future hiring needs.

“Having a go-to person dedicated to veteran recruiting provides focus,” noted Bryan Durant, an Army veteran who teaches social media skills to veteran job hunters as senior manager for client success at CareerArc.

The specialist can also serve as a mentor and career coach by spotting skill gaps and overseeing the development of veteran candidates while they’re in the pipeline, solidifying your position as a military-friendly employer. Involving a tech pro with a military background also lends credibility to the hiring process, especially when they engage with potential candidates on Sandboxx or other veteran-focused social media groups.

If you don’t happen to have a military veteran on your tech staff, using an online tool that converts military occupation codes to a civilian occupation can help your recruiting team identify the right targets and create “civilian” versions of résumés.

Look for Diamonds in the Rough

Most veterans don’t know what type of work they want to do or the roles they’re qualified for, rendering traditional outreach and qualification techniques ineffective. In addition, the “unicorns” may slip through the cracks if you include location in your search string when you hunt for prospects online.

“Only a small percentage of recently separated veterans want to stay in their current city,” Slagh noted. Don’t be afraid to reach outside your local area; the military may pick-up the tab if a recently separated veteran moves within six months.

Since in-depth interviews may be required to qualify potential prospects and develop a realistic career path, try to initiate relationships in face-to-face settings by attending career fairs and transition workshops, or by becoming involved with the transition assistance program at your local base. Ideally, you should plan to start a conversation about three to 12 months prior to a candidate’s separation date.

“We’re definitely a lot more hands-on with our veteran candidates,” acknowledged Carolyn Betts Fleming, CEO of Betts Recruiting, a firm specializing in revenue-generating talent for technology companies.

“We provide a matchmaking service,” she explained. “We do a lot more vetting up-front when we reach out to veterans who don’t have prior experience in revenue generation. For example, we give them a chance to experience a typical day in the job and we provide them with free sales training to support their decision-making process.”

Develop a Comprehensive Program

Veterans’ needs run the gamut from résumé writing to interviewing tips and emotional support.

The bottom line is that transitioning veterans are facing monumental changes in every aspect of their lives. They need access to information and resources to decide whether to go with a large or small company, and to identify an industry segment, specialty and role that maximizes their strengths and interests.

To keep veterans engaged and growing during a lengthy transition period, consider creating a talent community that not only provides education and career coaching but “support for the whole person,” including a constant stream of veteran-focused educational events and content.

For instance, recently separated veterans may not realize that they are eligible for unemployment benefits, Durant said, or where they can get help for PTSD.

Incorporating talent management elements such as career mapping, as well as opportunities to participate in career-enhancing paid and unpaid corporate internships or apprenticeships, can help the veterans in your pipeline gain a sense of direction, valuable skills and confidence. Giving them access to mentors, lunch-and-learns, and coaching gives them a sense of community.

“Creating a strong, well-thought-out development program for veterans can serve as a powerful outreach tool and an extension of your employment brand,” Durant said.

Image Credit: Richard Ruddle Photography/Shutterstock.com

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