Season 5 | Episode 14

How to Successfully Recruit Veterans

Steve sat down with Bill Kieffer for a third time to discuss the process of recruiting veterans. In previous episodes, the two covered the disconnect between recruiters and veterans and how veteran skill sets translate into the business world. In this episode, they talked about how Bill helps organizations achieve success with recruiting and onboarding veterans.

The First Step is Figuring Out the “Why”

Bill broke down the very thing he does with companies trying to recruit veterans – which is essentially asking them to take a step back and look at the big picture.

“If someone comes to me and says I think I want to get into veteran hiring, my very first question is “why?”

More often than not, business leaders aren’t exactly certain why they want to recruit veterans aside from it being the right thing to do, or wanting to help veterans. Bill emphasized that it’s an honorable thing to do and a great intent, but we have to think about how recruiting veterans aligns with existing business goals.

“At the end of the day, we’re in business to succeed in business. So I always try to turn the conversation around to the business case.”

Starting Without Knowing Why is Setting Yourself Up for Failure

Steve brought up how it reminded him of hiring initiatives for diversity – if we don’t stop to ask why we’re doing it and how it benefits the business, it can feel forced and thus destined for failure.

“That’s always the first step. One of the things I have potential clients ask me is, “well, how do I do it?” I like to start with, what are you doing and why?”

Business leaders are paid to advance the business – so we have to fully understand how recruiting veterans aligns with that goal.

“The first step is always, what’s the business case. Why do you want to do it? And then we get into the rest of the other interrogatives: who’s involved? What do we think we’re going to achieve by doing it? I always get to what’s the business case, and how does what you’re aspiring to do help advance the business case? In almost every case, we can get to ways to take that great intent and cause it to be accretive to the business circumstance.”

Once we agree that recruiting veterans is the right thing to do, and we know why we’re doing it – how do we make it happen?

How to Recruit Veterans – the Right Way

“One of the worst things you can do…is kind of half step this thing…They want to know they’re coming to an organization that’s doing things right, and that has a purpose and a mission that they can help serve.”

As a result, it’s important to be very clear with veterans about the mission of the organization. They join the military for a sense of purpose, and they’re often looking for that in their business career as well. Without that sense of purpose, it will be hard to attract veterans and effectively engage veteran employees.

Is the Organization Ready to Recruit Veterans?

Bill also talked about how he assesses the awareness and attitude of companies towards the issues surrounding veterans in the workplace. He brought up two main points.

First, is everyone at the company aware of the unique challenges veterans face when transitioning into the workplace? Some people are highly aware of these issues, while some have little understanding of what veterans experience through this process.

Second, what is their opinion toward veterans? Some professionals welcome veterans with open arms, but unfortunately, others do hold the opinion that veterans don’t belong in the business world. Like it or not, that circumstance exists, and companies should carefully consider whether their organization is ready to embrace veterans before recruiting.

So Where Do We Source Them?

Naturally, the next step is figuring out where to source veterans.

“Many times, people go, “where is the magic LinkedIn spot or online site where I can find a veteran? Isn’t there some kind of single source?” The answer is no – it’s like any other talent source. There’s no single place.”

There’s a lot of resources out there to find recruiters, but Bill emphasized that you need to do the work to find them, reach out, and build relationships. You have to look in a lot of different places to find these professionals.

Easier to Find Them Than It Is to Recruit Them

Steve brought up that like many professionals, finding veterans is often a lot harder than recruiting them. Bill concurred and elaborated on how you need to develop the right value proposition.

“This concept of value proposition – why would someone want to come work here? Critically important that you understand that in the context of the veteran.”

We can’t go to a veteran with the same message that someone’s been in the business world for 15 years.

Essentially, Bill emphasized that to recruit veterans, you need to do three things. First, you have to know where to find them and build relationships with these sources. Second, you have to be aware of what they bring to the table and what experiences they have under their belt. Lastly, you have to understand how your value proposition can appeal to veterans and their sense of purpose.

CoAching to Perform Beyond the Hire

Bill wrapped up the discussion talking about how he helps organizations with every step of the process – from sourcing veterans to recruiting them and helping them acclimate to the workforce. Oftentimes, he continues working with veterans after they’ve been hired to ensure they succeed in the new role.

“The issue is not that they’re not capable people that are well-intended – the issue most times is that the world is so foreign to them they just don’t know what they don’t know.”

Clearly, businesses and veterans entering the workforce both have a lot of work to do in gaining an understanding of one another.

If you’d like to get in touch with Bill, you can find him on LinkedIn where he’s listed at William “Bill” Kieffer or visit his website at www.kieffer-associates.com.

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