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Disclaimer: My husband is a veteran. This makes me a little biased, but it also makes me incredibly close to the topic of veteran hiring, as I’ve watched him transition to the civilian world and search for a new career in the past year. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener. As someone who works in the recruitment marketing world, my first thought, which I voiced to my husband, was: “So many organizations have veteran hiring initiatives! Talent acquisition leaders are focusing on diversity and military recruiting. This is a good time for you to get out there. Your experience might not always match up, but with your foundation in leadership, discipline, remaining calm under intense pressure, people management skills, hard work and adaptability, recruiters will definitely be interested and will want to talk with you.”

So we made a list of companies with veteran hiring initiatives and, of course, an even broader list. He reworked and customized, reworked and customized (and repeat) his resume for different roles in different industries. He created a LinkedIn profile. He read through veteran initiatives on different career sites. He researched Glassdoor. He joined a few companies’ talent networks when he saw the veteran option. He wrote the first cover letter of his career. And he applied ― to many jobs. (Note: Many veterans don’t have a network of contacts outside the military. They live and breathe the military while they’re in the service, and many spend a lot of time deployed. For example, my husband put in his paperwork to get out of the military and then was deployed to the Middle East for four months. He didn’t have time to build a network and make connections! When he got back to the States, he had one month before he transitioned out and started looking for other jobs.)

He’s heard very little. He’s had one conversation with a recruiter. He’s received zero responses of, “You applied for this position, but I see your experience could be better suited here…” He’s heard zero feedback about what he could do better or why he wasn’t considered. He hasn’t received any follow-up resources or been invited to join a talent network. (Very quickly, he was a Captain in the U.S. Army for almost eight years, graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, completed Ranger School and spent the last year in healthcare management. That’s experience you can work with!)

Now, this really isn’t unlike what happens to many non-veteran candidates applying for jobs.

It really stinks, and it’s a candidate experience issue organizations need to focus on. I am disappointed (and frustrated) at the lack of feedback and proactivity from the companies promoting veteran hiring initiatives. And even for the organizations who don’t, I question:

  • What happens to applications denoted “veteran”? They’re sent into the applicant tracking system (ATS) that uses an algorithm to search for keywords, most likely never to be heard from again or considered for other positions.
  • Why aren’t more veteran candidates followed up with? Either their applications never make it to the recruiter from the ATS; the recruiter and/or hiring manager doesn’t feel the experience aligns with the role; or the recruiter just doesn’t have the time or resources to spend qualifying their experience. Without the right technology, there is no way for automation to help recruiters nurture interested veteran candidates!
  • Why aren’t recruiters trying to find the right fit between veterans and their organizations? There’s a good chance they don’t understand how military experience translates into a role in their company and don’t have the time to have conversations that might not end up in hires (they’re extremely overwhelmed with reqs and resumes, I get it!). They’re more likely to call back the resume that reads well for now (and has very specific experience) versus potential in the future.

It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge that organizations have a need (or at least say they have a need) to hire veterans, and that so many veterans are looking for jobs, yet we can’t quite bridge the gap between the two yet.

The solution is two-pronged: it’s part technology, part people. The three most apparent areas of improvement I see are:

Direct veteran interest into a CRM or Recruitment Marketing Platform, not always the ATS.

CHALLENGE: Out of the 20+ applications my husband submitted, nearly all of them had some type of veteran checkbox. But the fact is, these applications go straight into the ATS, which isn’t built for managing and segmenting certain types of candidate leads. Despite the attempt at noting the veterans who apply, it’s probable that many veteran resumes and applications are taken out of contention based on algorithm review in the ATS ― meaning recruiters and hiring managers don’t even get the option to follow up with the candidate directly, which is crucial in understanding veteran experience. If the only option veterans have is to choose a job and send in the application, then they’re going to keep hitting a roadblock in the ATS.

SOLUTION: Organizations must offer another opt-in: to join a talent network. Technology like a Recruitment Marketing Platform provides a talent network form to capture interested leads and then segments them in the CRM. This way, you can communicate and engage with them – they’re not in the black hole of the ATS.

 

Nurture veteran leads in a customized talent network.

CHALLENGE: In reality, many veterans probably apply to the wrong roles in the right organizations because it’s difficult for them to assess which roles might be a fit based on their military experience (it’s also difficult for recruiters to assess this!). Only 35% of the 2015 Fortune 500 provide a veteran initiative on their career site (kudos to companies like EMC, CDW, Bank of America, Nestle Purina and The Home Depot), and even fewer provide tools or assessments that help veterans match their military experience to civilian roles. Veterans are looking for resources and guidance on how to figure out the right role and the right culture.

SOLUTION: Creating a specific talent network form for veteran leads would automatically give you a pool of interested candidates with very specific experience that you can nurture until the right opportunity opens up (plus, only you have access to them, unlike a third-party talent community on LinkedIn, for example). It’s an awesome opportunity to send relevant resources, educate them on your culture and people, customize messaging about your organization’s value, as well as track their behavior and interest to screen them. In the end, nurture helps bubble up the quality veteran candidates and allows recruiters to do their jobs: build relationships with talent and then match them to the right role.

 

Provide more opportunities for your network to refer veterans.

CHALLENGE: In the difficult quest for finding more quality applicants to pass on to hiring managers, I can guess that it’s even more difficult for recruiters to understand what makes a quality veteran candidate. There needs to be a way in which recruiters can have more conversations with their target audience to learn about their skills and be able to better prioritize veteran leads and applications.

SOLUTION: If referrals are so valuable for bringing in quality candidates that actually turn into hires, why aren’t we using employees, customers, advocates and partners to specifically refer veteran candidates? When it comes to referrals, organizations usually require a lower barrier of entry, meaning they’re willing to look at a LinkedIn profile or take a quick glance at a resume before they follow up verbally. A Recruitment Marketing Platform can customize specific referral landing pages that ask for certain information, in this instance, if the referral is a veteran and key experience they are. This would help veteran candidates get to a conversation more quickly in the application process, giving them an opportunity to explain their experience and previous roles versus being keyword-searched by an automated system.

 

To move forward and bridge the gap between organizations, their recruiters and veteran candidates, we need a better way to screen veterans, a better way to segment them, a better way to educate them about opportunities and better way to foster conversations (when I read this back, this is really a route for all candidates). Technology for the front-end of your talent acquisition strategy can be a huge step in this way forward ― but it has to be driven by people that are willing to take a different approach in learning about the value of these disciplined, determined and service-driven candidates.

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