Why hire military? You tell me.

Before reading any advice on how to start your veteran hiring program, I recommend starting with Why? I’m a fan of Simon Sinek and his Golden Circle. In case you aren’t familiar with the Golden Circle, I suggest following either one of the above links for more information. But at the risk of oversimplifying Simon’s message, it’s the idea that most people and companies think/communicate in a What/How/Why paradigm. Sinek then provides examples of innovators who instead approach challenges with the Why/How/What mindset.

Why hire military?Putting the focus on Why provides inspiration but it also helps How and What better fall into alignment.

My military recruiting career started with Why.

But not when I separated from the military back in 1992. My Why going into the military was a desire to serve. I transitioned from the US Navy as a Submarine Fire Control Technician. In addition to training and experience performing maintenance on digital electronics, I also successfully qualified on two Nuclear Attack Submarines, the USS Louisville (SSN 724) and USS Cincinnati (SSN-693). The operations and training schedule was rigorous and this was the most challenging six years of my life. This was my How and What.

I was eager to take my new found discipline and skills to the private sector. I was so sure that I could add value. I was humble in that I would need to start learning again but knew that if I could get an in, an opportunity, a chance, then I would excel. I had been tested. And I had the stuff.

Corporate America did not see it the same way. They were focused on the What: “We don’t need fire control technicians” I was politely told on the rare occasion that I had an opportunity to interview. The frustration was heavy. Eventually, I gave up. I lost my Why. I networked with friends and family and worked through a series uneventful and unrewarding jobs.

In 2001, I was hired at Bradley-Morris. I finally arrived in a career, fighting a fight I had almost forgotten about – a mission to serve. Presenting the case to corporate America on hiring military, is my Why, and the How (BMI Recruiting Services) and What (matching/placing military in civilian careers) flow from that. Armed with Why, my personal superpower, I’ve enjoyed a successful career doing something I love. I’ve helped dozens of companies solve their military hiring challenges and connected military veterans with real careers where they can grow and add value.

So before you start skill mapping, or attending military job fairs, or placing ads or making a new landing page on your career site, define Why you want to hire military? Then follow Why to How and What.

Why do you #HireMilitary?

Bobby Whitehouse


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Military Success Trait – Decisiveness

Successful leaders who are good decision makers exhibit another military success trait – decisiveness. They understand the importance of execution while applying their moral compass to the decision. Being decisive helps them to get a jump on the competition, see around corners and/or to quickly pull the plug on a project that isn’t tracking to plan.

Military Success Trait - DecisivenessIn a recent post, Syracuse University’s online business blog looked at CEOs with military experience. Not surprising, decisiveness is a recurring secret to their success. The link between decisiveness and corporate success is a key pillar in the business case for investing in military-experienced talent.

Decisiveness is equally important beyond the C-suite. Middle managers with military experience have an established reputation for being able to make the call on day-to-day tactical decisions. This frees up executive bandwidth for strategic concerns. Additionally, strong middle-management teams address organizational efficiencies and they also cultivate a built-in succession plan. Having great leaders in place at the mid-manager level is a winning business strategy and top companies like General Electric, Walmart, Amazon and The Home Depot place the lion’s share of their developmental talent efforts on this tier.

Bradley-Morris helps an employer’s corporate side surface these transferable skills through a variety of processes involving military talent acquisition, matching and interviewing. Developing military-friendly resources and programs pays big dividends and potentially sets your company up for a hire that will advance to be a future CEO.

Bobby Whitehouse


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Military Success Trait – Accountability

I’d like to highlight another of the leadership pillars that is instilled by military service: the military success trait – accountability. By being accountable and “owning up”, leaders can move past the blame game and give deep focus to learning from outcomes that were unanticipated or negative. Examining small failures provides a new awareness Military Success Trait - Accountabilitythat can be applied to decisions of greater magnitude. Military leaders learn that failing doesn’t necessarily make you a failure – You can own it, fix it, learn from it and move on.

At the onset of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there seemed to exist an accountability vacuum with several companies involved in “finger pointing”. I recall thinking about the high standards of the U.S. Nuclear Navy, the quality programs established on ownership and responsibility, and how an accident like this would have an immediate owner – the Captain.

Accountability is critical for any business or process where quality and safety are important. Shared organizational accountability is critical for empowerment. Leading organizations are trending towards people-focused leadership, that is, servant leaders, accountable for the success of the associates in their organization. Military leaders are great at being accountable for a mistake in their team, putting focus on the fix and making the lesson learned part of the process moving forward.

How accountable are your mid-level managers?

Bobby Whitehouse


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Military-Experienced Executives Series: Bob Wilt

Bob Wilt, Executive Vice President for a Fortune 150 Company, is an executive leader who has led companies through good times and bad. He is also an Iraq combat veteran, graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and Harvard Business School. When Bob graciously agreed to share his time with HireMilitaryBlog.com for an installment of the Military-Experienced Executives Series, we discussed his insight on executive business leadership through the military-experienced lens.

Q: What is the biggest misconception about hiring West Point Graduates, or military officers, into industry?

Military-Experienced Executives Series“That military leaders are one-dimensional leaders. Sure, we need aspects of that in some situations, but most military leaders are mature personalities who escalate actions only when absolutely necessary. They typically operate by consensus-building rather than the command-and-control stereotype,” Bob said.

I mentioned that I also hear from prospective employers that military-experienced leaders are limited by procedures and are not free thinkers. Bob was quick to mention, “The officers leading in Iraq and Afghanistan are dealing with multifaceted and hugely complex issues with multiple stakeholders. There are no procedures for what to do – they are writing the procedures as they go.” We agreed that if a business needs someone to create the procedures, improve the procedures or direct the procedures, a military-experienced leader is uniquely qualified.

Q: What is the biggest leadership lesson you learned at West Point that you have applied to business decisions?

Bob said he learned to take care of his personnel with integrity. Bob recalled a situation where there was to be a restructuring of their business that unfortunately led to the layoff of thousands. “I had to make the tough call and let our people know what I knew when I knew it,” Bob said. He felt that his team needed to know the news that was coming as soon as possible so they could make life decisions with as much information as was known at a given time. Bob strives to build credibility through acting with integrity, a philosophy that he learned at West Point.

Q: What did Harvard Business School teach you that was contrary to West Point’s teachings?

Bob explained, “Most of what was taught complimented West Point when it came to moral leadership. There are differences between selfless service to Country versus the profit motive of business, but both stress that when you are put into a position of influence, it’s important to do something with it.” He also mentioned, “Harvard was the perfect finishing school to learn the language of business.”

Q: Did your West Point background help you plan and execute business strategy?

I especially liked Bob’s answer to this question – it concerned the efficiency of decision making: “At West Point, so much was expected of you and we quickly learned to manage our time. We had to make a decision with 80% or less of the information. In business you often need to move fast. Our rapid cadence depends on our ability to make a decision that is good enough and move on.” It’s clear there is no “analysis paralysis” here. That and a focus on prioritization have helped Bob keep his productivity and results at a high level.

Q: What military leadership lessons were echoed at Harvard Business School?

Bob said quickly “integrity and people” and that Harvard Business School was “the West Point of Capitalism.” He shared with me that 8% of his HBS class were military-experienced leaders. Also, Bob related that the military and HBS have had a working relationship since WWII.

This led me to ask if Bob thought that investing in hiring JMOs (Junior Military Officers) delivered a good return to which Bob replied, “Absolutely yes. I value diversity and I would not flood the organization with military-experienced leaders, although I am accused from time to time of recruiting Junior Bobs!” He said that there were none better prepared for making a decision without perfect information than JMOs, and that this candidate profile should definitely be included in any global recruiting strategy.

We then covered the importance of putting the right military-experienced candidate in the right position. Bob has experienced the impact of a business he inherited that had major challenges, partly because their military-experienced hires were put in the wrong positions. The way to combat this, Bob said, was to “make the communication two-way. The JMOs need to talk through their expectations as does the company.” We closed out this topic with Bob recounting the exceptional results his latest batch of JMO leaders are achieving in his business.

Bobby Whitehouse


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Military Success Trait – Character

Successful business leadership is mutually inclusive with another military success trait – character. While some businesses can show short term gains with executive personnel possessing less-than-stellar moral fiber, long-term success can only be fostered from strong character.

Military Success Trait - CharacterFor this reason, middle-manager positions, the front-line of many businesses, offer an opportunity to insert developing leaders who possess strong character into companies, and the timing is optimal: Businesses can leverage their strong character while the young leaders learn the industry/process/technology. This is the central theme of a Junior Military Officer (JMO) Leadership Development Program (LDP) strategy which, with the strengthening economy, is experiencing a strong upward trend in corporate America.

Seeing the consistent successes of JMO LDPs across industry lines has served as proof of my initial thesis, that is, in business, “character counts”. I recently heard a strong supporting case on HBR IdeaCast – 462: “Ethical CEOs Finish First” where Fred Kiel, author of “Return on Character”, explains his research regarding why “being good” benefits the bottom line. It’s a great interview and there is also a great post on Harvard Business Reviews Blog, Measuring the Return on Character. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of his book and I cannot wait to dig into it.

I like that the author has applied metrics to character. I’m constantly working on ways to better explain character-leadership in measurable terms. Even the great business leader/icon Jack Welch refers to soft skills with the terms “fuzzy” and “gray”. Quantifying leadership and character is a sound business strategy that top-performing organizations know in their hearts and possibly now, know in their heads too.

Is your business maximizing ROC (Return On Character) from its leaders? Is character part of your hiring process? How are you currently measuring character?

Bobby Whitehouse


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Recruit Military-Experienced Talent with a Value Center Approach

One of the ways that exceptional organizations separate themselves from the pack is by adopting the concept of their recruiting function as a value center. Conversely, a not-so-forward-thinking company sees recruiting as a cost center activity. The evidence of this becomes apparent when they trumpet cost per hire as their leading metric: Recruit Military-Experienced Talent with a Value Center Approach“We’ve got our cost/hire down to $1200”. Congratulations, you’ve just won the race to the bottom.

The cost center mindset may save on the recruiting budget, but it bleeds over into operations with added expenses, the most notable of these being the cost of high turnover. There is a correlation between companies who have the lowest cost per hire and high turnover. When I see these cases, my thoughts go to what must be the opportunities lost, namely, the opportunity to hire someone amazing who raises the bar.

Companies with a value center focus understand the implications of the performance difference between an A Player and a C Player. These employers focus on the metric of ROH (Return On Hire). A good value center invests wisely in the resources that deliver the best talent. A Player-focused recruitment, like the tide, raises all ships: Operations benefits from a well-led team with little to no people distractions; culture improves because the A Players lead by example focusing on strategic goals; and bench strength increases which front loads succession planning.

When employers begin to recruit military-experienced talent with a value center approach, Bradley-Morris helps them focus on their ROMH (Return On Military Hire). Military personnel, particularly Junior Military Officers (JMOs), are force-ranked by their command and the #1 of 9 officer performs at a higher level that the #9 of 9 officer. Not every veteran is high performer; not every veteran is a fit for a key, demanding role. Bradley-Morris leverages best practices from two decades of lessons-learned to produce outstanding ROMH for our clients – it’s how we earn repeat business.

Is your companies recruiting function viewed as a cost or value center? What metrics is your team focused on? Are you taking a deep look into the people dynamics of your output?

Bobby Whitehouse


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Military Success Trait – Drive

Some are born with God-given talent and exceptional ability but most successful people must rely on another military success trait – Drive. Business leaders must develop an ability to push out of their comfort zone, to find a Military Success Trait - Driveway to deliver results for their customers and shareholders. Drive is how you get up again after being knocked down. Drive, most importantly, is what gets you to “the next level” in your career or life.

I recently read Bob Ravener’s book, “Up – The Difference Between Today and Tomorrow Is You“. Bob is one of the top civilian business leaders possessing a military background. In his book, the military success trait – drive – is a recurring theme. The military, along with his experiences in athletics, honed Bob’s drive, and he references that “drive” got him through his most formidable ordeals.

To excel in the military you must really want it. And top military candidates’ drive is honed by digging down deep and doing what is necessary to push through their trials. While differing military communities offer their own unique challenges, nearly all service members will attribute drive as an acquired skill that directly helped them achieve exceptional results in the service and after in their civilian careers. Passion inspires but drive gets the work done.

When “drive” is required in your business, military-experienced leaders will deliver.

Bobby Whitehouse


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OFCCP Veteran Benchmarking and Veteran Hiring Plans

So far in 2015, a frequently occurring discussion I am having with employers surrounds EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) Veteran and Disabled Veteran hiring benchmarks. The landmark change involves proactive veteran and disabled veteran hiring plans as well as several layers of self-identification for employees. I’ll be the first one to tell you I’m not an expert in all of the legal minutiae, so your in-house counsel/HR team should be consulted for details. However, I am deeply involved in veteran and disabled veteran hiring, so I’ll share what I’ve learned so far.

Veteran hiring plansThe OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs – Patricia A. Shiu, OFCCP Director is pictured at right) is the governing body that will be enforcing the benchmarks. A business that has over 50 employees, and contracts over $50,000.00 in government business (the “50/50” standard) is compelled to comply with OFCCP hiring benchmarks. Additionally, if your company does business with a federal contractor and qualifies per the 50/50 requirement, you are also subject to these rules.

The benchmarks are twofold and the first piece involves interviewing veteran and disabled veteran candidates. The big change is that companies are now required to record resources they have utilized to achieve the benchmarks of 7.2% veteran and 7% disabled employees. For Bradley-Morris existing clients, their proactive interviewing via BMI’s ConferenceHire®, TargetHire® and PowerHire® services already qualify as one of these resources.

The second piece involves employees, prospective and current, self-identifying as a veteran or disabled veteran. This is to be requested pre-employment and at regular intervals during an employee’s tenure with the company. For service-disabled veterans, especially those that are a percentage disabled that is not readily apparent, this is a 180 degree change from some of the past thinking to not self-identify. Bradley-Morris candidates are now briefed on this and thus encouraged to self-identify.

There are several resources on-line and I will share a couple of links below:



Also, Bradley-Morris, Inc. produces veteran hiring events at locations nationwide and can be a resource to help you meet the OFCCP benchmarks, no matter where the location is for which you are hiring.


I hope that this information assists your team in developing your AAP (Affirmative Action Plan) for veteran and disabled veteran hiring plans. Let me know if you have any questions, but more so, let me know what you can add to the conversation. In addition to being a “must do” for contractors and their suppliers, getting veterans interviewed will surely lead to more veteran hires as we at BMI have seen the interview as a key point in any successful veteran hiring program.

Bobby Whitehouse


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Military Success Trait – Feedback

Military-experienced personnel are accustomed to receiving feedback. The military has ingrained a continuous improvement mindset that takes advantage of reviewing and renewing. When they conduct an operation, evolution or a causality drill, they immediately review their performance.

Military Success Trait - FeedbackIt’s not to pass out blame but rather identify weaknesses in processes, equipment, execution, etc. The undisputed champion of innovation is trial and error. Being allowed to fail without being deemed a failure is part of a military leader’s DNA and another military success trait – feedback.

A comment I sometimes hear from recent military hires is that they are unsure how they are performing in their new civilian role. This is probably indicative of the civilian world, that is, there is not the same culture of feedback as there is in the military, certainly not to the same level of frequency and candor.

The interesting part is that this lack of feedback is not just one way. Frequently, the prior military personnel I’ve spoken with have identified an area of opportunity or weakness in their new civilian setting, but they haven’t experienced the occasion or invitation to communicate it. Their tendency is to hold on to the information as the “new guy”.

Other companies have a continuous improvement mindset as well as a culture of candid communication. They have likewise adopted performance-focused processes and procedures. They can work off of a roadmap but have a plan that is honed through trial and error. Military -experienced personnel deliver even more value, from day one, in this type of environment because it’s one they are used to.

Is your culture one of communication and improvement?

View all of the Military Success Traits series.

Bobby Whitehouse


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Military Success Trait – Culture

In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage, the author discusses how the customs and approach of a team, their culture, can be the competitive advantage in modern business. That is, marketing, strategy and execution are only as effective as the team that is doing the work. Dysfunctional teams lose their effectiveness in the noise of their bad culture.

Military Success Traits - CultureAs I assist military job seekers with finding civilian careers every day, I see a similar attribute as a military success trait – culture. Military leaders are taught to build winning teams. They do the best with who they have and motivate from the middle. They help B-players become A-players and keep A-players challenged. They accomplish this through value-focused leadership that builds performance through culture.

Culture is a force multiplier. Building a team that cares about each other and the accomplishment of their objectives – whether in business or in the military – will result in a group that outperforms perhaps more advantaged teams who don’t have the same culture strengths and get stuck in bureaucracy or turmoil.

Ever ask a veteran why they did what they did? Most did “it” for their teammates. That’s culture.

View all of the Military Success Traits series.

Bobby Whitehouse


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