When you hire military, you hire like a Superboss

In a recent Harvard Business Review piece, Sydney Finkelstein penned his Secrets of the Superbosses. It’s a great read regarding Finkelstein’s decade of research on a specific pattern he noticed with top people in several different fields. For instance, “In professional football, 20 of the NFL’s 32 head coaches trained under Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers or under someone in his coaching tree,” notes Finkelstein. He also sites hedge funds and software as industries with Superbosses. Having personally encountered the consistent success of top military-experienced hires in Corporate America, I was curious about his research while not surprised in his findings.

One of his “key personality traits” of Superbosses is “unconventional hiring”. Rarely is a military-experienced hire a conventional hire. As Bradley-Morris guides an employer through a military hiring process or program, our focus is on transferable skills – this unconventional idea doesn’t easily fit into recruiting strategies centered on keyword searches from resumes submitted online. Superbosses who hire military focus on intelligence, creativity and flexibility, often taking chances on an individual’s potential over pedigree.

There are several parallels between the SuperBoss’ and Military Leader’s playbooks as well including an understanding of organizational churn as well as the long-term advantages in sustaining a master/apprentice relationship. In the military, much like in industry, top-performers have a tendency cross paths and Superbosses know the importance of a strong professional network.

The biggest takeaway for hiring military is the idea alluded to in the piece that A-players hire A-players while B-players hire C-players. Superbosses look for someone of the highest caliber who is worthy of their investment and mentorship.

Superbosses understand that some of their best people will lead their company, some will lead other companies, but all will have an appreciation for the leader who pushed them to be their best.

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Military-Experienced Executives Series: Ben Faw

Ben Faw is a tech leader in San Francisco. His background includes serving as the Marketing Solutions Account Executive at a leading tech company as well as earning a Harvard MBA. Now, Ben is part of a group of innovative investors who started BestReviews.

Military-Experienced Executives SeriesBen is also a military-experienced graduate of West Point, Airborne Ranger and a member of the Top 40 Under 40 Military Class of 2013. So I was thrilled when he agreed to speak with me about military experience and the technology industry.

1.) What were the biggest leadership lessons you learned at West Point that you use in tech business today?

Leading by example, putting other people and their efforts first, prioritization and time management are lessons drilled-in at West Point through daily repetition. These have proven to be valuable life skills for success in every environment I have been in so far. West Point, and the other service academies, offer a unique environment for soft-skill development.

2.) How do those lessons compare or contrast with those learned at Harvard Business School?

HBS put a big focus on leadership that reinforced the lessons from West Point but also helped to refine them to a business setting. If an MBA went into the military, they would still need to learn the military’s way of execution. The same holds true in business. We have these great soft-skills but to scale a sustainable competitive advantage in the corporate side, you must be able to speak the language. HBS gave me the opportunity to ponder the idea of creating what I had in the military in the private sector.

Establishing a peer group of trusted advisors, an activity encouraged at West Point and HBS, has been a major pillar in my personal and professional business success. To this day, my network fields questions, provides feedback and allows me to learn vicariously through the experience of others.

3.) What do you think about military backgrounds fitting into technology companies?

I’ll start with the challenges and they are three fold. First there are few military-experienced leaders in technology compared to traditional business – the mid-level managers that I’m sure you’re familiar with – who have crossed the chasm and champion military-experienced hiring. Second there is a concern on technical skills, the military doesn’t produce software developers and that is the bulk of a tech company’s initial hiring. And third, since most of the initial growth excludes veterans it creates a negative feedback loop where the growing employee networks do not include veterans.

Fortunately, the other side of the coin is the growing number of military-experienced leaders in tech with some of the most established and branded tech companies leading the trend. There are great fits for military-experienced professionals in tech in the traditional roles of finance, marketing, sales and customer support. Areas where getting stuff done quickly, autonomy and leveraging the other soft-skills are where vets crush it. I also see a lot of potential on the product side for the same reasons.

4.) Why are military-experienced leaders a good fit for tech companies?

In addition to the previously discussed soft-skills, military-experienced leaders are loyal. This is a huge differentiator between them and the standard applicant pool. The current normal in tech is to have your people move across the street every couple of years where veterans tend to be in it for more than the money. If more technology companies opened their doors to veterans, I believe the veteran pool would reciprocate that loyalty.

Military-Experienced Executives Series5.) Did you believe your military background had anything to do with starting your company?

Sure. The culmination of experiences that made the timing right for me to step into this venture began in the military. Starting a business was the place where my development intersected with the right team. It was the logical next step to stretch my professional growth and an opportunity to join a positive group of smart and trustworthy entrepreneurs to make something exceptional.

6.) What would you most want to share with Corporate America’s CEOs about hiring military?

Digging deep, I believe there are two factors that are huge in business that most CEOs miss when it comes to hiring military. The first is innovation. The military-experienced leader is wrongfully stereotyped as a one dimensional play-follower who cannot think outside the box when the reality is, as you well know, most vets operate in an autonomous, austere environment where change frequently challenges the playbook. This is a lot like making money in tech. There is no established play book and innovation is critical to success. I recall in my previous role, coming in as an outsider and applying my innovation, I revamped priorities around business accounts and established best practices – military-leader 101 stuff – that in a couple months, made the company millions in revenue. This is a real example where my military innovation, applied to the business moved the needle forward in a tangible revenue generating action.

The second and possibly even more overlooked is resilience. In business the challenge in innovation is putting someone on a project that will fail 20 or more times before they succeed. But you don’t see this on position descriptions. Business leaders need to assess how much rigor is involved in a project and in cases where it is most required. I bet that if corporate America put more veterans in charge of their impossible projects, innovation would accelerate in their business.

Bobby Whitehouse

http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbywhitehouse

Images courtesy Ben Faw

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ConferenceHire Military Hiring Events Help Employers Avoid A Blind Date

When considering the value of using Bradley-Morris, Inc.’s recruiting services, I recently asked a client his thoughts. “Simple,” he said. “BMI’s ConferenceHire events save me the disaster of a blind date.” He further explained that one of the biggest inefficiencies in his company’s hiring process is going through the resumes and phone interviews only to have the candidate show up and be a dud.

Military Hiring Events Help EmployersApparently this is more common that I thought. It took little time to find an article by my favorite people pro, Liz Ryan titled The Obnoxious Job Candidate Who Looked So Good on Paper. Ryan discusses the power of deep probing questions and the psychological letting down of the guard that many managers feel when they believe they finally found their unicorn. But this also undeniably speaks to the flaw of a backwards process where the last step is going for a test drive.

At a Bradley-Morris ConferenceHire event, we match civilian job openings with eight to ten military-experienced candidates for interviews as one of the first steps in the hiring process. This initial meeting, putting hiring managers and job seekers face-to-face, is incredibly telling. Hiring managers can probe on culture and personality fit and candidates can explain their background more holistically.

Good vibes and bad vibes are also a part of this process – the face-to-face aspect of the ConferenceHire process takes care of the gut-check upfront. Finalists then proceed to site visits and our clients have confidence knowing that they won’t have to endure the dreaded “blind date” at their facility!

Bobby Whitehouse

http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbywhitehouse

Image courtesy Dan Century

 

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Addressing a Challenging Recruiting Environment with Military Talent

If you are anything like me, your new year has already kicked off at a fast pace with the recruiting train steaming down the tracks. And with unemployment rates continuing to decline through the start of the new year, it will continue to become more challenging to find exceptionally qualified candidates for new and open career opportunities.

Addressing a Challenging Recruiting Environment with Military TalentThe good news is that the veteran population is a continually refreshing, diverse pool of well-trained and experienced men and women. The discipline and leadership that are inherent to military service, combined with a near unmatched mix of technical education and professional development, creates a unique foundation that sets veterans apart from an otherwise equal civilian counterpart. Additionally, with the continued “right-sizing” of the military branches, there are an increasing number of veterans coming to the civilian workforce in search of new opportunities.

As 2016 gets rolling, is your organization facing any one of these situations?

  • Looking for a plan to include military talent in your hiring strategies
  • Needing to teach the enterprise about the value of military and veterans as it relates to solving talent shortages
  • Seeking specific resources to help meet existing veteran hiring goals
  • Experiencing pressure to fill current openings necessitating connection with a broader talent pool typically not accessible through standard recruiting methodologies

Let me know what challenges your company is facing this year!

Rob Hawley

www.linkedin.com/in/hawleyrob

Image courtesy NH53

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Hire Military Hero – Bob Nardelli, Father of the Modern JMO LDP

The “hire military” narrative was an idea long before it was a business case. I am sure there are many unsung heroes, not to mention titans of U.S. industry such as Henry Ford (known for offering returning WWII veterans positions with top pay), but the executive most responsible for the JMO LDP (Junior Military Officer Leadership Development Program) we know today is Bob Nardelli.

JMO LDPThen CEO of General Electric Transportation, Nardelli was urged by one of his senior staffers to meet a young man who was “amazingly impressive for someone with so little business experience”. Nardelli shared the remembrance in his pre-Veterans Day post of 2014 “For Successful Leaders. Turn to our Stars in Stripes” . This is where it started.

General Electric CEO Jack Welch later implemented the JMO LDP company-wide, and Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI) was selected as one of the few choice firms to assist in putting the first official JMO LDP in motion. It sprang from Nardelli’s JMO development success with GE Transportation and Welch credits Nardelli in his New York Times best selling book “Jack: Straight from the Gut”. Bill Conaty, then Senior Vice President of Human Resources and co-author of “The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers” outlines a performance culture defined by soft-skills. It’s a perfect template for a JMO to succeed in. This is the business case!

Adding to this is General Electric’s consistency as Forbes “World’s Best Companies for Leadership” and Chief Executive’s 2015 Best Company for Leaders. It is hard to find a leadership-focused award that doesn’t reference General Electric. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they are also the first official JMO LDP on record. 

As CEO of Home Depot, Nardelli continued the focus on JMO LDPs and I recall a massive Home Depot hiring event with Bradley-Morris as one of my first experiences seeing a large scale JMO LDP in action. Nardelli’s time at Home Depot has received its critiques, but there is no doubt that hiring military was a big part of their business success under his watch. As President and CEO of Chrysler Corporation, Nardelli continued his “hire military” focus. He has long been considered a patriot in business circles.

Now Nardelli is the founder of XLR-8 LLC, an investment and advisory company. He is widely recognized as one of the best operating executives in the United States. But to me, Nardelli will always be first and foremost a “hire military hero”.

The 2015 list of Most Valuable Employers (MVE) for Military winners® is impressive in terms of the number of companies that are hiring military. Nardelli was a key figure in getting Corporate America there.

Bobby Whitehouse

http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbywhitehouse

Image courtesy BobNardelli.com

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11 Tips for Hiring Veterans

Veterans Day is tomorrow, 11/11. In honor of Veterans Day, here are 11 tips for hiring veterans:

1. Go general: The specifics of your industry is not so unique, but many hiring managers have the false premise that what they do is exclusive and the qualifications on the job description must match the resume exactly. Conduct a skills audit and get to the root qualifiers of your position. Think KPAs.

2. Seek to understand: While I am a fan of transferable skills, there are more exact vocation descriptions that can be accessed online. Get a better understanding of the MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) at www.onetonline.org/crosswalk/ .

11 Tips for Hiring Veterans3. Look past the MOS: Now that I’ve recommended to know the MOS, I’m also going to make sure that I mention the following: While it’s good to know what a veteran’s job code was in the military, often that can ultimately be confusing. An Infantry Officer, for example, will not directly translate to a Production Supervisor but this can be a great match. The Infantry Officer is a trained leader with responsibilities in materials and money in addition to manpower. Don’t get locked into the codes.

4. Build Consensus. Your team needs to be “all in” on hiring military and one doubter can throw a wrench in the process. It’s possible that someone on your team has had a bad experience working with a veteran. I am sure they have likewise had a bad experience working with a non-veteran! Give each individual a chance by their own merits, veteran or not.

5. Ditch the Stereotypes. Preconceived notions are a huge deal breaker in hiring military. I’ve witnessed it myself, when an employer has first reviewed military resumes and says, “I don’t know if this is going to work.” Then they interview the candidates and hire three of the five job seekers! The resume is not the candidate.

6. Stereotypes are a 2-way street. Candidates do the same thing. They don’t recognize the company names and say, “I don’t know if I want to interview with any of them.” Then they find their dream job! Interviewing well (on both sides of the table) is the linchpin in hiring military.

7. Don’t fear PTSD. It can be a concern but note that the leading cause of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is car accidents. Would you screen out applicants who were involved in car accidents? Of course not.

8. Improve your hiring process. It starts with your web site, otherwise known as the veteran applicant black hole. The veteran job seeker is not likely to hit your civilian keyword matches so make modifications to your key words to include military terms.

9. Conduct Interviews. Hiring managers can be hard-pressed to make hiring a priority, I get it. It’s difficult to take focus off the “urgent” and “important” and put it on what’s perceived at the moment as “less-urgent” and “less-important”. It’s like going to the gym or following a good diet – the rewards are game-changing.

10. Talk to the spouse. The military spouse has been across the country or countries, left home to take care of everything and often is a major voice in the veteran’s next assignment, i.e., your position. Get them in on the conversation, show them the good neighborhoods and address their concerns. They move around a lot and know what they like and don’t like.

11. Just do it! Planning, getting buy-in and all go the other “good intentions” are great but the fact of the matter is veterans are usually great hires, period. All you need is an open position and I can schedule interviews for you. That’s all it takes to get started!

Have a productive and reflective Veterans Day.

Bobby Whitehouse

http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbywhitehouse

Image courtesy U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

 

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5 Myths Regarding Hiring Veterans

Well into my second decade of helping employers hire military, I’ve talked with literally thousands of employers about recruiting veterans. Many times, I will have to overcome objections regarding service men and women’s capabilities as civilian employees. Here are the most common 5 myths regarding hiring veterans that I hear.

5 Myths Regarding Hiring Veterans1). A veteran’s skills aren’t transferable to our business. When I hear this comment, I usually follow it up by asking if integrity, accountability or an understanding of corporate framework is important? The reality is that most hiring managers put the majority of their focus on soft skills: “I can teach the right person our business.” Sound familiar? If your company’s hiring managers don’t currently focus on soft skills, then interviewing/working with a military professional will broaden their perspective.

In addition to military success traits soft skills, veterans also possess applied/technical backgrounds in leadership, engineering, maintenance, production, logistics, quality, and safety as well as specialized vocational skills. They have proven integrity, have been held to physical fitness standards and often have a built-in background check through having been issued a security clearance.

2). We don’t have time to train veterans. Of course you don’t, who does? But do you have time to keep putting pressure on your team while your open positions go unfilled? Do you have time to invest in a potentially expensive hire because the candidate whose experience is a perfect fit won’t relocate to your city? Do you have time for your competitors to swoop in when your best customer is not getting adequate service because you are down a team member? The reality is that most assignments in the military are “trial by fire” where military members are assigned a new role, given a brief amount of instruction and then expected to deliver top results. The employers I work with see this as a strength of the military candidate.

3). Veterans aren’t a cultural fit. This one stems from the stereotype that military service is all about ridged compliance and barking orders. The reality is that is not how day-to-day business is conducted in the modern military. Our current force is all-volunteer and is made up of our best and brightest young people. The obstacles to joining the military are steep. Only 20% of the U.S. population is service-eligible. Inspiring leaders get the best results and mid-managers understand empathetic leadership is key to high performing teams, especially in an organization steeped in bureaucracy and protocol. Are there situations where communication has to happen quickly and sometimes directly? Sure. But that happens in critical functions in the civilian world as well.

4). Veterans are too procedural and cannot think for themselves. Closely related to the incorrect stereotype above, this one is a misconception that has been propagated in the interview arena where procedural compliance and adherence is discussed but only at the base level. For instance, when I was on a submarine, we drilled tirelessly and pushed the boundaries of our procedures daily. However, in a real world crisis, when the book said to do one thing, we would inevitably get a curve ball that took us off the page or a complex issue that had us make a decision between conflicting procedures. Military-experienced personnel understand that books, processes and check lists get you to the battle, then all bets are off.

5). We do not know where to find veterans. If a company is relying on their recruiting function to hire military via key word search on resumes or on narrow qualification standards on job postings, they are likely going to fail. This is substantiated by the frequent employer feedback I receive at Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI): “We would never have considered this group of candidates based on their resumes, but after our interviews, we were surprised at how their skills completely fit with the position.” These verbatims have been consistent over my 10+ years placing military candidates. Hiring managers who are not getting quality veteran candidates (or enough team leaders, engineers, operations, sales, maintenance, field service or technician candidates) through their internal resources have options like BMI to assist.

What myths have you found in hiring military?

Bobby Whitehouse

http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbywhitehouse

Image courtesy Full Metal Jacket

 

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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

http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbywhitehouse

Image courtesy YouTube

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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

http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbywhitehouse

Image courtesy PACAF

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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

http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbywhitehouse

Image courtesy Confessions Of A U.S. Navy Submarine Officer

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