Hiring Military is Like Learning To Golf

The internet is awesome – news flash, right? What I mean is that you can teach yourself so many things from guides and videos on the internet. I have a colleague, who is not a handyman by any means, who took apart and fixed his washing machine with a $1.50 part thanks to a youtube video.

Hiring Military is Like Learning To GolfEven for harder and more difficult to master tasks, this applies as well, but only to a point. If you want to learn how to hit a golf ball and play golf, there are guides and videos on that skill as well. I’ll bet there are some success stories of beginning golfers who advance using the internet as their coach, but without a professional to guide them, they probably took some time-consuming and costly wrong turns along the way. Others may have even given up in frustration when the desired results weren’t forthcoming.

Likewise, there are many guides and videos regarding hiring military and veterans on the internet. And just like our golfer above, these may get you to the point of “getting good contact” on the ball. But can they help shape a plan that takes into account your goals, your physiology and the amount of time and money you have to invest? Only a coach can help on that level.

The coach I’m referring to in this case is a military-focused recruiting firm. For our beginning “player”, every new veteran hiring guide that comes on the scene lacks important information that leaves a well-meaning company open to expensive mistakes. Military recruiting firms, like Bradley-Morris, provide expert guidance that translates to efficiencies in time and money spent.

The online playbook does not take into account the physiology of your organization and the skeletal, motor skills and musculature structure that makes it unique. The differences in physiology manifest themselves in big differences in the “swings” of organizations in terms of the way they approach the military hiring process, even for companies in similar industries. For instance, the way Walmart hires military is vastly differently than how Amazon hires military even though some of the roles, especially in the supply chain, are similar.

In the same vein, the internet guide is one size fits all – it doesn’t take into account the differences between teaching someone who has the resources to play three times a week versus a weekend duffer. Or someone who needs a quick “win”, that is, needs to get be able to get around the course for an upcoming corporate event, versus a player who has a strategic goal that is building for long term success. Translating our hypothetical “player” in these scenarios to a company interested in hiring veterans, the methods to hire and even more importantly the types of roles that could be a success vary greatly depending on the specific scenario.

Among those who are serious about becoming good golfers, most players hire a coach at some point of their careers. The coach evaluates your swing, learns your goals, sees inside your head and is invested in your results. The value of outside perspective and analysis provides changes – sometimes revelatory, sometimes subtle – that produce exceptional results…whether we are talking golf or hiring military.

Bobby Whitehouse


Image courtesy Tour Pro Golf Clubs

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Digging into the recent LinkedIn Veteran Insight Report

Digging into the recent LinkedIn Veteran Insight ReportAs we approach July 4th, I took some time digging into the recent LinkedIn Veteran Insight Report. Whether it be patriotic or performance motives, it’s great to see the changing tide regarding veteran hiring in Corporate America.

In 2001, when I started with Bradley-Morris, we looked for one of two things to get corporate buy-in:

  1. We needed a company that was so desperately in need of talent that they would open their hiring requirements to include military-experience, or
  2. We needed a champion who understood the value of military talent. Most of the latter where veterans themselves and while there were a few early adopters of focused military programs, most companies were alien to this talent pool.

When LinkedIn released their “2016 Annual Veteran Insight Report”, I was curious to see how their data aligned with our tribal knowledge as well as our value proposition to our clients.

From their “6 key highlights that demonstrate the veteran community is flourishing in their professional careers” slide I was drawn to #5, “that two-thirds of professional veterans work in positions that are not similar to what they did in the military”. This data lines up with our focusing on “transferable skills” in military to industry placement. By leveraging military success traits across broad Key Performance Areas, we find success in positions such as Manufacturing Production Supervisor where veterans who have no manufacturing experience start their careers and thrive.

The “Dallas-Ft Worth and New York Metropolitan Area are two Major locations where veterans move post service” data point speaks to the relocatable nature of the military-experienced talent pool. BMI’s clients know they tap into an international talent pool for their local positions. Veterans can be found where the jobs are.

Their “Veterans are leaders in the workforce” slide confirms one of our core value propositions. Almost half of the veterans on LinkedIn are in middle-manager or senior contributor roles. Their 36% at entry level stat confirms that many companies still do not know how to leverage military-experience into their business. It will be interesting to see these data points move over time. About 75% of the military-experienced candidates I’ve placed were promoted ahead of schedule.

The “Operations is the #1 job function for veterans” slide points to the successful integration of transferable skills. Sales being #3 is the most telling as there are no sales people in the military. Sales is a vocation where character can be tested. Most sales people I place are highly successful and become top performing in their careers.

Lastly, I see that “Tech Companies have the highest job views among veterans” and this one I point out for companies not on the list. The listed businesses are known because they are in the government contract space or have become famous employer brands for veterans. By working with Bradley-Morris, your company can leverage our brand awareness, best practices and largest military-to-civilian candidate footprint to win the race for military-experienced talent.

Bobby Whitehouse


Image courtesy Scott L.

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Military-Experienced Executives Series: Jerry Ashcroft

I had the opportunity to speak with military-experienced executive Jerry Ashcroft who was recently selected to be the Chief Executive Officer of an iconic oil and gas industry brand. Mr. Ashcroft was a decorated Major in the United States Marine Corps. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the United States Naval Academy and his MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

Military-Experienced ExecutivesI was eager to ask Mr. Ashcroft questions about how his military experiences informed his business career. My first question was centered on finding out what the biggest leadership lessons were that he learned from the Naval Academy and as a Marine that he applied to running a business. Mr. Ashcroft replied, “Discipline and servant leadership”.

When I heard his answer, “discipline” made sense; that sounds very much like a Marine leadership characteristic. However, when we look beyond Marine Corps stereotypes, so is “servant leadership”. Servant leaders build trusting team environments that bring out their players’ best potential.

Next, I asked how those lessons compared or contrasted with the lessons of business school. “I feel my experience in business school was built on those lessons and allowed me to focus on being a team member in a business setting,” explained Mr. Ashcroft. “It was also a great way to sharpen my skills in a civilian environment.”

In my experience, business school and military leadership are a proven combination for successful corporate leadership.

I moved on to delve into what education or experience helped Mr. Ashcroft the most while leading his company through challenging times in the energy sector. He replied, “I believe my military experience helps me prioritize what is really important. Having a clear direction usually provides a calming influence for the team. From my observations, I also think it helps you to work well under pressure and keep a level head when others may become flustered.”

A key discussion point centered on whether military-experienced leaders are good fits for energy companies. “I think they are a good fit for all companies,” said Mr. Ashcroft. “Those that are used to self-sacrifice and putting others first deliver global wins across an organization.”

On a more personal note, I asked if he believed his military background had anything to do with his becoming a leader in an energy company. Mr. Ashcroft replied, “Yes, it gave me leadership experience in my twenties versus most having to wait until their forties”.

In this response, Mr. Ashcroft has arrived at a reoccurring theme I regularly see with Leadership Development Programs or LDPs. When a company has a need for middle management leadership positions (to build bench strength against projected retirements; to help institute culture change; to staff up for growth; etc.), many times an LDP program is the answer.

And Bradley-Morris has the second piece of that answer in the form of (relatively) young and motivated Junior Military Officers (JMOs). These job seekers have leadership experience that is leveraged to fast track into the specific business via the LDP.

Finally, I asked Mr. Ashcroft what he would most want to share with other CEOs about hiring military. “The most important resource is your human resource and the military has done a great job teaching how to lead and care for that resource,” he said.

Thank you to Jerry Ashcroft for your time and your illuminating thoughts.

Bobby Whitehouse


Image courtesy Jerry Ashcroft

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Ask the Rep: How does my regional company compete with Fortune 500s to hire talent?

“How does my regional company compete with Fortune 500s to hire talent?” was the question asked from a young hiring manager who attended a recent Bradley-Morris ConferenceHire military hiring event. I love this stuff. I blogged on David versus Goliath previously. All in all though, I take great satisfaction in helping employers of any size get a win and the below tips are applicable to most competitive recruiting situations.

Ask A Military Hiring Expert

“Speed Kills the Competition” is a long-established BMI Client Best Practice. And that was my first recommendation; that he reach out to the preferred candidates quickly with open dates for follow-up interviews.

My next recommendation was have them “meet the family”. This particular regional business has great camaraderie. Their president blogs on leadership. They bond through team-building projects and put a team car in the “24 hours of LeMONS” race. They have a good time working together and this is a major selling point for recruiting military candidates. Camaraderie is a part of military culture and is typically well-received by military-experienced job seekers.

Finally, later in the process, I encouraged the hiring manager to keep up the momentum. After an early site visit and great feedback showing off the team-orientation of the business, the last thing they would want to do is let these excited and bought-in job seekers wither on the vine. Military job seekers, especially those transitioning from the military, have a hard separation date and their clock is ticking. And probably more than civilian candidates, military job seekers view corporate indecisiveness with a wary eye.

The hiring manager in question avoided this trap, however, and within two days of the site visit extended an offer to their top choice – and the candidate accepted the same day! This syncs with our historical experience – offers extended within two weeks of the initial interview at our ConferenceHire events have a 90% rate of being accepted.

Ask the Rep is a new series and I would like to hear your recruiting or hiring questions! Please send me a message on LinkedIn or email. I look forward to hearing them.

Bobby Whitehouse


Images courtesy nick fullerton, Phil Whitehouse and Dennis Hill

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Hire military and improve hiring metrics

One of my recent readings was the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute’s The Secret to Reducing Hiring Mistakes? It’s in the metrics by Dr. Rena Rasch. I encourage you to download the white paper and draw your own Rena Raschconclusions. For my part, I found it an interesting view of corporate recruiting as well as a telling insight into current recruiting measures and results.

The paper baselined “rehire” and I was surprised to learn that HR leaders and hiring managers would only rehire 61% of their current hires. They compared various HR metrics that contribute to this stat to determine which metrics increase or decrease hiring mistakes. Perhaps not surprisingly, metrics that focus on hiring efficiencies impacted “rehire” negatively, e.g., number of qualified candidates, time to fill position, cost of hire and promotion speed.

Hiring excellence and the numbersSome of these are easy targets. Focusing on cost per hire is straight from the race to the bottom playbook; number of qualified candidates suggests the qualifications gap is too narrow reducing the cross section of soft skills represented; time to fill is purely transactional.

In the military recruiting/hiring arena, we like to think we approach things a little differently. Rather than simply focus on producing the best stats, our ConferenceHire military hiring event process has a quarter century of producing the best matches. A key part of this success derives from the advance work that we do to make sure the right candidates and right companies are “bought in” and prepared and confirmed to show up at the same place and at the same time; another part is attributable to the subtle competition at the event whereby candidates and companies alike put their best foot forward.

Interestingly, one of the most positive contributors to good rehire – feedback from peers/co-workers – is built into our ConferenceHire process. Before the ConferenceHire event even begins, our most successful hirers have already scheduled second interview schedules/site visits: structured on-site interviews with leaders and peers as well as business casual lunch meetings. These employers assume a “getting to know you” posture that often involves the candidate’s spouse; they go all-in to impress. Likewise, on these visits we recommend the candidates pay attention to the culture and environment of the company. It’s more matchmaker than zero-sum game.

Finally, I agree that quality of hire, perhaps measured by Return On Hire (ROH), is the most important metric, although “value delivered” to the organization is more quantifiable than an employee’s performance appraisals.

For example, I placed a military-experienced process improvement engineer with a mid-sized manufacturer who in his first six months reduced production cost by nearly $1.00 per unit. His ROH was off the chart. Or the manufacturer who hired 25 Junior Military Officers (JMOs) as mid-level managers and relatively soon after was sold to a major corporation. One of the major buying points was the middle manager bench strength that the smaller company possessed. Another was the significant increase in revenue that the JMO team had already delivered.

Of course we should work to reduce non-rehires. But what about the “I wish I could hire ten just like them” hires? The HR leaders and hiring managers who see their employees as their team and business as the playing field are at a huge advantage when it comes to winning in business. In the end, employers that hire military improve hiring metrics as well.

Bobby Whitehouse


Images courtesy IBM

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Hire what you can’t train

“I don’t have time to train someone.”

If you’re a manager and you’re telling others or yourself this, then it’s time for you to reevaluate your priorities. Because it’s easy to train skills. But it’s impossible to train core values.

Hire what you can’t trainThink about it. What’s eating at your time that prevents you from training skills? Most likely it is dealing with issues related to character. The team leader who is always slipping out of the office early. The supervisor who doesn’t keep you updated on key plant issues. Or the field service technician who doesn’t go above or beyond for clients because “that’s not my job”. If you are always “covering down” for your reports, then you are hiring all wrong. You should hire what you can’t train.

The reason that hiring military-experienced candidates results in consistent quality of hire is because these job seekers have excelled through world-class character development.

It starts with a service mindset which is a leading reason our all-volunteer military is the most successful in the world. This is a character trait that not everyone possesses: the willingness and ability to sacrifice personal interest for the service of others.

This core character is matured and tested under fire. The main focus of military training is to learn to act as a team. Individuality, freedom, choice and opinion are tempered in favor of discipline, order, detail and focus. This is the kind of pressure that makes precious stones.

With “character” being developed to the critical level, the military allows the traits of the individual to come back to the fore, now being better able to make decisions, function on a team and focus on an objective. This applies whether the service member is learning and performing technical skills, or operating engineering equipment or leading a team through a series of maneuvers.

The point is that the military offers a unique training environment where they focus on building character first and then training operational skills. Corporate America doesn’t have that system and if even if businesses did start it today they would be light years behind the curve.

“I have time to invest in the right person” is the mindset to possess. Because the right person can learn your technology, your products, your process and how you do business. They will do what they say they will, be where they are supposed to be and communicate in the way a professional communicates. When you have a team that has strong character, you can focus on supporting their performance and attend to your position’s other key priorities.

Bobby Whitehouse


Images courtesy The U.S. Army

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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.

Bobby Whitehouse


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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


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


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


Image courtesy NH53

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