How does military experience bridge the skills gap?

The skills gap is one of the most talked about trends in hiring. Talent acquisition professionals are scrambling to find the right candidate in a How does military experience bridge the skills gapskills biased market. Are you losing to your business competitors because you can’t find the skills to grow your business? If you’ve considered veterans as a solution, you might ask yourself, “How does military experience bridge the skills gap?”

Most specialized skills are transferable. In 2002, I began working with William “Bill” Bartlett, then CEO, Callidus Technologies, when he had the vision to hire JMOs (Junior Military Officers) as Engineering Project Managers. These men and women successfully leveraged their military leadership and engineering experience as Project Managers in the specialized world of Industrial Burners and Flairs. Some Callidus leaders embraced the idea and built an abridged education on the specifics of their business. Other hiring managers were skeptical and fell behind as the specialized skills they sought were not available. The skeptics soon embraced these military-experienced project engineers as they became the top performers in the company. In 2008, Honeywell purchased Callidus in part because of their middle-management bench strength.

General Electric populated their Six Sigma movement with JMOs and the JMOs’ consistent success in Project Engineer roles is not a coincidence. JMOs are the construction managers who build facilities, the engineering leaders on nuclear submarines and the aircraft maintenance managers on aircraft carriers and flight lines. They work with contractors, oftentimes having to negotiate complicated communication barriers. They are the military’s middle-managers who execute the plan of the day through people.

What has your experience been with JMO Project Engineers?

Bobby Whitehouse

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

Image courtesy of U.S. Air Force by Master Sgt. Roger Parsons/Released

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Military Success Traits – Benevolence

Benevolence may not seem like one of the military success traits at first glance, but consider all of the humanitarian missions military success traits benevolenceconducted by the U.S. military at home and abroad. Examples of military compassion abound online and in the news. Our service members are good people who care about the well-being of others.

There are hundreds of military charities, scholarships and relief organizations as well as non-profits founded by former military. Jacob Wood and William McNulty, two former U.S. Marines, created Team Rubicon and now organize teams of veterans for humanitarian relief. Service is to serve. Wood and McNulty are CNN Heroes .

Empathy towards others drives compassion which makes stronger teams. Succeeding for the person on your right and your left is much more powerful than succeeding for yourself.

Benevolence is a key ingredient for winning in business. Is benevolence in your corporate DNA?

Bobby Whitehouse

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

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Military Success Traits – Action

When transitioning from the military, Mike Minogue landed his first job at General Electric by writing a letter to Jack Welch. Military Success Traits - ActionThat’s how a distinguished and decorated Airborne Ranger gets it done. Now, as Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Abiomed, getting it done includes growing revenue five times and creating over one hundred jobs, i.e., winning in business.

In the military, Mike was selected to attend West Point and excelled earning awards in the most demanding programs. Those who excel in the service share military success traits. The ability to take action and execute your plan is at the top of this list.

The most frequent feedback I receive from employers regarding the military success traits of their new JMO (Junior Military Officers) project managers, operations leaders or sales executives is that they take action. Planning is arguably the easier part but execution is where you earn your pay. Military leaders know the importance of action related to achievement and most achieve well above the average. If action-orientation is one of your teams’ success traits then consider hiring a JMO.

What are your teams’ top character traits and do you look for these characteristics when hiring?

Bobby Whitehouse

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

Image courtesy of the U.S. Army

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Military Candor is Good Leadership

When you join the military, no matter the branch, your first step is to become institutionalized in military culture. Same haircut, uniforms, protocol and communication. Sir yes sir!

Military Candor is Good LeadershipCandor, a staple in military culture, also helps companies win in business. While military leaders understand the nuance of communications, especially as it applies to transitioning to a civilian career, when it comes time for candor, they excel. It’s considered an element of good leadership.

In his book Winning, Jack Welch speaks on candor as a critical element in promoting business innovation. Confronting the brutal facts, part of Jim CollinsStockdale Paradox, is surely straight talk. The military conditions you to confront the harsh reality, make the call and to communicate it efficiently.

We leave the institution but many of its attributes carry on. Candid communication is one of my favorites. It’s the maturity to handle people being honest with you. It is also an element of communication simplicity. Not beating around the bush but getting straight to the point, and having the savvy of understanding where and when to deploy it, is truly a process improvement. Especially if I say, “Why don’t we all order dessert?”

Bobby Whitehouse

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

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Military Intangibles – Discipline, Teamwork, Leadership – The Icing or the Cake?

On Veterans Day, a link to an article in “The Atlantic” was posted on some social media sites I follow. Help Veterans by Taking Them Off the Pedestal is an interesting perspective on side-effects from the current national pride in our military. While anyone who served in the Vietnam War might argue on the contrast from then to now, I’ll invite you to read it and form your own opinion.

Military IntangiblesI do love his quote, “The intangibles veterans bring are important – discipline, teamwork, leadership. But those things are the icing when we thought they were the cake.” The military intangibles are indeed the icing. But the icing is that little extra that makes all the difference.

For years I’ve advised recently placed candidates that if they show up to work early, ready to go everyday, they’ll be in the top 20% of most companies.

Return calls right away, over-communicate with your superiors and subordinates, and you’ll be in the top 15%.

Add making “Doing Your Best” a daily commitment and you’re in the top 10%. I often receive employer feedback supporting and never conflicting this assertion.

Through my role here at BMI,  I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing people and job seekers. They are Service Academy Graduates, Technical Experts and Experienced Leaders with a variety of tangible skills that are directly transferable to high-value industry roles. And that is the cake.

But The Icing, the little extra that delivers superior performance and holds significant value in corporate America – that is what gets them into these elite programs in the first place.

Bobby Whitehouse

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

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Talking Military Talent and Leadership with Jeffrey Clark, CEO of Anthony International

Talented leaders in the middle management ranks are the key players in business execution. They’re Jeffrey Clark’s go-to people for Military Talenthelping his team serve their customers. Serving customers well is how Clark rose to CEO and how Anthony International grew from a $30M to a $350M revenue business. Winning in business is about great people making it happen and this type of performance was instrumental to Anthony International’s expansion.

What makes a good team member? “Execution, a self-starter, someone who makes the call and goes for it,” replied Clark. “You win or you learn from the scrapes but executing nearly always beats hesitation.” Regarding military talent, Clark has had favorable experiences. Whether a former sub driver or former tank driver and all points in between them, Clark sees “military training as a positive in business.”

The CEO takes developing talent seriously – he personally mentors several of his rising stars. Helping them “look forward to anticipate the needs of our customers, sometimes before they see the need themselves” is a big part of Anthony International’s playbook. He looks for strategic thinkers trained in weighing options and executing. Clark agreed that military talent, particularly Junior Military Officers, are good middle management candidates who exemplify these traits.

Bobby Whitehouse

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

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Hire better than me? Yes, always – Military A-Players

I’ve found that a racing team and a business team share many dynamics. My sailing program is small but like a small business it offers the opportunity for new team members to quickly become key players. I recruit the top available talent, Military A-Playerskeep the culture genuine, celebrate victories and seek out every opportunity to help others get what they want to advance their sailing resume – in service of the team goals – even though it may be in conflict with my personal game plan. The team is stronger for it.

I recall reading in Brad Smart’s book, Topgrading, his idea that B-Players don’t hire A-Players, and in may instances, I agree. Having the confidence to go beyond immediate self-serving is not natural for most of us. Defending self-interest is a hardwired survival skill. Like fight or flight, the risk of our new hire “outperforming” us is a valid fear. But it is a fear we must master if we plan to make our team better.

The military-experienced talent pool is strong. Interviewers will definitely come face-to-face with A-Players, men and women who have accomplished high goals under difficult conditions and circumstances. These interviewers will recognize that landing the next A-Player makes them stronger as their team can benefit from the military leader’s strengths, while the team shares their specific industry and civilian experiences that will make the A-Player a long-term performer. It’s a win for you, them and your business.

Bobby Whitehouse

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

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Environmental Health and Safety Skill Mapping For Military

OSHA compliance and safe operation of equipment are shared responsibilities in the military and industry. The Environmental Health and Safety Manager is a great transitional role for service members Environmental Health and Safety Skill Mapping For Militarywith a particular skill set. While safety is everyone’s job, not everyone from the military has the skill set industry requires. But those in industry should also know that many in the military do possess the skills necessary for success and that many of these “success skills” are “soft skills”.

In talking with Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI) alumni who are now in Environmental Health and Safety careers, the feedback is interesting. For one, most put the hard-to-soft skill ratio at about 25% to 75%. For example, the hard skill of data collection for OSHA reporting requires the soft skills of being proactive to get ahead of the deadline curve, getting buy-in to collect data from someone who may not see the reporting as urgent or important and being resourceful in gathering benchmark information, often from industry competitors. This trend continues the deeper down the Environmental Health and Safety rabbit hole we go.

On the industry side, all branches have industrial hygiene career fields. The Navy and Army have information online regarding their industrial hygiene operations. The Air Force program is viewed favorably by corporate America as well. In addition, some managers have a strong interest in students who pursue an Environmental Health and Safety or Industrial Hygiene degree field after their military service. While hiring managers varied on their preferences, all of the BMI-placed military-experienced candidates were successful in their civilian Safety and Industrial Hygiene careers.

The skill map. When we are matching military candidates to this career field, they must be strong technically so they understand how machines work and how areas of potential danger can be engineered out of the system. They need to know reporting – it’s a big part of the job – so information and data collection skills are important. An understanding of physics and/or chemistry is required in some industries when the operation involves hazardous or radioactive materials. Experience with information indexing, i.e., knowing where to find various rules and regulations from Federal Government to Corporate Regulations or Industry benchmarking is necessary. This and a laundry list of soft skills make for a successful military-to-industry Environmental Health and Safety hire.

Bobby Whitehouse

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

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Be David When Hiring Military

You know David versus Goliath? It’s the story that came to mind recently when a virtually unknown company bested a Fortune 500 giant in hiring a military-experienced superstar. It played out a lot like the story.

Goliath relied on the power of their brand. They were slow in their process. They kept the candidate at a distance while they cautiously weighed their decision, gathering consensus from many parties.

David on the other hand was quick and nimble. They rolled out the red carpet and kept letting the candidate know they were very interested. They had pre-briefed key decision makers and therefore were able to secure feedback quickly and deliver information instantly. And they secured an acceptance before the other offer had even made it to the approval stage.

In competing for top candidates, quick and nimble in most cases will win. So even if you’re Goliath, learn to hustle like David.

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Bobby Whitehouse

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

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Tips for Common Sense Interviewing Questions

I have heard my share of interesting interview questions. They run the gamut from the cultural “what Tips for Common Sense Interviewing Questionskind of tree are you?” to the analytical “how many gas stations are in New Jersey?” I am sure these questions are asked with the best of intentions, however they do not deliver the intended result. Even the famous “Google Blender Question” turned out to be ineffective in assessing talent. So what are the best questions?

  • Good questions come from answers. The most effective interviewers are great listeners who can think of good questions as the candidate’s story unfolds. Like a salesman who builds rapport through the conversation, a good interviewer walks between assessing the candidate and attracting them to their organization. Good questions give a deeper understanding of the candidate’s situation. They can reveal a hidden project that has huge relevance for the position that would have gone unnoticed had the question not gone to that depth.
  • Good questions are relevant. Ask real-world questions from actual situations that have occurred. Prompt the candidate to provide greater detail regarding how they came up with their answer. Ask for explanations, especially if you do not agree with where they are going.
  • Good questions are honest. I am not a fan of trick questions, especially when combined with assumptive interpretation of the answers. They are usually grounded in unfavorable bias and typically come from inexperienced interviewers. As the Google article mentions above, their finding was the “trick” questions only served to make the interviewer feel smart. But a difficult, brutally-honest question – now I am all for that.

Getting a read on a candidate’s skill and cultural fit is only part of the interview process. You are also making your organization’s first impression. Is that candidate going to feel comfortable with you and give honest answers or will you get the typically canned answers to your canned questions. If you want “game changing” results, then simply don’t play games.

Bobby Whitehouse

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

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