Tapping The Veteran IT Pool

By Bob Wheeler The hiring process can be painful for both organizations seeking talent, and individual job seekers. Gaps in common skills and language are typically cited as reasons for veteran hiring initiatives. It’s also agreed by most experts that, of the military skill set, Information Technology and cyber skills are some of the most translatable. Why then, do we have difficulty when it comes to attracting and hiring veteran IT Talent?  

The problem, I think, lies on both sides of the equation.

I recently showed a job description to a transitioning Marine Corps communications officer. I asked him for his thoughts and it didn’t take him long to identify that the position of Sr. Network Threat and Media Forensics and Support Specialist had a USMC counterpart.  “Looks like an 0689 Gunny to me”, he said.

OK- great. So what’s a 0689 Gunny?

The first part of this is the MOS 0689 which identifies a specific job.  In this case, Cyber Security Technician.  The “Gunny” part is short for Gunnery Sergeant which is an E7 (“E” meaning enlisted).  Here’s where the process can sometimes go wrong. Often recruiters will seek out commissioned officers due to the fact that they all have college degrees, but this isn’t always the wisest move.

First of all, if you are searching for technicians, then you will want to target the enlisted ranks, particularly the junior to mid-level.  It’s worth noting that this case, you can’t actually become an 0689 until you’re already either an E5, or in rare cases, a very highly recommended E4, already serving in a related cyber field.  So these folks are not only highly trained, they’re also high performers.

In this case, the description also did not list any education requirements, and even if it did, we must remember that a great deal of the enlisted population also have degree.

So now that you know these 0689’s exist, the question becomes, “Why aren’t they replying to my job posting?”  Well, one big issue you have to face is the competition from their current employer.

Yes, there is a drawdown, but it isn’t affecting everyone equally.  Did you know these USMC Cyber Warriors are being offered nearly $51,000 to reenlist?  Yep, there is real completion for this talent, and it’s not just in the private sector.

So, while your position might be offering the potential for greater income, this individual would have to actually turn down a guaranteed bonus and essentially tender their resignation before even seriously considering a job posting that he or she may or may not even get selected for.  That’s quite a gamble, especially for someone who has experienced a great deal of security and stability throughout their career.

It’s not just the Marine Corps, either. Even though actual bonus money may differ slightly by service and by current fiscal year, the push for Cyber talent is there across the DOD. So, whether it be an Air Force 3D072, a Navy 2779, or a new Army 25D, retention is a service priority and it is certainly a factor to take into account. These aren’t your typical passive candidates.

Another consideration is that even as individuals research civilian positions, many do not completely understand the civilian lingo.  Service members, for example, are often unsure of what differentiates a Senior Network Support Specialist from Junior Specialist.  The enlisted technicians often are not used to thinking of themselves as “Senior” anything, despite the fact that they meet the actual qualifications listed.  Being unsure of exactly what the job is only reinforces the idea that it’s safer to just stay put.

How then to tap into this talent pool?  It comes down to taking an agrarian approach, as opposed to the typical recruiter hunter/gatherer behavior.  You’ll need to grow your own candidates.

This can be done a number ways, including leveraging your current veteran employees.  New hires will likely still have strong connections within the military community for the first two to three years they are out of the service. Have your current veteran employees reach out to their peers and participate in efforts to market your organization and the specific jobs.

More and more active duty service members are also getting onto social media sites such as LinkedIn.  One of their biggest complaints, however, is a feeling that it is only useful for those actively seeking employment.  Your organization can offer a solution to this fallacy.

Establishing a company LinkedIn group that encompasses your current veteran employees and is also open to current service members can become an excellent opportunity to assist military cyber professionals in understanding the similarities and differences between their current positions with what they may do in the private sector.

The best part is, by establishing this group, you are also providing your organization with a steady stream of highly trained future candidates, each with positive feelings about your company. This should now be the first pond your recruiters fish in each time you have an opening.

Another possibility to develop relationships is through mentorship opportunities. If your organization plans on attending or hosting any professional events such as conferences, you can reach out to the local military installations (through their transition readiness office) and offer anything from a “get to know us” networking event to even sponsoring a service member or two at a local conference. Offering to provide payment of entrance fees and assignment of a current veteran employee to accompany the service member is great for both public relations, as well as future recruitment.

Idea’s like the ones above are relatively simple and are either free or have limited costs associated with them. The best part is that they work well in helping to bridge the culture gap between the military talent and the private sector.

Organizations that develop the reputation of being a resource for cyber talent while they are still in the service will position themselves to attract the best and the brightest service members once they decide to move on to the private sector.  In the end, it’s really a win-win situation.

Bob Wheeler is is a Certified Veteran Transition Coach and founder of BW-Personal Career Services in Jacksonville, NC. Follow Bob on Twitter @bwpcs.

This post originally appeared on ClearedJobs.Net. You can view it here