To Find the Best IT Employees Anywhere, Consider Hiring Veterans

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-11-11

To Find the Best IT Employees Anywhere, Consider Hiring Veterans

For most people it's hard to believe that the recession officially is over and that the economy is recovering, but it's true. Companies are getting more business, profits are up and the need for reliable employees grows every day.

IT departments are finding that recruiting an employee who can show up on time, demonstrate leadership or  be a team player and, most of, all be highly motivated, is pretty tough. From the stories I hear, the labor pool is full of slackers.

But it only seems that way. There's another labor pool that's filled with highly motivated, highly trained and highly educated men and women who are being overlooked by employers. Worse, these are people who have already demonstrated their willingness to make incredible sacrifices for others, who excel in team-building, creativity and motivation. These people are the veterans returning from assignments in all of our military services.

The problem, it seems, is that companies look for all the usual stuff on a resume. You know, the steady progression from high school or college to an entry level office job, to something related to computers, to IT training, to a job pulling cable or doing data entry.

The HR departments don't relate to a six-year tour in a desert far away, learning to build teams made up of people who used to hate you to rebuild villages, install Internet access for people who have never been exposed to the real outside world. All the while, these same people were shot at, attacked with everything from roadside bombs to missiles and yet they carried on.

It's hard to put this in a resume so that the automated resume screeners will even send it to a recruiter, much less have that recruiter understand what all of this means. It wasn't always this way. When I retired from the Navy having run one of the military's largest data centers, I was highly recruited by several firms, but those recruiters were all people who understood the military and how it related to civilian life.

Not many of those people exist anymore, or at least not as many we need these days. So instead, thousands of highly trained, highly motivated veterans go without jobs. Military service has become a rare thing in the United States, and few understand what those people do, beyond carrying a rifle and sometimes coming home in body bags. Fortunately, there's help on the way. As Clint Boulton explains in his well-researched article, Google and other companies are now working to meet the President's challenge to hire veterans.

Clint's article is filled with resources for veterans and for the companies that could hire them. But it takes more than Google and LinkedIn. Companies need to realize that these men and women are the best possible employees they can bring on board.

Job Recruiters Need to Recognize Value of Military Service

They have experience working in teams that function in even the most difficult circumstances. They have managed people under conditions that are nearly impossible to describe. These people have learned to work under conditions that are so difficult that most workers in the United States would refuse outright.

One of the things that I learned in my career in the military is that there's more to management than simply ordering people around. It's true that as an officer, the people who worked for me were duty-bound to follow my orders, but you don't build an effective team that way. You build an effective team because people see you as a leader, and want to be part of your team. The truth is, you cannot order a person to give up their life for you-the only way they will take an action that could result in their own sacrifice is because they believe in you as a leader and are willing to do it for you and the team.

To squander this pool of leaders at all levels that have learned teamwork so effectively is to give up your company's chance at the best management and the best work force you could possibly have. Out there in the labor pool, unemployed or under employed are the people who could transform your company. All you have to do is bring them on board.

Of course, you will have to make some adjustments. Some of these priceless employees have already given more than you will ever ask of them, so you may need to accommodate their wheelchairs or their prosthetics. Quite frankly you should feel honored to do so.

But you will also need to make some adjustments in how your recruiting process and your HR departments work. Those automatic resume screening packages that you use to turn away people who at least at first glance aren't qualified also turn away veterans. But those packages can have their parameters adjusted.

And those recruiters who don't understand that the word "combat" means collaboration and leadership can be trained. But most of all, you have to realize that you're missing out on what is a huge competitive advantage, because ultimately every business depends on the quality of its people.

Several times on this Veterans Day, people have thanked me for my service and I appreciate that. But the best way you can thank me and the tens of thousands of other veterans is to help them find real, rewarding work. They are a national treasure. Please recognize them for that. 

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