Extra Level of Probing Can Help Attract Veteran Hires

Understanding the role of each military branch, the skill sets that come from each, as well as rank structure and the roles of military occupational specialties (MOS) are some of the barriers many civilian recruiters may face when attracting veterans to their organizations, according to Amanda Prestwood. Prestwood is the Corporate Human Resources Manager with Carmeuse Lime & Stone, and is responsible for the company’s talent acquisition and strategy.

“There’s so much jargon in the military that recruiting veterans requires an extra level of probing,” Prestwood said. “If a candidate tells you they worked as a 91B (wheeled vehicle mechanic) in the Army, don’t let that shut down the conversation. Go deeper by saying something like, ‘Tell me more about that. What were your duties?’”

In late 2016, Carmeuse connected with RecruitMilitary to plumb its expansive database for candidates. Fast forward to spring 2017 and enter Mike Strunck. A former Army officer and company executive officer (XO), his logistics background made him a potential fit for a role as an energy buyer with Carmeuse.

After contacting him by phone, Human Resources Generalist Audra Beatty invited Strunck to stop by the Carmeuse both at the DAV RecruitMilitary Pittsburgh Veterans Career Fair, which happened to be taking place the next day. That request was a quasi-test. What level of initiative would he take? Would he come to the event?

As it turned out, not only did Strunck show up, the meeting went so well that he later landed the job. “We wanted to see how he presented himself. He was clean-cut and confident, with good eye contact and a good handshake. He had resumes on hand, and had done a little homework about us,” Beatty said. “It was almost like a warm introduction for his formal interview. Going forward, we will now encourage our recruiting team to search potential candidates ahead of a hiring event and invite them to come.”

Beatty noted, “Even though a veteran may not have ordered and arranged fuel sources in the past, he or she may have coordinated millions of dollars of equipment. They just need training on industry-specific role. But they already have the leadership and are driven for success.”

“Veterans are very committed and possess high levels of initiative and regard. Coming into the safety culture here at Carmeuse, they have already proven that they can think beyond just themselves,” added Prestwood. She conceded that one of the hardest parts of her job is helping veterans realize the many strengths they bring to the workforce. “They are already leaders, and they can be trained to our processes,” she added.

“Veterans are not always good at selling themselves,” Prestwood explained. “Candidates frequently approach me at an event and say, ‘I was infantry – I don’t have any other skills.’’’

Prestwood believes that’s where that extra level of probing and redirection comes into play. She often steers the conversation by saying, “I’m sure you have experience in leadership, or have faced difficult situations where you’ve overcome adversity or had to step up to a task.’” This tactic helps many veterans open up, and provides an opportunity to frame Carmeuse’s values: a culture of safety, respect, and long-term employment.