C-Suite Network™

Why Companies Should Hire Veterans…Even for Desk Jobs

Man Standing On Stage

Businesspeople love to use war analogies when talking about their companies. 


We all have people “in the trenches” fighting hard “on the frontlines” of our organizations with “boots on the ground” moving our missions forward. How many times have you had to “bite the bullet” and take a hit to profits after a deal that you were counting on didn’t work out? 


While we’re quick to adapt military jargon, there’s a good chance your company isn’t moving fast enough to hire military veterans. Everyone finds itself in a war to recruit top talent. While hiring managers are quick to put the word out with at the local university with an MBA program, you’re probably not expanding their searches to an often-overlooked talent pool: Veterans. 


“The U.S. Military is the world’s greatest leadership incubator,” said George Randle, author of the new book, The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent. “In the military, you are trusted with millions, hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment. Hundreds of troops. Complex and everchanging situations all across the globe, for which many times there is no book solution. You’re constantly in this fishbowl of learning.” 


He continued, “All of my success is rooted in the coaching and mentorship and council that I got from so many noncommissioned officers and officers over my time in the military. It’s like a debt I can’t repay.” 


George was a recent guest on All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett. He teamed up with his business partner, Mike Sarraille, to pen The Talent War. They also help run the executive search firm, EF Overwatch, a company specializing in getting military veterans into business leadership positions.  


Through EF Overwatch, George and his partners have placed veterans into the c-suite and other vital roles in companies. He has spent his non-military career in talent acquisition and human resources pointing out the one thing veterans don’t realize when they’re on the mission of finding a job after military service. 


“It’s really a case of you don’t know what you don’t know,” George said. “With that overwhelming information (social media, websites), how much you don’t know about how to market yourself and how to articulate what actually made you successful in the military. (Those skills) made me, and it made every other veteran successful in corporate America.” 


To help veterans out, George and Mike deploy their special operations training and came up nine attributes that military leaders have: drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, effective intelligence, team ability, curiosity, and emotional strength.  


George says most companies tend to think experience is the best way to predict success, but that’s not always the case. While there are minimum qualifications for the job(s) companies is hiring for, don’t “over rotate on experience.” Instead, George believes hiring managers need to look beyond the resume and consider other skills such as the applicant’s character.  


“When we get into situations, much like COVID, that haven’t been predicted or haven’t been foreseen or haven’t been planned for, it’s the character that enables your success, more so than the experience and the hard skills. If you’re hiring for character, you’re more prepared for whatever comes your way than just relying upon skill.” 


One stereotype many veterans face have to overcome is that a regular desk job won’t be enough for them. Potential employers make the assumptions that making life and death decisions every day and exist in extreme situations might not be enough. George says that’s not the case. He calls it “empathy on a dimmer switch,” meaning military veterans can turn specific skills up and down depending on the situation.  


He expands, “You’re only changing the environment. Now the environments are not as extreme, but it can be extreme in business. We’re finding (veterans) are making that transition with our coaching even easier than people would normally think.”  


“It makes veterans all that much better under pressure situations with business. They’re like, ‘Yeah, no factor. Okay, they’re not shooting at me. I’ll be here tomorrow. We’ll figure this out.’” 


George also adds military training helps equip veterans in the workplace to handle stress better in challenging situations like layoffs. 


They also understand how to deal with conflict and co-workers who aren’t pulling their weight. George thinks we all need to get away from the military stereotype of commanders yelling at their troops. He says there’s a lot more sensitivity than you realize among the ranks. 


“The military is the most diverse set of backgrounds. To be a leader there means you have to be able to build relationships across the entire suite of human nature and personalities and backgrounds and ethnicities and religions. You have to be able to communicate. You have to be able to relate. You have to be able to set the standard for those people, and you have to be able to lead and create vision and motivation across the broadest section,” George said. 


A real challenge for military men and women in the civilian world is what George referred to as ‘the military’s all-consuming nature.’ No matter what branch you’re in, you are dependent on the military for everything — from shopping, to where you socialize. After leaving the military, many veterans struggle with filling their non-work time.  


“One of the things we coach is you get to go build your life. You get to have that family life. You get to have those professional and personal interests that you get to balance. It takes a little bit of time to assimilate,” George said. 


Let’s be honest work-life balance can be a difficult thing to achieve for those of us in business as well. 


I’d like to thank George for the eye-opening conversation. Accounting for character is a hero value we must not overlook when we’re hiring – or even in life.  


If you’d like to hear more of our conversation, click here 

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