By Mary Lorenz
"Corporate America is missing the best talent out there," says Crystal Dyer, in reference to what happens when companies fail to understand the mind shift that's required to recruit military veterans. All it takes, Dyer says, is a little bit of understanding.
"Unless you've been around the military, you can't really understand it, but once you peel back that onion, it really changes the way you recruit," she says. "Peeling back that onion" is part of Dyer's goal as program manager for DISYS' recently launched Veteran Employment & Training Solutions (VETS) initiative, whose mission is to help open doors for both military veterans coming back to the workforce and employers trying to recruit them.
DISYS is one of many companies making efforts to increase opportunities and awareness for veterans coming back into the workforce. What differentiates DISYS' program from other military recruiting initiatives, however, is that it was created – and is run – by actual military veterans. Eager to build an outreach program aimed at military veterans, DISYS' Executive Leadership Team assembled a team of internal and external experts, including Dyer and Donald Jones, a retired Lieutenant General with the U.S. Army, to help DISYS design a program where actual military veterans acted as recruiters and career coaches. The result was VETS.
Bridging the Communication Gap
"Every recruiter on our team is a former member of the armed services," Dyer, a former armed services member herself, says of the program. Having recruiters who have experienced life in the armed services puts DISYS in a unique position to help, because they understand where both sides – hiring managers and vets – are coming from. Dyer says there's often a disconnect between how veterans and hiring managers talk about skills and experience, which presents one of the biggest obstacles to recruiting military veterans.
"Typically, when veterans write their resumes, they write in very technical terms. The problem is, hiring managers don't take these things like rank or service history into consideration, because those aren't terms they understand," Dyer says. As a result, their resumes end up falling through the cracks, and employers can miss out on highly qualified candidates. That's where DISYS recruiters come in. They work with veterans to revise their resumes using terms hiring managers understand, while also helping hiring managers understand how to translate veterans' skills and military experience into their needs.
Paving the Pathway to Success
That language barrier can also wreak havoc during the interview process. "Hiring managers tend to be offended when candidates ask, 'Where does this job lead?' To the hiring manager, that sounds like, 'Why should I bother?' when these vets are really asking, 'What do I need to do to advance?' In the military, service members have a very clear cut path up the ranks, so that's how they're wired to think," Dyer says. A lot of her trainings focus on helping employers understand this cultural difference between military life and corporate America. She encourages employers to combat this by creating a clear pathway to success. "Be able to explain to these candidates what they have to do in that role to get promoted," she advises.
Creating a Wide-Reaching Network
In addition to the educational services, career counseling and job fairs through the VETS program, military veterans and their spouses also have free access to DISYS's network of global recruiters and a customized portal connecting them with the recruitment team for personalized service and support. By partnering with organizations and nonprofits that serve the military community, as well as the federal and state workforce commissions, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor, DISYS hopes to connect as many military veterans as possible to their extensive network of organizations eager to recruit them.
It has also been reaching out to companies that are independently trying to recruit veterans. "A lot of these companies are trying to recruit veterans on their own, but they don't necessarily have the resources we have," Dyer says. "By partnering with us, they can take advantage of our recruiters, broaden their pool of candidates and understand how to better recruit these individuals."
Finding the Cultural Fit
There's another way DISYS' program stands out among other military hiring initiatives. With VETS, it goes beyond simply placing veterans in jobs: DISYS recruiters want to make sure they match candidates where there's a cultural fit, too. "The goal with recruitment is to bring on talent that accelerates your organization, but you have to make sure it's a good fit personally, too." Dyer says she and her team actually visit the companies to get a feel for the culture and workplace environment before recommending candidates.
"We don't want to place people for the sake of placing them. We want to make sure they're in a place where they feel comfortable, where they feel they can grow and really have a future there. I owe that to my peers."
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