Military Recruiting Experience Summary
In 1973, with the opening of Military Recruiters of San Diego (MRSD), I created a new form of recruiting company that impacted standards and created changes still evident in the junior military officer (JMO) marketplace today.
Prior to that time, JMO’s were usually recruited through “job conference” or “job seminar” companies. These firms matched employers and junior officers at rough hewn, cattle call affairs, usually held over three-day periods in hotels in major cities. Candidates were poorly screened and clients poorly served.
Employers would typically fly in one or two managers for these time consuming sessions. One of them would make a brief two or three minute sales presentation to an audience of 50 to 150 JMO’s on day one, and later meet and screen them individually, while quickly deciding which ones to schedule for 45-minute interviews that would take place over the following two days. Two managers might interview 30 to 40 officers in order to select a half dozen or less for serious consideration at later times and locations. Usually, numerous employers would pursue the same top prospects. Candidates were treated shabbily. Client companies wasted a lot of time and effort, both at the conferences themselves, and afterwards as they followed up with their selected candidates.
At MRSD, we provided well-screened, fully briefed, and carefully prepared JMO candidates for demanding Fortune 500 clients. An exceptionally high proportion of our candidates were considered beyond the initial interview stage (75 to 80%). An unusually high percentage of those people were offered and accepted employment. We charged top fees for excellent service, and secured many corporate clients that had grown weary of attending job conferences around the US. Our thoughtful, quality service was well received by many of the most demanding Fortune 500 firms with the excellent developmental programs for high potential young managers. Second tier firms could not compete for top our candidates and would naturally fall by the wayside over time.
Our service involved taking only the true top 10-15% JMO’s, as measured by lifetime accomplishment and achievement profiles, academic records, military performance against peers, and behavioral based selection criteria. We provided unheard of candidate guidance in matters of company research, career path selection, interviewing practice, and general counseling. Essentially, we acted as an extension of the clients’ human resource departments and did our best to make sure their interests were protected and served, while at the same time providing elite candidates with personal career guidance not available elsewhere.
MRSD innovations included a standardized resume format that was later adopted by all junior officer specialty firms and the routine videotaping of candidate interviews for client distribution, as VCR’s became universally available for home and office use in the late 1970’s.
Video copies of candidate interviews were selectively routed to clients across the US via overnight delivery to help prescreen candidates prior to flying them cross country for interviews. Client company representatives would also fly in for interviews at our office on occasion. JMO’s with top qualifications competed for acceptance by MRSD. Many of the most competitive Fortune 500 employers became our clients within our first five years of operation, including ATT Long Lines, Mobil Oil Corporation, Frito-Lay, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Container Corporation of America, Weyerhaeuser, American Hospital Supply, Hallmark Cards, Western Kraft, and Scott Paper. Our client relationships were characterized by uncommon trust and longevity.
Additionally, for approximately four years in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, we served the domestic nuclear power generation industry by providing both officers and enlisted personnel who had graduated from the Navy Nuclear Power Training program and were leaving military service for civilian careers. All of our candidates were selected from officers who had already decided to resign or retire from military service. We had a firm policy of never soliciting people to leave the military or contributing to their decisions to leave.
Candidate flow was generated by a number of methods simultaneously. We bought conventional print advertising in newspapers and directories used by military service members on the West Coast. Over time, we acquired organizational charts for many military bases, as well as for all classes of ships and submarines. Using this information, I constructed original mailing lists based on job assignments, rather than individual names. Several times a year we would reach nearly every position staffed by a junior officer at a base within a 300-mile radius of San Diego, or assigned to a ship or submarine in the Pacific.
After five years, most of our best candidates came from referrals of past candidates. Incredibly, our largest source of accepted candidates was from people we turned down! That said a lot, I believe, for how we treated everyone who applied to us for acceptance.
I also taught a class for five years for retiring officers taking advantage of the Navy League’s Operation Highline Program. Although we didn’t recruit retiring officers for our entry level oriented client programs, they appreciated the free coaching and advice on their own career transitions, and reciprocated by referring young officers under their commands prior to and after retiring from active duty. I was also a member of the Marine Executive Association for many years. On many occasions, I served as a guest speaker on career topics at local colleges and universities, both for undergraduates and MBA students.
During my career as a military recruiting specialist, I was fortunate in having senior officers train me in the subtleties of reading officer and enlisted job performance evaluations. We placed a lot of stock in determining which people had out performed their peers consistently while in service. There was great value in understanding this, we felt. Most of out clients agreed.
1973 through 1998 was a great run! By the time I decided to close our doors, there had been a number of important changes in the JMO marketplace that made our business model uncompetitive. There was a lot more competition and the job conference format was greatly improved. In the end, it won out. The Internet was also a new element in recruiting, and geographic boundaries became less and less important for candidate generation over time. We could no longer afford to invest large amounts of time in coaching top candidates, if they were going to be interviewing through competitors simultaneously.
Starting in 1998, I became a full time consultant performing only retained search assignments or recruiting projects. I also wrote training courses, evaluated hiring programs, and accepted occasional contract assignments as a recruiter. My former secretary of 10 years is now a high school principal and a key associate has been CEO of a FedEx division employing over 5,000 people for five years.
I am proud of the people I employed, the officers and enlisted personnel I recruited, and the client companies I served for a quarter century.