The Big Offensive Mistake Employers Make When Hiring Vets

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Companies rightfully want to hire veterans. America's veterans have always been driven individuals with unique skills and leadership experience. But after more than a decade of complex counterinsurgency operations, today’s vets are more talented than in any era of American history.


That’s what makes the following internal hiring data of a top U.S. banking and financial services firm obtained by Task & Purpose so offensive.

The slide, which I’ve redacted the identifying information from but otherwise will print below, was titled “Enlisted Recruiting vs. Officer Recruiting.”

I will not identify the company by name  because this isn’t about them. This problem is indicative of the way too many hiring managers view veterans.

Bottom line: Hire officers if you want leaders, hire enlisted vets if you want someone to work in a call center.

This type of mentality is offensive and harmful. As the person who gave me the slide, an enlisted Army veteran who attends a top-ranked university, told me: “because that’s why I joined that Army, I wanted to work in a call center eventually.”

Related: When hiring veterans, ignorance is bliss until it becomes offensive.

There's nothing wrong with working in a call center, to be sure, but there is absolutely something wrong with the suggestion that the majority of military veterans don't have valued military leadership experiences or are less qualified than their officer counterparts.

It's an antiquated notion, not in keeping with the complexities of the past 12 years. Thinking of enlisted troops as the guys who blindly followed orders like "storm that machinegun nest!" wasn't true 50 years ago, but it's sure as hell not the case now.

In the modern military, every person of every rank has to have the ability to lead, to perform their duties autonomously with little to no supervision, and to think critically about everything around them.

This shift in military culture was fantastically captured by a hero of mine, former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak,  in a 1999 essay in Marines Magazine called "The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War." In it, Krulak describes the need for an enlisted corporal to conduct and oversee counterinsurgency operations, humanitarian operations, and conventional military operations simultaneously in an urban environment in an area as small as three city blocks.

If we're going to find success for this new generation of American veterans returning home after a decade of war, we need to understand that their skills and experiences they have are unlike anything we've seen before.

Everyone who joined the military and served in Iraq and Afghanistan volunteered to be there. And many, like me, did so not out of a lack of career options, but in the interest of service and ambition. I enlisted in the Marine Corps and quickly became a noncomissioned officer because I wanted to lead. To hear from anyone, let alone a prominent company, that I don't have leadership experience is offensive and wrongheaded.

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