The following recap of the Getting Hired! panel is provided by Julie Waters, our own NMSN HR expert.
Finding Military Spouse Friendly Employers
On Saturday, October 11, I had the honor of participating on a panel speaking to a group of NMSN Members and other military spouses. My fellow panelists were Meg O’Grady, Vice President, Business Strategy and Engagement at First Data and Mike Kelly, Executive Director, Military Advocacy at USAA. Our moderator was President and Founder of NMSN, Sue Hoppin.
We began the session with a question to Mike and Meg asking them to identify what it is about their organizations that makes them military spouse friendly employers. USAA has been named by Military Spouse Magazine as a top Military Spouse Friendly employer and Mike noted that the competition for that list gets harder each year as more and more organizations are doing what they can to hire veterans and spouses. USAA currently has an existing program for current military spouse employees who, depending on the job, can work remotely from a new PCS location or transfer to another office (e.g.: Tampa to Colorado Springs or San Antonio). USAA has also launched a military spouses and domestic partners work from home pilot program. Under this program, people are recruited specifically to work remotely. Training occurs at a nearby USAA campus and then the work occurs from home. When the employee PCSes, the job moves with them. Currently there are 3 classes of 32 military spouses in claims adjuster positions in three locations: Chesapeake (VA), Colorado Springs (CO) and El Paso (TX). USAA is exploring additional locations near high concentration military communities
Similarly, First Data has a recruiting department that specializes in hiring veterans and spouses. They participate in the Military Spouse Employment Partnership and offer targeted fellowships, internships and programs including mentoring and on the job training. They easily exceeded the Department of Labor compliance benchmarks and internal benchmarks within 6 months of beginning their veteran and military spouse hiring initiative, raising the number of the percentage of veteran and military spouse hires from 2% at the beginning of 2014 to 10% as of September 2014. In addition to this, they have trained over 1,200 hiring managers, 80 recruiters, and many HR partners on understanding the value of veterans and military spouses.
Finding military spouse (and veteran) friendly employers is not as hard as it seems if you just take a look around. The companies featured in magazines, surveys and news reports can all be found on line with a simple Google search. In the specific cities you may be moving to, you may have to look a little harder. Start by looking around and identifying the organizations and contractors that do business on the installation or with the other government agencies in town. Also check out the employers that sponsor events or otherwise support the defense industry. They usually advertise their support or donation to the military community. Pay attention to the banners, programs and t-shirts – those employers will be listed somewhere. You will also want to find when and where business people gather and go talk to them. Chamber of Commerce meetings, professional organization member meetings, even events surrounding city hall can all be great networking opportunities. Business owners and managers go to these meetings. Even if the person you talk to doesn’t know who the military friendly employers are, they can probably introduce you to someone who does know. Many temp agencies are already on the national lists of military spouse friendly employers, plus the recruiters in those agencies know all the businesses in town. Use those resources!
Resumes and Interviews
One of the biggest challenges for military spouses is pulling together a strong resume. When a chronological resume doesn’t tell your story well, try using a functional resume. This type of resume lists your skills, abilities and experience at the top of the page and the employers and dates at the bottom. Instead of an “Objective”, list a branding statement that speaks directly to the job you are applying for. Aside from the content of the resume and cover letter, make sure the grammar and spelling is all correct. Nothing will get you to the “NO” pile faster than inattention to detail.
When it comes to tough interview questions, the one that most of us worry about it our status as a military spouse. Even though asking about a job candidate’s marital status is against the law, employers will usually be able to tease out the information by looking at your resume or asking a simple question like “So, what brings you to Pensacola?” Don’t lie about it. I prefer you own it! Having worked in all of the different cities, environments and industries has allowed you to see the best practices everywhere, to have fresh eyes entering each new job and to hit the ground running when you start. Make the fact that you have had four jobs in the last ten years an advantage for them.
Both First Data and USAA want to see that you are a military spouse. They already know that you bring a value that is hard to quantify: a commitment, a feeling for service and a desire to do a great job. Fortunately, there are many other companies nationwide joining them in hiring more military spouses, so regardless of what town you find yourself in, make the effort to seek out them out.