New Recruits

Are you ready to bring some new employees on board? Returning veterans can be powerful new hires.

By Mark Henricks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When constance Cincotta needed to hire two key employees, hersearch led to an unexpected place. Glenwood Mason Supply CompanyInc., the $25 million sales company Cincotta founded in New YorkCity in 1993, needed a worker with excellent integrity and loyaltyto check shipments leaving the company's yard and a manager whocould mold yard workers into a cohesive team.

"When I started thinking about who I was looking for, allthe characteristics were [those] I associated with themilitary," says the entrepreneur. Cincotta wound up hiring twoformer Army officers, and she was so satisfied with the attitudesand skills they brought to the job that she later hired anotherformer soldier to work as a maintenance mechanic for her80-employee company.

The 190,000 people who leave active service with the U.S.military each year are becoming increasingly attractive employeesfor entrepreneurs, according to William M. Houchins Jr., vice chairof executive search firm Christian & Timbers in Columbia, Maryland."Even five years ago, the commonly held belief was that anyonewho spent significant time in the armed forces was too inflexibleto succeed in the private sector," says Houchins. "Allthis has changed. CEOs and boards now value the lessons learnedfrom military experience."

Drew Myers, president of RecruitMilitary LLC, a Loveland, Ohio,company that matches employers and ex-military job candidates, saysmilitary veterans offer good character and a strong work ethic."When you hire a veteran, the reference checks have alreadybeen done before the interview, by virtue of honorableservice," he says.

Many veterans have extensive training in areas from informationtechnology to leadership, all paid for by the government. About aquarter of officers have engineering degrees, which make themattractive to construction, manufacturing and high-tech firms,Myers says. Many others specialize in logistics andtransportation--key areas for a variety of companies. Even soldiersstrictly trained to fight offer finely tuned abilities to leadteams and solve challenging problems in stressful situations.

Most veterans enter the civilian labor force with an appealingcombination of work experience and eagerness to prove themselves,Myers adds. Of course, they also present challenges. For instance,few small companies can match the benefits former soldiers wereused to as government employees. Nor is it always immediatelyobvious how to translate military-skills training to profit-makingwork activities.

Most issues can be dealt with through careful interviewing.Cincotta was careful to avoid those who seemed as though they'dhave trouble integrating into her firm's culture. She askedcandidates pointed questions about their ability to lead in anenvironment where lines of authority are less absolute than in atypical service hierarchy. "I was concerned they might be tooforceful or abrupt with employees."

You can find veterans by visiting local military bases andcontacting the office in charge of helping former service memberstransition to the civilian world. There are also a number of onlinerecruiting tools that allow employers to search veterans'resumes and post job openings. They include RecruitMilitary, The Destiny Group and Corporate Gray.

Before extending an offer, Myers suggests making it clear toveterans how their work will fit into the company's plan forsuccess. And emphasize that pay will be based on performance. Afteryou've brought a vet onboard, explain how he or she will betrained to handle new duties. Myers says, "Vets respond bestif they understand the training plan, and it's realistic andmeasurable."

Mark Henricks writes on business and technology for leadingpublications and is author of Not Just a Living.

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