Diamonds Are Often Rough

Oct 8, 2008

As a recruiter if I’m given the task of recruiting for a geography or business segment that is new to me, my first step is to educate myself. I need to understand the culture of the business segment, what the demographics and unemployment rates are for the area, colleges, and universities that are nearby, major industries present, and a multitude of other things.

The same approach should be taken when reaching out to veteran and former military candidates. We touched on skills translation briefly in this article. The ownership for understanding how to translate skills falls on both the recruiter and the candidate. Companies and recruiters who really go after veteran and military candidates also know that they need to go above and beyond to understand and build a significant relationship bridge for the candidates to their hiring managers.

Military rank and education is the second layer that I delve into as a recruiter when assessing a former military candidate on top of the technical skill base. We know the drill as recruiters: what can this person bring to my company or client? It may seem like a long, drawn-out process when looking at all the pieces separately, but we are polishing up our skills so we can see the diamond.


Here is a very generalized over view of the rank structure in most military branches:


Enlisted grades E1-E4 are considered a learning and leadership development phase in most branches of service. E5 and higher ranks have significant leadership responsibilities and are given a formal title of Non-Commissioned Officers under the command of an officer. Even though the NCO ranks below the most junior officer, most senior NCOs, those with many years of time in service, have a vast depth of leadership and technical experience far beyond a Junior Officer.

Commissioned Officer

Commissioned Officers are military members who hold a commission from an Officer Training Program and a command role in the military hierarchy structure. They are leaders and can be likened to any mid- to high-level corporate manager depending upon rank and structure of the branch of service. As with the NCOs, the officers make decisions involving millions of dollars of government resources and the lives of hundreds of people. General Officers are those who demonstrate extraordinary leadership skills and are the executive level — CEOs if you will — of their respective branches of service.

The numbers of people and dollars managed will vary depending upon rank and assignment. A recruiter should quickly see how valuable both the Enlisted and the Officer candidate is whether transitioning directly out of the service into civilian life or discharged and applying to your company.


The military loves education! From the moment a recruit steps on those yellow footprints, the entry point at USMC Recruit Training, Parris Island, SC, they are learning.

Formalized skills and leadership training begins from day one and the military begins the process of transforming a piece of coal into a diamond. Let’s be honest: stereotypes abound when we talk about our military candidates. I’ve heard from various sources that they are uneducated because of their technical position as a machine gunner or tank operator. This couldn’t be farther from the truth and is simply a lack of education on our part as recruiters.

With rank and career progression, an advanced level of professional and military education is typically expected. Here are some examples and a great resource for you to be educated!

Let’s look at just a few of the possible schools and what they provide to your military candidate:

Basic and Advanced Non-commissioned Officer Courses provide the same training across the board in primary and advanced leadership. With this one piece of formalized training you have a candidate who has been taught, should understand, and display these principles: dependability, decisiveness, integrity, initiative, knowledge, tact, loyalty, unselfishness, and a host of others. (See Marine Corps Leadership Principles) Successful and timely promotion in the military will depend upon exemplary application of these traits in the management of ones self and team.

eArmyU Program is a fantastic way for the junior enlisted solider to enroll in college while serving with the flexibility to complete their education online. With the continued advancements in online learning, the E-1 through E-4 candidate may have leadership training along with a college degree they earned while working full time.

Air Command and Staff College provides education to all services in the air and space operations. This college is a rigorous 10-month program designed to move that mid-level officer into a higher-level command with more analytical and problem solving command skills.

Along with understanding how to translate technical skills from your military and veteran candidates, be sure to get up to speed on what education has been part of their military experience. When you understand their career progression in the rank structure of the military you are also able to quickly identify and correlate a general level of management to your positions.