It’s hard to find candidates more well-matched for leadership roles than Junior Military Officers − or JMOs. JMOs are commissioned leaders of the military and represent only about 3.5% of the approximate 165,000 veterans who separate from the military each year.
In order to secure this extraordinary source of talent, organizations need to have the right blend of purpose, culture, and opportunity, and recruiters need to have a solid understanding of how the leadership experience acquired by JMOs during their service translates to different roles within the organization.
While it’s always more difficult to assess leadership qualities than hard skillsets in all candidates, it becomes even more difficult to evaluate the leadership skills of former military officers.
The vast majority of corporate recruiters have never served in the military, and even those who have served can still find it confusing to understand the attributes and skills of officers who served in other branches.
Getting to Know JMOs
JMOs are mature young leaders who represent a diverse cross-section of America. They’ve earned a BS or BA in technical or nontechnical areas from America’s top universities, and many have advanced degrees as well.
Most JMOs have served in the military between four and 10 years, and all receive leadership, communications, legal, operational, and functional area training. Typically, JMOs have four to eight years of military leadership experience after graduating college, leading organizations from 20-200 people.
JMOs are known to be ambitious problem solvers with a willingness to volunteer and help others. Eager to learn and prove themselves as valued team members, JMOs are able to hit the ground running and make an immediate impact on their organization’s bottom line.
They are highly adaptive, excellent developmental candidates, and are often promoted faster than their peers without military experience. JMOs tend to be resolute when it comes to integrity, and will not tolerate an individual or organization that compromises their ethics.
What type of corporate roles are JMOs best suited for?
The military is a giant organization giving officers opportunities to lead in many areas including engineering, construction, cybersecurity, maintenance, and logistics. Most JMOs are well suited for mid-level leadership roles in operations, sales, and high-tech environments, and are trained for project management and balancing timelines, people, and technology.
Branch of service too can come into play. For example, the Navy and Air Force teach a more Total Quality Management (TQM) style of leadership which is compatible with roles in engineering and technology.
The Army and Marine Corps provide leadership experience that is better suited for roles in areas such as sales, operations, and leadership development.
Best Practices to Win JMO Talent
Unfortunately many organizations look to hire JMOs only in order to meet regulatory and diversity requirements. If an organization wants to truly maximize this source of talent, it needs to view JMOs as fast trackers who can significantly contribute to company P&L performance.
Here are four practices we recommend to realize the full potential of your JMO hiring efforts:
1. Buy-in and sponsorship from leadership
Company operational leaders, Talent Acquisition and HR need to work together in prioritizing the goals and strategy for the initiative. Considerations should include prioritizing the hiring effort, identifying the best starting roles, creating programs that allow JMOs to learn multiple functional areas of the company’s business, and investing in veterans once they become employees.
2. Mentorship, formal training, and Leadership Development Programs (LDP)
JMOs crave mentorship, purpose, and a leadership path, and it’s not uncommon for JMOs to relocate multiple times in order to move up within an organization.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all LDP, an effective program will expose JMOs to different areas of a company and provide opportunities to grow and lead through all segments.
It is not unusual for JMOs to accept a position before they transition to civilian life, so consider interviewing military candidates six months before they leave the service, and always provide information on your upcoming developmental and training classes.
3. Educate recruiters on military occupations and skillsets
Matching a JMO to the right job is challenging, and most HR professionals lack relevant knowledge of military structure, operations, and ranks.
Recruiters can educate themselves by conducting more in-depth face-to-face interviews (virtual or in-person) with veteran candidates, referring to past successes within the company or industry, and seeking out employees who may be veterans to serve as a resource.
Referencing the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is also helpful in learning about military roles, responsibilities, and kinds of training received in the service.
4. Make your brand more attractive to JMOs
While practices to attract JMOs are not a defined science, making the investment to build a military-friendly employer brand and widely promote leadership programs is a head start.
These future business leaders look for successful and purpose-driven companies with clearly defined missions, so be sure these messages come across on your website and in outreach communications.
The unemployment rate for JMOs falls well below that of the overall veteran unemployment rate, demonstrating that corporate America has a thirst for them.
Organizations that understand and embrace that JMOs seek recognition and leadership opportunities in organizations in which they take pride have the upper hand in winning over this exemplary group of individuals.