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Learn Recruitment Strategies for Hiring Military Spouses

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Build a military spouse recruitment strategy.
  • Employ effective interviewing techniques with military spouses.

Military spouses offer an untapped talent pool available with very little competition. At this point you may be wondering if there are recommended strategies for hiring and retaining them as employees.

When deciding to recruit military spouse talent, it’s important for human resource professionals, hiring managers, and recruiters to be fully informed about the business value and about how military spouse applicants can appear differently than other candidates. 

You can start building a military spouse recruitment strategy today by implementing tactics that Salesforce and other businesses use.

Military Spouse Recruitment Strategy

A smiling person talking on the phone with a headset in an office.

Planning

When building a military spouse recruitment strategy, it’s a good first step to determine how your organization would like to fill roles with military spouse talent. Some goals of your hiring initiative can be to:

  • Increase recruiters’ overall awareness of the availability, business value, and unique traits of the military spouse talent pool.
  • Identify specific roles, locations, or departments for placement.
  • Identify existing remote roles and evaluate other roles to determine if remote work can be supported.
  • Offer programs and entitlements to address issues that prevent military spouses from finding work, such as assistance with finding childcare.
  • Identify roles that can transfer with military spouse employees when they relocate, or develop a policy that enables them to easily apply for new roles in other locations.
  • Develop clear policies that outline allowances for military family leave and relocation.

Starbucks has a focused military spouse hiring initiative, with a commitment to hire 25,000 military spouses and veterans by 2025. The Director of Global Social Impact at Starbucks, Jennifer Bibby, was featured on Change Starts at Home: Paving a Path for Military Spouse Hiring podcast offering advice to companies beginning their own hiring initiatives. 

“Look at your footprint. Look at the opportunities to be flexible and adaptable, whether that’s work remote, whether that’s a footprint that can accommodate transfers and frequent moves. Then look at how you are allowing these military spouses to grow in their role and help them create that career ladder that will be fulfilling and rewarding.” —Jennifer Bibby, Director of Global Social Impact, Starbucks

Recruiting

Military spouses search for jobs the same places that their civilian counterparts do—job search engines, job fairs, local placement agencies, and company job boards. So, how do you tap into the military spouse talent pool? There are many organizations whose mission it is to solve the crisis of military spouse employment who can directly connect you to this population. Here is a sample list to get you started.

Many military installations have family centers that assist with linking individuals to job opportunities on the installation or in the local area. 

Organizations can also directly target military spouses with a specific website focused on military hiring. This can help recruiters identify military spouse applicants, since most do not self-identify on their resume.

Resume Review and Interviewing

Note

Note

There may be some things that stand out in a military spouse resume—gaps in employment, more volunteer work than paid, roles in locations throughout the United States (or even the world), and a history of unrelated jobs. Recruiters who are educated on the business value of military spouses and the unique aspects of the military life know to expect these trends on a resume and can focus instead on the strengths, skills, and unique qualities of the applicant.

When evaluating and interviewing military spouse candidates that have nontraditional resumes or work experience, tailor your questions in a conversational way that allows them to explain how they are suited for the role and how their unique experiences have set them up for success. Look for a common theme in their work history, such as process improvement or developing curriculum. Ask about how they were able to impact the organizations they’ve worked for, no matter how short or long their tenure. Dive into their volunteer roles to find out more about their leadership experiences and project management.

Find similar tips on conversational interviews in the Military Veteran Recruitment Strategy module

A photo of two people holding a business meeting.

What Not to Do

Do not make assumptions about their qualities. The military spouse population has their own unique experiences and backgrounds which are extremely diverse. Assess a candidate based on the information provided in a resume, cover letter, and during interviews.

Do not assume that hiring a military spouse means increased turnover. Studies show that this widely held myth simply is not true. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for all employees ages 25–34, the median tenure is 3.2 years. Military spouse usually stay at the same job for 2 to 4 years. 

“Despite common misconceptions, military spouses tend to hold the same job for the duration of their service member's assignment, usually 2–4 years—a significant step beyond the average turnover in the private sector, which hovers around 15 months.” — Why Military Spouse Employment Matters by Points of Light 

Do not ask illegal questions during an interview. Unfortunately, due to the effect that the military lifestyle has on their career, it is not an uncommon experience for military spouses to be asked illegal questions during a job interview. While some HR professionals know that it is illegal to ask about a candidate’s marriage status, for example, sometimes questions toward a military spouse can cross a line. 

Do not assume that your veterans hiring initiative is the same as a military spouse hiring initiative. While both initiatives are fantastic for military community employment as a whole, veterans and military spouses have very separate and unique employment needs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation created the Military Spouse Employment Advisory Council (MSEAC) to partner with companies in developing best practices for recruiting and employing military spouses, and then disseminating these to private sector organizations. 

Resources

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