At a veterans-only hiring event in the Chicago suburbs last October, some 40 companies were on hand to size up prescreened military officers and enlisted personnel on their way back to civilian life. fair was put together by Orion International, a recruitment firm that specializes in helping companies identify and recruit former service members into their workforce.
“Patriotism is a very strong part of our culture here and we want to give back to our country by hiring (veterans),” says Nancy Mora, a corporate recruiter at Integrated Project Management, a Burr Ridge, Illinois-based project management consulting firm with 125 employees that was scouting talent at the job fair. She brought along one of the firm’s consultants, a former Air Force officer, to help in the hiring process.
IPM has hired about 20 junior officers from the military over the last six years and expected to bring on two more by the end of 2014, Mora says. The midsize company interviewed 11 candidates that day, calling back five for a second round.
Middle-market companies—often lacking the extensive human resource machines of their larger rivals—are especially keen on hiring veterans. Their strong work ethic and ability to operate within structured systems make them good bets. Many have sharp leadership skills honed under stressful conditions; others have technical skills in short supply in the general labor pool. Most have worked in highly collaborative situations and are used to culturally diverse environments.
They include men like Joe Shupe, a 33-year-old junior officer who was counting on his military background to ensure a smooth transition.
“I have real-world leadership and management experience, and I worked in an environment where individual failure is not an option,” says Shupe, who spent 11 years in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army. “There’s no such thing as an excuse when we have to show results. All employers can relate to that.”
Shupe, most recently stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was willing to move anywhere in the country. His resume includes completion of the prestigious Navy Nuclear Power Program, service on the USS Ronald Reagan nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and training as an engineering lab technician and communications officer.
He was interviewed by seven companies from the Orion job fair and called back by four at the time of publication.
Editor’s Note: Following the publication of this story, veteran Joe Shupe was offered a position with Nalco, an Ecolab company. He accepted.