Posted by Lauren Weiner
I’m currently on a plane on my way back from the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) annual meeting. My company, along with 23 other companies, was just inducted into the partnership program, bringing the total number of companies to 96 in the partnership. To be honest, it sounded like the Partnership has had some significant bumps in the road to date, but I met a lot of good people really committed to the spouse hiring cause—many of them focused on professional opportunities for spouses, which was great to hear—and I’m guardedly hopeful that the new version of the website and partnership that they’re working on will be a much better opportunity to bring willing spouses together with employers offering a wide range of job opportunities.
At the meeting, I had a great off-line talk with a woman representing WalMart. I was thrilled to hear that WalMart is really looking to hire not just front line entry level workers through the MSEP program, but management and corporate office positions as well. Their understanding of military spouse employment issues, and their willingness to see spouses at all levels of the organization, was heartening. I had honestly expected to hear the same old, same old from this woman about spouses being great customer service workers, but that wasn’t her focus at all. She was really looking to bring spouses at every level into the organization.
She said three things that struck me about the things she sees spouses doing “wrong” in their interactions during the recruiting process, and I thought they might start some good discussions with our members. Hopefully, making some tweaks to these things in your job search will help you land a job a bit more easily—be it with WalMart, another large employer, a small firm, or the government.
The first thing she told me was that some spouses seem to have unreasonable expectations of the hiring process overall. In particular, she told me that spouses seem to think their first contact with a recruiter—at a hiring fair, in an initial email/phone conversation, or elsewhere—would be the end-all, be-all of the process; that the first contact should automatically end in a job offer if they’re baseline qualified for the position. In fact, WalMart’s hiring process—and most corporate hiring processes, for that matter—are much more in-depth than that, especially for professional level jobs. From a hiring fair, you may get a contact person who puts you in touch with a different person to do an initial phone conversation, which in turn yields a conversation with another person in a different office, which may eventually lead to a formal interview, and a second round interview… and on, and on, and on. That doesn’t mean that you’re getting the run-around; it means that the employer is trying to find the best fit for that position, and they’re working you through their process. You could drop out of the process at any point because the fit between you and that position isn’t perfect—and that doesn’t mean that you’re not a good fit for the company or for the corporate world overall. All applicants need to be persistent, and work their way through the corporate recruiting process that is laid out for them. You have every right to ask them to lay out what the process may look like, to ensure that your expectations and theirs are both reasonable, but certainly you need to expect it to be a process. And the process may not end with a job offer at that point, but you’ve still made valuable connections that could help with another job within that company or in another company where you might be a better fit.
The second thing that she told me that she struggled with when talking to military spouses (and military veterans, as well) was trying to translate between military speak and corporate speak. The companies targeting military spouses certainly have to learn the ins and outs of military life—terms like “PCS” shouldn’t flummox them—but to a great extent it is incumbent on you to translate to their corporate-speak, their mindset, to make the conversation run effectively. After all, taking the time to learn their language and spin your background into their check-boxes will more effectively get you to where you want to be—which is hired into a great position.
The last thing she told me was that they often get someone applying for a wide range of positions—from hourly wage, part-time greeter positions to executive level positions—with the exact same resume blanketed out for all positions. As we’ve talked about before on In Gear, tailoring your resume to the specific requirements of the job is absolutely key. Even for two accounting positions, you should look to see what the specific stated requirements of the position are, or what the company seems to value (look on their website) and highlight the things you think are important in your background for that particular position and company. If you don’t, and the same recruiter gets your resume for a slew of different positions, they will probably dismiss you out of hand, even for a job you’re perfect for, because you don’t seem serious about getting good-fit jobs that you’re interested in. It sends a signal that you’re desperate for A job, ANY job, instead of one that fits well with your career goals and skill sets.