March 31, 2015

9 Tips for Recruiting Veterans on College Campuses

CollegeA few months ago, I spoke with military veteran and director of Genesis10’s veterans program Nick Swaggert for a two-part series on veterans in the workforce (part one; part two). I mention it here because 1.) I’m a self-promoting cad, and 2.) I think these articles serve as a good introduction for today’s piece.

Tom Borgerding, CEO of college-marketing agency Campus Media Group and creator and founder of college-recruiting database Mytasca, is an expert in recruiting college students, and as he points out, a lot of veterans go to college when they return to civilian society. According to Kevin Freking of the Associated Press, roughly 1 million veterans and veteran dependents enrolled in colleges and universities between 2009 and 2013.

The large number of veterans who return to school following their time in the military means that colleges and universities are great places for employers to recruit veterans.

“Big picture,” Borgerding says, “some of the recruiting tactics used [to attract veterans] are not all that different from typical campus recruiting.”

That being said, Borgerding does note that recruiting veterans is not exactly the same as recruiting non-veteran civilians. With that in mind, he shares nine tips on how employers can successfully court veteran candidates on college campuses.

1. Focus on Where the Veterans Are

Many — if not most — colleges have veterans affairs offices, and these offices offer recruiters great avenues through which to connect with the veteran population on campus, Borgerding says. Veterans affairs offices should also be able to provide employers with opportunities to sponsor and/or get involved with veteran-centered events on campus.

Borgerding also says that recruiters should contact career services offices to find out what recruiting veterans may be like on a particular campus.

“They’re going to be the ones who can help provide other networking options,” Borgerding says.

2. Develop Relationships With Veteran-Focused Student Groups

Veteran student groups offer another useful avenue for contacting veteran candidates. One such group would be the Student Veterans of America, a “coalition of student veterans groups on college campuses across the globe.” Some colleges and universities also have their own veteran-centered student associations. 

Borgerding also suggests that recruiters form relationships with on-campus ROTC programs. While the ROTC focuses on training students for the military, Borgerding notes that many ROTC groups will also have connections to veterans on campus.

3. Spend a Little Time Off Campus

Borgerding suggests that recruiters also attend and/or sponsor career events near military installations, as well career events on campus.

“In many cases, when veterans come back, they will still be tied to those installations, and holding an event that is easy for them to find is a great opportunity,” Borgerding says.

Borgerding also mentions that participating in career events in close proximity to military installations will give recruiters access to active military members as well as veterans.

4. Maintain a Physical and Digital Presence on Campus

As mentioned above, recruiters need to attend events on campus in order to get the word out that they are recruiting military veterans.

“Show up to career fairs and information sessions,” Borgerding says. “Speak to groups and associations, departments on campus, veterans affairs offices, career services, ROTC commanders. Connect with each of those people and develop relationships, the same way that any recruiter would need to.”

When it comes to maintaining a digital presence, Borgerding says the key is to deliver “quality messaging that engages [with] and speaks to military professionals, supports their efforts, [and] supports the freedom that they’re protecting for us.”

To spread this messaging digitally, Borgerding suggests creating ads and banners that target military content sites, military installations, military neighborhoods, military student groups, etc. — basically, any sort of website that caters to communities with high concentrations of veterans.

And, of course, social media is also an excellent way to reach veterans. It’s an excellent way to reach anyone these days, really.

5. Keep the Brand on Campus, Even When You’re Not There

Civilians are more likely to apply for jobs at a company when they are familiar with the company’s brand, and the same holds true for veterans. For that reason, it’s important that employers maintain brand presences on campus even when representatives of the brand cannot be there. Digital messaging helps with this (as mentioned above), but there are other things recruiters can do to reinforce employer branding efforts on campus in more physical ways. Examples include:

  • posters and fliers, especially in places veterans are likely to see them (e.g., military offices, veteran students groups, veterans affairs offices);
  • sponsoring military events on and/or near campus;
  • and word-of-mouth marketing.

Street teams are another option, but recruiters need to be careful when using them.

“The challenge with [a street team] is, if you hire people to represent your brand, you want to make sure they represent it in the correct way, especially when you’re targeting military [veterans],” Borgerding says.

If recruiters are looking to build street teams, they need to be extra thorough in vetting the members to ensure that everyone on the team can consistently deliver the right brand messaging in positive ways.

6. Understand How Military Titles and Skills Relate to Civilian Titles and Skills

“This has been a big challenge for a lot of people,” Borgerding says. “How do those things translate into hiring for accounting, or hiring for science, or hiring for technology? How do [military titles and skills] translate into the types of positions and the terminology that any company is using within its organization?”

When it comes to aligning military vocabulary and experiences with the comparatively mundane realities of civilian careers, recruiters and employers simply need to do their research. Talking with veterans, military officers, career services representatives, and veterans affairs offices can help in this endeavor.

7. Connect With Off-Campus Organizations

Many veterans attending college also participate in or engage with off-campus organizations, like local V.A. branches and the Association of the United States Army, among others.

“Reach out to those groups,” Borgerding says. “The military wants to make sure that the men and women who were serving the country are getting jobs and transitioning well.”

Borgerding also suggests that recruiters look into the resources on hiring veterans provided by military installations, the U.S. Department of Labor, and a variety of reputable websites.

8. Use the Right Marketing Terms

In Borgerding’s experience, there are certain words or phrases that have become de rigueur in marketing and sending messages to veteran populations. Examples include honor, thank you for your service, veteran, commitment, sacrifice, transitioning, family, and demanding.

Borgerding says that recruiters looking to reach out to veterans should familiarize themselves with the language commonly used in veteran-aimed messaging efforts, as doing so will allow them to more easily contact their desired audiences.

9. Remember Just How Many Veterans There Are — and How Many of Them Need Jobs

This is less of a tip for recruiting, really, and more of an important reminder. According to, “[e]very year, well over 150,000 service members are discharged from active duty and transition to civilian employment posts. The estimated number of veterans seeking employment nearly doubles that number.”

“Statistically, it just feels like we should be honoring these guys, helping them get jobs, and helping employers figure out how to hire them,” Borgerding says.

Moreover, it seems ridiculous that military veterans should ever have a hard time getting jobs. They have the kind of training and experience that most civilians will never have.

“They have experience leading teams and creating really strong relationships and a heavy focus on getting projects done,” Borgerding says.

And now, with these tips in hand, recruiters should have an easier time finding and hiring the veteran talent they need.

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Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of