Adland Faces Challenges Recruiting Veterans

Former Servicemembers Bring Valuable Skills to Agencies, Marketers

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Don Faul
Don Faul

Don Faul, head of operations at Pinterest, is a Facebook and Google alum with an MBA from Stanford, but it was his experience as an infantry officer with the Marines Special Forces that put him on his path toward his corner of Adland.

"I was looking for a lot of the things I'd loved about the military," Mr. Faul said. That meant the opportunity to lead a team, the fast pace, the technology and even adapting to sudden changes and challenges. "Those are experiences people bring out of the military. That's what we train people to do," he said.

Veterans often have exactly the type of skill set recruiters in Adland are looking for, said Erin Hazard, who leads the Military and Veterans Affairs Practice at FleishmanHillard, which was founded by an Army Air Corps public information officer and a Navy lieutenant.

"They're coming with a lot of strong crisis experience. They're dealing with a lot of the same things that corporations are dealing with -- funding issues, staffing issues," Ms. Hazard said.

Veterans also tend to be direct, with a commitment to action. "Sometimes we love to admire the problem. We're very impressed with the creativity, and we wander and wander," Ms. Hazard said. "They just have an incredible ability to connect to that objective and push beyond it."

Still, it can be hard to recruit veterans. Active-duty servicemembers often lack basic knowledge about private sector job searches, and it's not always clear what types of jobs they're qualified for.

Eric Engquist said that when he left the military in 2005 after serving in Iraq, there were gaps in how the military got him ready for the private sector, as well as how the private sector sought out veterans.

"When I looked online and saw what jobs were available to me, it was security guard, police officer," says Mr. Engquist who is now assistant VP of military transitions at financial services firm USAA.

"A lot of them go into more of the [science, technology, engineering and math] fields," said Barb Rozman-Stokes, chief people officer at Lowe Campbell Ewald, which represents USAA and the Navy. But, she added, with digital media growing, "we in the advertising industry need those skills."

There are roughly 20 million former members of the armed forces and more than 20,000 people leave the military each month, according to the Veterans Association.

Lowe Campbell Ewald searches for veteran hires through job fairs, current employees' networks and veteran-specific job sites, Ms. Rozman-Stokes said. It's a common approach for many companies.

There are also job initiatives from the White House (Joining Forces), the Chamber of Commerce (Hiring Our Heroes) and large corporations (the 100,000 Jobs Mission) that can help employers connect with veterans.

Some companies are also willing to invest in training veterans. Walmart and Sam's Club are committed to hiring 100,000 veterans by 2018. And GE's Experienced Commercial Leadership Program puts candidates through three assignments, each lasting eight months, in sales and marketing, and the program is now looking for veterans.

"The experience in the military is just as valuable as private sector experience in my opinion," says Kristine Urbauer, GE's program manager of military initiatives and a West Point graduate.

"A lot of companies in our space don't recognize that veterans can be a great resource," Mr. Faul added. "Generally in our industry and our space, the trend is shifting in a really positive direction."

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CORRECTION:An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the title of Eric Engquist, a USAA employee. Mr. Engquist is assistant VP of military transitions.

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