Veteran Candidates are “Leaders in a Box”
APi Group Inc. believes that filling companies with veteran talent is one of the best ways to meet hiring goals. Les Larson is Director of Corporate Recruiting for APi Group, Inc., the billion-dollar parent company for 40 independently managed businesses reaching nearly 9,000 employees in three countries. They are one of the largest union subcontractors and the second largest fire protection group of companies in the U.S.
One of APi’s frequently used methods of finding veterans is attending hiring events, like the RecruitMilitary Minneapolis job fair in August 2013, which APi co-sponsored. Larson says these events are their “meat and potatoes” for finding veteran talent. He frequently tells recruiters from APi’s subsidiary companies, “If you attend, you will get all the candidates you need.” The Minneapolis event was no exception. “We brought the home team, and had 20-30 people in our booth area. We wanted to make sure every veteran had someone to talk to when they stopped by.” Larson finds these events “very well-organized. The venue was great and it was in a good location – everyone can get to it. There are always a lot of great candidates in attendance.”
It’s the same event at which Jenifer Lips received an offer to work at APi. Read more about Jenifer’s story. Lots of other hires were made that day as well. In fact, Larson estimates that around eight of APi’s 40 companies were in attendance. APi Group companies hired 119 veterans in 2011; brought in 138 veterans in 2012; and is on track to reach its goal of securing 150 military hires in 2013.
A lot of the company’s veteran-centric focus comes from its founder, Lee Anderson, and has permeated throughout the culture at APi. A 1961 West Point graduate, Anderson’s passion for hiring veterans is infectious. APi Group serves on the Veterans Employment Advisory Council (VEAC) for Hiring Our Heroes, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s program to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment, In fact, during its first national event to recognize top veteran-friendly companies in 2011, the Lee Anderson Veterans Center was revealed in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building. At the Minneapolis event, Anderson personally escorted candidates to the APi Group booth.
APi offers a Leadership Development Program (LDP) for junior military officers (JMO’s), which consists of a yearlong training program including a series of seven-week rotations to APi companies all over the country. Candidates are mentored all along, and are placed with one of the APi Group companies in positions ranging from service manager to company president. “JMO’s are a blank slate – in a good way. They are disciplined, they know how to use resources and accomplish the task at hand,” remarks Larson. He goes on to say, “It’s the guy (or gal) in the pants. Veterans have character, honor, a strong work ethic and teamwork. Give us a good person, and we can shape them.” Larson points that the civilian equivalent of a JMO candidate is someone with an MBA who has worked for a major corporation for five years. “The military gives us a head start. It would take six months to find civilian candidates who have what JMO’s bring to the table.”
The company finds many candidates for another of its veteran recruitment programs at RecruitMiltiary career fairs. The Veterans Rotational Program (VRP) is aimed largely at enlisted personnel, who complete up to four 90-120 day rotations in local companies, before being placed in an APi company permanently. VRP candidates are exposed to project management types of roles, as well as technical jobs including drafting, estimating, and technician positions.
Larson finds it’s an easy program to sell to veteran job seekers. “Competitors have one job opening or one area they are hiring for. We offer a chance to observe many positions over a period of time, and then candidates can give input on where they want to go.” He notes that VRP candidates often find their niche before completing all the rotations. He’s found that nearly all of the VRP candidates have a college degree. “We’ve had our pick of the litter,” enthuses Larson.
Why veterans? They fit just about everywhere, says Larson. “They are leaders in a box. Most are college-educated, many served under strenuous circumstances, saw combat action and can use resources well.” He recounts getting a call from an executive at National Service Group, a customer service-focused company within APi Group that services large brands, including Best Buy, Target and FedEx. He said, “I need two customer service reps. Got any veterans?”
Larson has some thoughts on what veterans can do to stand out:
1. Have a readable resume. It should state how long you served, and what you did. Were you in combat? If so, say so. “That tells employers a lot; it’s something they want to know,” advises Larson.
2. State your desire to work. Larson believes demonstrating a strong work ethic and eagerness to begin a job resonates with prospective employers. “Tell us you want to roll up your sleeves and get to work,” he encourages.
Larson encourages veterans to visit the careers page of the APi web site at www.apigroupinc.com.