When it comes to recruiting at The University of Tulsa, we use several different resources on a diverse recruiting team. My role is the Veterans Ambassador. I primarily utilize the Student Veterans Association for my responsibilities, but our team focuses on other organizations that we want to have a relationship with. We collaborate directly with them and review resumes through Golden Opportunities. We also have recommendations coming in from the department heads and other professionals. Every now and then, we’ll get a referral from a Chevron employee who knows someone here at TU.
When it’s time to “put boots on the ground,” we use different methods to meet and talk with students. We host lunch & learns, tech talks, and Q&As. This allows us to get to know the students on a more intimate level than we would by just attending a career fair with a booth.
In the fall of 2017, we decided to have a booth at Keplinger Hall instead of participating at the career fair. It can be crowded and very rushed, as students are trying to talk to a lot of different employers during a very short window of time. We wanted a way where engineering students didn’t feel rushed, could talk to us on their home turf, and ask questions that they might not get to otherwise. The booth at the career fair is a great resource and we’ll continue to use it, but we felt that we could do more by meeting with students in other capacities. We are also expanding our commitment by not only coming during traditional recruiting time in the Fall, but also sometimes in the Spring.
Focusing on Veterans
We found that for the last few years, veterans were a relatively low represented population among our interns and new hires. We felt like that shouldn’t be the case because many veterans are coming back from the War on Terror and using their GI Bill and scholarships to go to college. We should have been seeing a reasonable number of them, but we weren’t. When it came time to start focusing on veterans, we realized we needed to change our recruiting strategy. Instead of expecting them to come to us, we needed to find out where they were and go to them. Chevron recognized that we needed to do a better job at reaching out to veterans and showing them where they could fit in our organization.
We formed a partnership with the SVA at a national level. This made us one of the premier sponsors of their annual conference and gave us access to the SVA chapters at different universities. We selected 20 university campuses that had an active SVA student chapter with a sizeable veteran population and launched pilot programs at each one. TU and OU were two of those schools. It made sense to pair those two chapters together with our Oklahoma recruiting team and give them a dedicated Veterans Ambassador. We are one of the few teams that has a dedicated Veterans Ambassador that is a recruiter and has also served in the military.
We’ve now held recruiting events with the SVA at both schools and at OU with the Army ROTC. This allows us to tap directly into the right communities in the student body. This will be the third year we have used this outreach approach, and by going to where they are, we’ve found some really excellent veteran candidates.
Teaching the Technical Side
We have talked to a lot of people who thought they weren’t suited for Chevron because oil and gas extraction is not a military occupational specialty—or MOS. We hear a lot of things like; well I was a mechanic in the military, maybe I should look at mechanical engineering; or I worked on planes, so I should look at aviation; or I did cyber security, I should go into IT. A lot of companies have positions that are a natural transition for those military skill sets. Veterans can go straight from what they did in the military service into a civilian career.
But with Chevron, there is no direct analog with oil and gas like there is for the ones listed above. So, our approach is to let veterans know that what we are after is the values that they’ve learned and the leadership skills they’ve acquired. Virtually anyone who has the willingness to learn can be taught the technical side of an industry, but teaching a value set and leadership skills is much more difficult. That’s where we see the real benefit to recruiting veterans. We can teach them what they need to know technically about oil & gas while taking advantage of singular leadership, teamwork, communications, and a host of other important skills.
Change in Workplace Culture
While recruiting brings people in the door, keeping veterans is the other half of building a veteran community at a company. We felt like part of the reason we didn’t see veterans represented strongly in our workplace was because we didn’t have a strong and conspicuous network to support them. There are several different company networks that operate nationwide and allow focused support and collaboration within the workforce. For example; you’ve got the Millennial Network, that focuses on reaching millennials and the Boomer Network, that is focused on late career employee networking. These networks provide leadership and networking opportunities that complement professional development at our company. So, about three years ago, we launched the Veterans Network at Chevron to provide a similar opportunity for veterans.
This is one of the greatest ways that we shifted our workplace culture to draw in more veterans. A network centered on veterans gives a greater voice to those coming from the military, opportunities to demonstrate leadership, and a better ability to network with other veterans in the workforce so they know they’re not alone. While they may be a smaller and less visible segment of our company, they are just as much a part of the diverse Chevron workforce as anyone else.
Advice for Starting a Veteran Recruiting Program
For those considering starting a focused veteran recruiting service or program, these are the things that have worked for Chevron.
The first thing is language.
Every company has its own language and jargon. At Chevron, it’s common for employees to speak in acronyms. You can walk into a conversation and have no idea what is going on. It’s not because you don’t know anything about oil and gas, it’s just that over time we’ve developed our own way of communicating. In a similar way, the military has its own language and we needed to learn it.
We focused on drawing people into the recruiting organization who understood the way the military spoke and thought. We started to include veterans at Chevron in the recruiting structure and helped them share their knowledge with others.
Part of this language barrier was understanding experience narratives. We also found out early on that when looking at military backgrounds, we had no good way to really judge whether a candidate had good, bad, or average experiences in the military. As an organization, we knew how to evaluate university resumes: grades, internship experience, GPA, leadership experience, volunteer experience, etc. But when it came to evaluating a military resume, we needed interpretation. By finding veterans willing to share their knowledge with other recruiting teams, we gained that interpretation. This allowed recruiters to look at military backgrounds and understand what they were actually looking at compared to a traditional student without military experience.
The second thing is putting everything into context.
Early on, we learned that veterans have different strengths and challenges. For example; one of them might struggle in math because it’s been six years since they took calculus in High School and now they’re trying to tackle college algebra; or they left school to join the military because of their low grades as a freshman. Flip the coin, and they might have the best leadership skills and demonstrated ability to deliver under pressure. We had to look at everything in context because, yes, they might have had bad grades their freshman year, but they have six years more experience than that to show they’ve grown as a person beyond that one data point.
We looked at all those things and took time to understand them in the context of the military. We asked ourselves:
- What are their challenges?
- What can they bring to us?
- What will be the advantages if they join us at Chevron?
We had to take all of this into account together and resist the urge to grade them out on the same metrics we had used with traditional student recruiting.
The third thing was simply reaching out to veterans.
As we mentioned before, we attended career fairs and used social media outlets to target veterans. We also connected with the SVA National Conference, which is one of the ways we get in touch with individual chapters. We find out where they are and find a way to get our message to them instead of waiting for them to find Chevron.
These are some of the best men and women you’ll ever meet. Whether they ran logistics behind the scenes or they were at the tip of the spear in a tank or aircraft, they have put their lives on hold for a greater cause than their own; to give service and possibly their life for their country and community. They have a value set and work ethic you can’t duplicate anywhere else, and I’m proud for the opportunity to bring some of them to Chevron.