By Rear Admiral Jeff Hughes
Commander, Navy Recruiting Command
If you had asked me about recruiting several years ago, I would have said that it’s obviously effective and made some casual comments about “them” (recruiters) succeeding in attracting the best and brightest to serve in the Navy. I recognized that it was an important mission, but, in my mind, it just happened. I didn’t think about or appreciate the people, processes, resources and dedication that it took to compete for talent and source the fleet.
Now that I’ve been the commander of Navy Recruiting Command for almost two years, I have a much different perspective. Previous assumptions and a recognized lack of awareness are now facts, and I want to share with you the realities of the Navy Recruiting mission and tell you about the phenomenal recruiters and support staff that make it happen.
Navy recruiters go out into communities across the country and even abroad, get to know the people, then actively seek out the very finest our country has to offer to inform them, influence them, inspire them and ultimately hire them to serve in our Navy.
Many of us are asked to engage in outreach events from time to time. We explain the greatness of our Navy, proudly describe the contribution we make for the nation and share our Navy experiences. As we finish the engagement, we feel pretty good about ourselves and get back to our jobs. Navy Recruiters are always doing outreach, each and every day. The big difference is that they have to routinely affect monumental outcomes, closing life-changing deals for thousands of future Sailors. They are the face of the Navy.
Navy recruiters work autonomously in remote territories and highly concentrated urban areas, prospecting for new recruits and then guiding them through the process to successfully deliver them to the fleet. They each have hard objective goals – yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, even daily. Rarely do any of us at the individual level in the Navy have to consistently meet a measurable goal like this. We place a great deal of responsibility and accountability on our recruiters – and they deliver.
While recruiting can be exhilarating, ask any of them about their first contract, it can also be uncomfortable, lonely and demanding. While they are out in their communities, maintaining and promoting our image and reputation, recruiters have to work hard to influence young women and men to want to take this Navy journey with us. They have to connect with a prospect, employing the marketing and sales techniques necessary to deliver a mutually beneficial value proposition.
For the prospect, this is the hardest decision they will have made in their lives, to date, and it’s the recruiter that makes this all happen – in the aggregate, over 40,000 times a year!
For 122 consecutive months, Navy Recruiting Command has achieved its active and reserve enlisted mission and this past year had the best performance in officer recruiting this decade; however, there are headwinds on the horizon. Resources remain tight, yet our mission continues to increase in both volume and quality to support the growing Fleet demands for the modern Sailor. We are experiencing a tougher and constraining national recruiting market environment. Even though America’s population is increasing, an increasing portion of our target cohort is determined to not be qualified to serve for mental, medical or moral reasons. Additionally, fewer youth have a propensity to serve due to the loss of awareness traditionally provided by family members or key influencers. This all leads to markedly greater competition among the other services and the private sector for the quality candidates we require.
So here’s how you can help. First, as you engage in outreach events, establish contact with the recruiters there to support you. I promise you they will be engaged and will capitalize on the opportunities you provide. Second, and most important, please continue to send us the fleet’s very best Sailors to recruiting duty.
To get the applicants we need, we need the best recruiters–people of the same substance, character, intellect and experience as those that we hope to recruit. Applicants are looking to connect with someone that can confidently convey their Navy story and who they would aspire to emulate.
Navy recruiting is very rewarding, but we need to ensure these deserving Sailors are truly rewarded for their significant contribution to the readiness of our fleet as well. Most will return to the fleet after this demanding shore duty and want to remain competitive in their source ratings.
If we are to be the premier maritime fighting force in this era of return to true peer competition, if we are to be the employer of choice, then Navy recruiting needs to be the premier recruiting force. Recruiters underwrite the future success of our Navy. The Navy’s competitive advantage comes from our exceptional people and their future starts with Navy Recruiting Command!
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