Between my conversations with people who email me, and people I read I've learned a lot about the act of recruiting people. This was brought to the forefront of my mind by a conversation I had with SGT Patience.
Recruiting school teaches how to conduct an appointment through a script. You have to say particular things and the interviewee (one of your classmates) will respond in a set way. Then end result is a commitment from the interview, as long as you hit the right marks. The tools we are given by the recruiting school are what we go out into the recruiting world with, and those tools are inadequate when confronted with reality.
Primarly what we were taught were the benefits. The money, the training, the education benefits, etc. When a recruiter first hits the road that's all we have to go with. When conducting an appointment we focus on repeating the benefits. Like all jobs in the Army the school only provides the basics, on-the-job experience is supposed to provide the rest, but it doesn't always.
It's my opinion that Army recruiting is very focused on a small portion of the population. We're trained to recruit high school students, those fresh out of high school, and those in college but who won't be staying in college for any number of reasons. Once someone gets beyond the age of about 22-23 Army recruiting efforts will have less and less effect. Someone who is 28, married with a kid, and a degree isn't as likely to be swayed by the efforts of GoArmy.com.
The Army has recruiting efforts designed to focus on particular professionals. Medical professionals and lawyers each have their own specific recruiting teams. People trained in the specific needs of those professionals and the benefits available to them. I think it was blogger and occasional SFC B commenter IRR Soldier who'd suggested that the Army should have recruiters devoted to an officer recruiting mission. Not just someone pulled from the ranks and told to recruit officers, but people selected and trained for the mission; a commissioned officer or a senior NCO.
Talking to a HS senior, or someone in their freshman or sophomore years of college is very different from talking with a college grad or someone already in the work force. They have different motivations. The money to be made as a Soldier is good money to a HS student. Some college kid working two jobs to try and make ends meet after mom and dad cut him off will benefit greatly from the $36,000 the GI Bill will provide. Recruiters are very good about about telling applicants what is materially available for them.
Shifting from the people who have never had a career before to people who currently have a very successful career is a difficult shift. And that shift is something we're not well trained to handle. A 26 year old woman with a college degree stuck in a middle management job at a corporation will likely have different motives for enlisting than a guy who still has his high school cap and gown hanging in his closet. Unfortunatly we walk out of the recruiting course with one tool, telling people about the financial and training benefits of the service.
Other tools do come with experience, but they're experiences which usually come as a surprise. Knowing when to shut-up and listen is the tool that probably develops last for a recruiter. I suppose the reason for that is how we're trained to keep talking; keep building interest. The problem with that is we're building interest in the Army, not showing the applicant we're interested in them for anything beyond a number.
In all harsh reality we are usually just interested in someone as a number. It's a sad, but true reality on the ground that the numbers are all-important. Failure to produce will result in pain. I might like to spend two hours bullshitting with an applicant who hasn't committed to enlisting, but odds are I can't afford that time. Striking the balance between focusing on the number, and focusing on the person is the key. When I figure it out I'll let you know.
It's far harder to listen than it is to talk. Recruiters are great talkers. We can go on and on and on and on and on. And we will often be met with a "I have to think about it," and we'll follow up with an "obviously you have a reason for saying that..." and we'll eventually terminate the lead for lack of a commitment. I've made it a personal goal to try and improve the listening portion of my efforts. Hopefully I'll enlist someone quick next week and I'll be able to take the leeway to try something new. Otherwise I'll be walking up to everyone saying "Hey, want to join the Army?"