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The Case for Why Companies Should Recruit More Military Veterans

There is a key recruitment channel that employers and recruiters may not be tapping – military veterans. Many have the skills and experience organizations need, but it’s up to executives like Maureen Neglia, Vice President, HR, Global Recruitment at Scotiabank to read between the lines and see how veterans can strengthen both a company’s bottom line, their diversity and inclusion efforts, as well as veterans’ transition to the civilian sector. Bob Berube, former military director and now Director, Channel and Executive Operations at Scotiabank is a perfect example. Here’s his story.


By Shelley White


When Bob Berube decided to leave the Canadian military after 25 years of service, he spent two years preparing for his transition to the private sector.

Bob had joined the military in 1989 at the tender age of 19, and for most of the next 25 years, he was deployed to operations in far-flung locations, from Germany to the former Yugoslavia to Afghanistan. But despite his wealth of experience and successful record in the armed services, Bob realized that he would need to “re-educate” himself if he was to thrive in the private sector.

“The challenge was understanding where my skills would be best applied, in what type of industry and at what level,” he says. So Bob hired a career coach and began making connections with non-military business leaders from a variety of industries.

“Tapping into networks was vital for me to really understand how I could work in the private sector.”

Bob’s preparation helped him successfully transition out of the military and into a robust private sector career – he is now Director, Channel and Executive Operations at Scotiabank. Making this sort of career transition can pose some challenges for veterans.


“Tapping into networks was vital for me to really understand how I could work in the private sector.”


Because of the rules and regulations governing fitness requirements in the military, Bob points out that most members have a set end date for their careers.  The majority are required to retire at age 55, leaving them to either find other employment in the private sector or rely on their military pension. And many will leave the military before retirement age.  It can be a challenge for veterans to make the transition to careers in the private sector because employers and recruiters may not realize that veterans have the skills and experience they need in their organizations.

“My experience has been that the civilian sector speaks in a completely different language,” Bob explains. “Because the military is a very unique organization – has its own policies, has its own procedures – a lot of the certifications or experience levels that the private sector might be looking for may not be required for a profession in the military. A recruiter might not be able to understand how someone’s military experience would actually be a huge benefit to the organization.”


At the same time, military people may have difficulty presenting their skills and experience in a way that private-sector employers will understand, says Bob.


“Many veterans don’t really prepare themselves for the cultural shock that they’re going to face. They don’t transform their language,” he says. “They may be articulating in their own military jargon a high level of skill that would be perfect for roles that they’re applying for, but it’s not understood at all because they’re speaking in military acronyms that mean nothing in the corporate sector.”


Helping military servicemen and women transition to a successful civilian life has been a priority for many years for Maureen Neglia, Vice President, HR, Global Recruitment at Scotiabank. It’s part of her commitment to ensuring a diverse and inclusive strategy when attracting talent to the bank, she says.


“Most organizations recognize that the more diverse and inclusive the workforce, the stronger the results are for the organization.”


Veterans and reservists – who are members of the military reserve force and carry on civilian lives in peacetime, “offer a unique set of skills and experiences that shouldn’t be overlooked,” says Maureen.


“Members of the military are often in roles where they need to be strong, strategic thinkers and leaders. They’re doing a lot of their work under pressure. They’re often managing big, complex projects. And in many cases, they’re having to be leaders at a very young age. They’re having to mobilize and engage teams of people on a regular basis. We find that they can be very successful in project management-type roles, people leadership roles, operations roles and engineering,” says Maureen.


Scotiabank supports veterans and reservists in a number of ways, notes Maureen. The company sponsors organizations like True Patriot Love, a national charity that provides mental and physical health support to veterans and their families, and Canada Company, a charitable organization that helps connect business, community leaders and the Canadian military. In September, Scotiabank sponsored an event at the Scotiabank Conference Centre in Toronto called Vets on Bay, bringing together military reservists and veterans with business leaders from leading Canadian corporations.


When it comes to recruiting, Scotiabank recently launched a page on their career site that targets veterans and reservists, profiles former members of the military within the organization and gives them a direct line to the Scotiabank recruiters.  


“We’ve also hired reservists on the Scotiabank recruitment team who are well-versed in the lingo that you might see on a military resume, because military resumes look very different than civilian resumes,” says Maureen. “When we do bring those individuals into the organization, we try to make sure they have coaches and mentors that have had similar backgrounds to help them make the transition.”


“We need to have better conversations on both sides in order to help veterans and reservists succeed.”


Bob is also an integral part of Scotiabank’s commitment to recruiting veterans and reservists. He has partnered with Maureen and the recruitment team to identify and channel key military talent for the organization.


As well, in 2016, he founded and is the president and CEO of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment Association, which helps people from that military unit to prepare for civilian careers.


“There is some amazing talent and disciplined individuals, some really motivated people,” he says of his military compatriots. “I look at the struggles that some of my former colleagues have faced on the path to success in the private sector, and I can see why we need to have better conversations on both sides in order to help veterans and reservists succeed.”



Maureen notes that in addition to the tremendous value military personnel can add to an organization, there’s another important reason for Canadian organizations to recruit them.


“It’s a group of individuals, men and women, that often pay a very heavy debt to society,” she says. “In many cases, they put their lives on the line when they join the military. So I think corporations have an obligation to, at minimum, be looking at their resumes, to better understand how their military skill set could benefit the private sector. In my experience it has been a win-win for all parties involved.”