Paving a path: Inspiring HR professionals to hire former military

Oct 15, 2015


By Sean Kelley, program director for Military Affairs at Microsoft

Microsoft believes that military talent is a game-changer for the IT industry — and for American competitiveness. Accelerating the technology industry’s recognition of the value inherent in former service members’ experiences and encouraging more openness for job consideration is just one of the ways we hope to spread that belief.

From its inception, our vision for Microsoft Military Affairs has been lofty: A service member competing and considered for every IT job. As we’ve built this organization, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the compete part of that vision: reaching out to former service members, showing them paths into technology, encouraging a sense of belongingness and providing training to help them better compete for careers in the tech industry.

As the former leader of our Cloud + Enterprise recruiting organization, I am intimately familiar with the requirements for very technical jobs. I am also passionate that the door to the industry should be opened wider to consider a diverse population of candidates, especially former service members. This is why I sponsored the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) program pilot nearly two years ago — to make an investment in building a pipeline that is virtually untapped across the technology industry and to break the paradigm that former servicemen and women weren’t part of our “talent pool.” With this context in mind, we’re placing new emphasis on sharing our MSSA program learnings to inspire the HR and recruiting profession to seriously consider a former service member for every IT job, and to build a collaborative approach among leading IT companies. Today I will be speaking about my experiences in Microsoft Cloud + Enterprise & Microsoft Military Affairs, focusing on our success with MSSA, at the LinkedIn Talent Connect event.

I was honored to speak about Microsoft Military Affairs at LinkedIn Talent Connect.


LinkedIn is the hub for the recruiting industry. Nearly every professional leverages it, and almost 2 million registered users are former U.S. service members. Talent Connect is LinkedIn’s biggest customer conference; it’s the place to be for the profession to connect, network and learn. Sharing our learnings about MSSA is a tremendous opportunity to enhance the discussion about who belongs in the technology industry and for which jobs former servicemen and women are qualified to fill. I’m a dreamer and my hope is that the MSSA program provides a moment of inspiration for those in the audience at Talent Connect, and those who read this post, to break out of the routine and try new ways to attract and connect with former service members, maybe even partnering with us as an employer of MSSA graduates.

Former servicemen and women have powerful stories to share. Recruiters who make time to listen to those stories and seek ways to align those experiences with company needs very well may be inspired in new ways and gain a leg up on the competition for America’s servicemen and women. I can tell you from experience that if recruiters are just reviewing resumes, service members may be overlooked; their skill sets may appear too unique or different to take a perceived “bet” on hiring. In my mind, the bet is clear — this is winning talent who are leaders, learners, loyal, technical and passionate about delivering the mission. We’ve seen it in action — MSSA has become life-changing for many of our graduates, and they are delivering value to Microsoft and the more than 80 companies who have hired them.

My advice to recruiters and companies just starting out is to start small:

Don’t try to change the world in one day; just take that first step forward. You never know who your next great hire could be.