Military recruitment changed greatly over the last decade with the introduction of social media and the easy connections people are capable of making with each other.
Richard Harris, the Coordinator of Student Veterans & Military Services at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, sees a drastic change in how he recruits potential student veterans.
“Climate definitely changed with social media, in that made it far more easier to make and keep contact with our military connected students,” Harris says.
The more people become connected on social media, the easier it is for recruiters to engage people interested in service, or in Harris’ case, service members looking for higher education.
Harris says he used to plan trips to various bases and installations across the country, however, now he says he uses Facebook almost exclusively for making connections.
“I’ve been able to reach more recruits in a shorter period of time for less money,” Harris says. “I’ve also been able to reach these recruits time and time again with changing information that keeps them updated on important matters that impact them.”
No doubt the ability to reach potential servicemen or student veterans over Facebook has its benefits, however Harris points out a few downsides to not having face-to-face interaction. Harris wants the most capable and engaged candidates to represent the U.S military on campus, but that’s hard to gauge by online messaging, which is why, when possible, he champions in-person communication.
“We try to connect with our military connected students on a face-to-face basis as much as possible because it can tell us things that using social media can’t,” Harris says.
When looking at possible recruits, Harris looks for things such as eye contact, appropriate clothing as well as their enthusiastic-ness. Each of those elements cannot be judged over messaging apps.
However, there is a serious reason for these qualifications, one which many students may not realize, but is a very real struggle for veterans.
“We lose an estimated 27 Veterans a day to suicide and during a face-to-face interaction the previously described non-verbal cues could signal at-risk suicide,” Harris says.
There are both pros and cons of recruiting our best and brightest across different platforms with very real consequences depending on the coordinator’s choice. Richard Harris balances those choices every day.