I meet with a lot of prospective recruits and recruiters to get an accurate pulse on the military -- and hear what questions they want to ask their recruiter. It's my job to find out what problems they're struggling with, then figure out how I can address these issues. Through this process of meeting with literally hundreds of individuals over countless cups of coffee, I began to hear the same questions. So I decided to summarize these questions and provide some feedback on each.
What you'll find below is a distillation of my personal experience in the recruitment industry, which I hope will help streamline the onboarding process and act as a resource for recruits and recruiters.
Questions to Ask Your Recruiter
1. Are the rumors true?
Call them myths, misconceptions, rumors or stereotypes -- to outsiders, the military is plagued with misinformation. Here are a few examples you may have heard: The 'chair force' is made up of officers and pilots, the Marines is for those who can't score high enough on the ASVAB to get into the Air Force, the Army is for those who can't hack it as Marines, and the Navy is for those who want to hang out with Marines without going into combat. Sure, these are obviously ridiculous, but gossip like this has a surprising ability to sway people's decision of which branch to enlist in. Don't let it happen to you. Talk with as many recruiters as you can about any concerns or preconceived notions and let them weigh in before making a decision.
2. What are the benefits?
One of the primary motivations for enlisting in the military is the comprehensive benefit package. Housing and health care for you and your family, GI Bill benefits, retirement and enlistment bonuses are among the perks that are provided by the military. If capitalized on shrewdly, this can total in excess of a million dollars. With that said, each branch's benefit package varies, so it's important to ask recruiters for a list of benefits and then compare which ones are most important to you.
3. Should I enlist in the Reserve or go active duty?
This is an essential question that you should discuss with recruiters. Do you want to keep one foot in the civilian world or jump in with both feet as a full-time service member? When making this decision, weigh factors such as salary, enlistment bonuses, likelihood for relocation and your confidence that the military is the right path for you. Writing out a list of the pros and cons of each will help shed light on your intentions and make your decision much easier.
4. What are the disqualifiers?
Different branches have different restrictions. The Marines, for example, don't allow tattoos that are above the collarbone, on hands or within two inches of the elbow or knee. On the other hand, the Army only prohibits tattoos that are located on the face, neck and hands. Age, number of dependents, health, criminal history and prior service are a few other factors that will determine your eligibility for service. The important thing to note with any restriction is that there is generally some wiggle room, so address any concerns with a recruiter before making a hasty decision.
5. Does the military fit my ambitions?
Joining the military is a life-changing decision. Regardless of your background or how much you think you know about the military, your life will be altered in ways that you cannot anticipate. You have to be prepared to jump into the unknown and also be real about your motivations and expectations for enlisting. Is this a means to an end, or do you hope to make it a long-term career? Are you someone who can obey orders and follow directions? Are you a team player? The more honest you are with yourself and your recruiter, the better you can determine if the military is right for you and your long-term goals.
6. Will I have to go to war?
The threat of going to war is a very real possibility when joining the military, and you should be prepared to accept this if you're serious about enlisting. With that said, certain military occupational specialties (MOS) and certain branches are more likely to see action than others. If you want to be on the front lines, the Marines or Army will be your best bet. If going into combat scares the hell out of you, you might look at the Coast Guard. Talking with recruiters about this subject is important because they can provide a lot of insight and experience on this issue. Nonetheless, whatever branch you decide on, realize that war is an inherent aspect of the military, and you could be called into action at any given time.
7. Where can I do more research?
RateTheMilitary.com collects MOS reviews from active service members across all five branches. The site is a resource aimed at bridging the communication gap between the military and civilian world.
Quora.com is a Q&A platform where you can post specific questions for others to answer. While it is not geared specifically toward the military, questions regarding the military often will receive several answers.
Reddit.com is a content-sharing community comprised of subgroups (called subreddits) with several different focuses on aspects of the military. A few subreddits you might check out are r/military, r/militaryFAQ, r/newtothenavy.
Active & retired service members are one of the best resources for getting information about the military. More often than not, service members are happy to provide their input and/or connect you with someone who can answer your questions.
Brian Kerney is the founder of RateTheMilitary.com, which houses a collection of job reviews from active service members across all five branches. Its mission is to increase transparency into military careers and bridge the communication gap between the military and civilian world. RTM also connects retiring service members with civilian recruiters.
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