According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current U.S. unemployment rate is 3.5%, the lowest it has been in at least a decade. This presents a unique challenge for the debt collection industry, which historically has a hard time recruiting and retaining employees. One untapped source of potential employees for the debt collection industry is military spouses. Below is a breakdown of a few reasons why military spouses make for great employees and how to find them.
Editor’s Note: The author, one of iA’s own, is a very proud military spouse whose husband currently serves in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Great with Change
Something all military spouses get accustomed to while being married to a service member is change. In the military, change is constant. There’s always something: moving across the country due to a change in duty station, adjusting to an ever-changing military operational schedule, or an adjustment in home life when the service member leaves for or returns from a deployment. The ability to go with the flow—a skill learned through the military lifestyle—is one of the greatest strengths of military spouses.
This strength is vital for employees within the debt collection industry. In this industry, the requirements for what collectors can say on the phone, what they can include in letters, and how the company can operate are in constant flux due to changes in legal, regulatory, and client requirement. Companies have to refine their processes on a daily basis to keep up. Having a team member who is comfortable pivoting at a moment’s notice is a great asset.
Desire Employment Longevity
Attrition in the debt collection industry is high. This doesn’t come as a shock to anyone; it’s a tough job. One way to solve for this challenge is to recruit employees who desire longevity and tenure at a company.
Military spouses are often forced to leave jobs involuntary due to changes in duty station. Many military spouses—especially career-focused professionals—dream about longevity on their resumes and are willing to stay with the right company for however long the military allows them to.
Some might say that being a military spouse makes the candidate short-lived for employment. However, this turns a blind eye to what is really going on within companies: non-military spouse employees have short tenures as well. A military spouse who desires longevity will likely work harder to ensure she or he can stay with the company for the duration of the current set of military orders, which could very well be longer than a non-military spouse employee’s stay.
If a company is willing to explore telecommuting options for military spouses that have to move away due to military orders, it can increase that longevity even further. Military spouses understand how difficult it is to search for a new job with each move and, if a company shows loyalty to her or him, it will usually be reciprocated.
Where to Find Military Spouse Recruits
If your company has a location near a military base, then you have many avenues for recruiting military spouses. Each branch of the military—and most commands within the branches—have a department or person dedicated to assisting military families. They host job fairs and pass on information about job openings.
Some examples include:
- Military OneSource, a great one-stop-shop that can help guide a company on how to advertise job postings to military spouses.
- The Marine Corps has a Family Member Employment Assistance Program.
- The Air Force has the Airman and Family Readiness Center.
- The Navy has a Fleet and Family Support Program.
There are also independent organizations dedicated to finding employment opportunities for veterans and military spouses, such as Hiring Our Heroes. There are groups that work to advocate for the portability of professional licenses for military spouses, such as the Military Spouse JD Network, who often have online job boards where opportunities can be posted. Many similar resources can be found through a quick internet search.
How to Appeal to Military Spouses
Here is a non-exhaustive list of benefits a company can offer to military spouses that would help influence her or his decision about joining and staying with the company:
- Pre/post-deployment family time off. Deployments are very hard on military families. They can range from a few months to well over a year of family separation while the military member serves abroad—usually accompanied by the fear for the service member's safety. Offering military spouses paid time off immediately before and immediately after a deployment is a wonderful way to let their family spend some quality time together and readjust to their "new normal."
- Offer flexible schedules. Many military spouses are looking for part-time work to bring in some extra income for their family, but their availability is usually dependent on the military members’ schedules, which is not voluntary and not always consistent. If the military says to be somewhere, the service member has to be there. For example, the service member may need to go on “duty” on a random day (where they have to be at work for 24 hours straight), or they might be sent away for an exercise that lasts a week or two. Unlike in the civilian sector, an "unauthorized absence" and "absence without leave" are violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and, depending on the circumstances, can lead to a federal criminal conviction, jail time in a military brig, and a bad conduct discharge from the military. Offering flexibility to work around these bumps is of great benefit to military spouses.
- Be forgiving of resume gaps. As previously mentioned, many military spouses must involuntarily leave employment due to changes in duty station. When searching for employment, these resume gaps are a big fear for military spouses. Be forgiving of their "swiss cheese" resumes, especially if the gaps and changes in employment coincide with geographical changes.
Be Cognizant of Labor and Employment Laws
On a final note, it’s important to be aware of the labor and employment laws that govern your business. While you can post job openings on resources dedicated to military spouses, these laws dictate what you can say and ask during the application and interview process. Your human resources or legal departments (or outside legal counsel) can help you navigate these waters.
In sum, military spouses present great potential for employment within ARM companies. Kelly Knepper-Stephens, Vice President of Legal & Compliance at TrueAccord and also a military spouse herself, comments:
Seeking to hire military spouses is a great option for employers. In my experience, military spouses are typically dedicated, easily adaptable, committed and fast learners. In the past, companies I have worked with have even permitted military spouse to work remotely when transferred to another duty station—including, me which I have greatly appreciated.