The meeting was over before it began when a student interested in joining the Navy brought his new puppy to his interview with Senior Chief Jeff Priest.
“We had to ask him to leave. It is a professional organization.
We don’t need pets running around,” Priest says.
The puppy owner isn’t the only military hopeful who didn’t understand how to act around a recruiter. Priest says another Navy applicant walked into the recruiting center with a large lizard on his shoulder. Pets aren’t welcome, and the applicant wasn’t allowed to interview.
“If you are going to show up with a puppy at the job interview, you’re not needed,” Priest says.
What the military’s looking for
Instead of clueless applicants, the military is looking for students with strong grades who want to attend college. “The military is no longer a last-choice option, because of our stricter standards, because of our opportunity to go to college,” Priest says.
Great grades is just one qualification. Gunnery Sgt. James Connolly with the U.S. Marines says the military is looking for students who are also mentally and physically healthy. Connolly says soldiers as young as 21 and 22 are working on multimillion-dollar equipment. “If you don’t have the street smarts or the education to handle this stuff, it’s not a good fit,” he says.
The military also has physical requirements. Connolly says some students have to train to pass the physical exam. “They may be 50 pounds overweight, but if they show heart and determination, we can work with them,” he says.
Qualifying students have to show their professionalism and maturity to recruiters. Sgt. First Class Richard Byrd with the U.S. Army says students don’t need to dress formally, but they must look appropriate.
“Not tank tops, cut-offs, short shorts or halter tops. Nothing that could get anyone in trouble,” Byrd says.
What to expect at a meeting
When first meeting a recruiter, Byrd says you should shake hands. Priest says you should expect the first meeting to last an hour, and you should come prepared with questions. Students who take the time to create a list of questions show recruiters that they’re interested and serious about the military. One student, for example, came in with a list of thoughtful questions; Priest says it showed intelligence.
“I knew I wanted her on my team. She’s still in the Navy until this day,” he says.
Priest recommends meeting with recruiters from all four branches. “The Navy strongly encourages you to talk to all four,” Priest says. “There are some branches that will spend the full interview talking to you about their misconceptions of the other branches.”
Having a list of prepared questions can get recruiters back to talking about their branch, not the others. Ask about the commitment, benefits and “boot camp,” or basic training. Ask about the mental and physical requirements required. If you’re out of shape, you may have plenty of time to begin a training program. Connolly says a Marine recruiter will give a student a sample program to follow.
Not for you?
After meeting with a recruiter, you may feel like the military is not a good fit for you. If that’s the case, Byrd says to be up front with the recruiter so no time is wasted. “Just be honest and say, ‘At this present time, I choose not to go further with this option,’ ” Byrd says. “Unfortunately, kids will not answer the phone, or set up meetings and not come.”
The military will ask you to reveal any past drug problems or criminal history. And you’re expected to answer honestly. “We will find out if you are lying,” Priest says. “Retention is extremely high and articulation is really low. We can be selective.”
You can continue meeting with recruiters until you’ve made a decision. Recruiters will also meet with parents and answer their questions or concerns. “The more questions you ask, the better informed you will become,” Priest says.
• Force a student to sign any document.
• Promise a student they’ll get the military job they want.
• Promise where a student will be stationed.
• Waive any enlistment requirements.
Joining the military is a big decision, and recruiters say it’s not the best choice for everyone. Learn more about the lifestyle and career from the contacts below.
Air Force: The Air Force calls its recruiters advisers. At AirForce.com, you can do a quick search to find the nearest recruitment center. You can also chat online with an adviser or fill out a form to request more information. The website also answers questions about commitment, benefits and life in the Air Force. Or, call (800) 423-USAF (423-8723).
Army: The Army’s website, GoArmy.com, answers questions about service options, commitment and benefits. It also has a “live chat” option through which you can asks recruiters questions. No computer? Call (800) USA-ARMY (872-2769) and ask to speak with a recruiter
in your area.
Coast Guard: The U.S. Coast Guard website, GoCoastGuard.com, has a local recruiter search and information about the Coast Guard’s responsibilities. The site also answers questions about benefits and entry requirements. Call the Coast Guard at (800) 438-USCG
Marines: The Marine Corps website, Marines.com, has a parent guide, information about life in the Corps and an interactive history of the Corps. Fill out an online form to request more information, or call (800) MARINES (627-4637).
Navy: Visit Navy.com to read more about life in the Navy. The website has an interactive quiz, the Life Accelerator, to help students focus their career interests. Students can also do a quick search to find local recruiting centers or do an online chat with a recruiter.
Call the Navy at (800) USA-NAVY (872-6289).