An Army of cyber recruits

GoArmy.com

The traditional ways of recruiting don't work as well as they used to, so the Army is attracting the cyber generation the same way many companies in the private sector do — by seeking new recruits online.

The service is finding that its cyber-recruiting efforts have been dramatically successful — even exceeding other traditional recruitment efforts in terms of converting job candidates into prospective soldiers.

The Army's Cyber Recruiting Center continues to grow, less than two years after its formation. It has hired 15 employees and expects to total 18 in the near future. Beginning the week of March 12, recruiters are available online for about 33 hours a week. In fact, online recruiting now exceeds other methods in so-called lead conversion — the rate at which recruiting leads become actual recruits, according to Maj. Gen. Dennis Cavin, commander, U.S. Army Recruiting Command.

"Your sons and daughters and grandsons and [granddaughters] are on the Internet. And they're on the Internet at odd hours, as we're discovering," Cavin told the audience at the Association of the United States Army's winter symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., March 1. Cyber recruiting "is going great guns. Our 5.8 percent lead conversion is the best lead conversion of any that we've got, whether it's direct mail, TV, whatever. So the Internet is where our youth are at."

Using more traditional recruiting efforts, the service has generated lead conversions of 2.18 percent through direct mail, 3.74 percent through direct-response television, and 3.17 percent for recruiting efforts overall.

Interest in the service's recruiting Web site, GoArmy.com, has spiked since the service introduced its new slogan, An Army of One, in January along with a $150 million advertising campaign. GoArmy.com went live in 1995, and the cyber-recruiting feature, also known as RecruiterChat, was added in November 1999. During fiscal 2000, RecruiterChat generated 4,404 leads and 145 contracts.

"Qualitative research among our target audience of 18- to 24-year-olds shows that they understand the campaign. Since the campaign's launch, daily Web visits have increased 142 percent from one year ago," said Lt. Col. Michael Shepherd, Cyber Recruiting Center spokesman. "Recruiting leads being generated by the Web are up 64 percent, and calls to 1-800-USA-Army remain strong with an increase of 38 percent. The Internet is a growing medium, and it continues to grow for the Army as a great source of leads."

The majority of cyber recruiters are located at the U.S. Army Recruiting Command headquarters in Fort Knox, Ky., where they work together to answer the rapid-fire questions coming from potential recruits in the chat room. Recruiters in the room are barraged with questions from candidates with monikers such as TaraGurl, UH60 and William. They ask about topics that include managing life as a single parent in the Army, making the transition from the National Guard to the active-duty Army and even what weapons they could be issued.

Although the other services have sophisticated Web sites — AirForce.com, Navy.com and Marines.com — the Army is the only one promoting chat room services.

Despite its success, cyber recruiting has pros and cons, Shepherd said. For instance, street recruiters must sell clients on the Army, while cyber recruiters enjoy captive audience members who log in from the convenience of their homes or workplaces.

"With our automated data processing capabilities, the cyber recruiters can talk to many more people in a day," Shepherd said. But he also pointed out that cyber recruiting does not provide insight into the body language of a candidate and doesn't allow recruiters to spot physical qualifications, such as height, weight or excessive tattoos.

Besides the chat room, GoArmy.com features a complete, in-depth, multi-media experience, including presentation and commentary from recruits as they go through basic training to become soldiers.

Potential recruits can easily log in using a nickname at the Cyber Recruiting Center, voice whatever concerns they might have about enlisting and ask for information or advice. If chatters decide the Army is right for them, the cyber recruiters send them to a local recruiter.

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