By Tom Byrd
USAREC Public Affairs
July 28, 2016
FORT KNOX, Ky. -- The foundation of the recruiting process is prospecting. It is the first, and arguably the most important, step to get a person to enlist.
How a recruiter makes that first contact can mean the difference between success and failure.
Virtual recruiting has gained momentum with millennia's and has allowed recruiters to reach out to prospects in the places where they are doing the majority of their communicating. Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat enable recruiters to communicate in a way many of the prospects understand.
Combining face-to-face and virtual communication is one way many recruiters take advantage of new technologies and understanding where to find potential recruits.
"You have to adapt to the current environment and go where the prospects hang out," said Sgt. 1st Class Steven Payne, innovations noncommissioned officer for the Commander's Initiative Group at U.S. Army Recruiting Command headquarters. "There are many places you would never see me hang out after work, but if it's important to prospects, it's important to me."
Being able to quickly adapt to changes and sensing where prospects will be is one way recruiters can find success.
"The moment we think that kids wouldn't be somewhere or it could never work is when we shut the door for innovation and adaptability," Payne said.
Not only is that flexibility needed, it's encouraged by the command.
"We're always looking for new ideas and ways to connect with prospective Soldiers," said Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony T. Stoneburg, USAREC's most senior noncommissioned officer. "The commanding general and I are always telling the command to innovate and try new things."
One current way recruiters are connecting to prospects is by using the new Pokemon Go app. The game uses augmented reality to allow players to catch virtual characters and battle with them at real locations. The game uses a phone's GPS to track where the characters are located, so an individual can go to that location to catch them. To battle the Pokemon, you have to visit a "gym." Gyms are located in different places, and people go to the real-world locations to battle virtually for control of the gyms. Large numbers of people show up looking for Pokemon and trying to battle for control of the virtual gyms. Some recruiters are showing up to these locations and starting conversations about the game and the Army.
Some people have argued that playing a kid's game to prospect doesn't appear to be professional. Others have said it allows them to connect with prospects and show they are human and have something in common with them.
Payne says one of the biggest challenges he's had as a recruiter is getting prospects to understand they can still be themselves when they join the Army.
"You have to show the people you're not just a robot and that we are all different," Payne said.
Connecting on an individual level is one way to build trust, the NCO added.
"It allows them to see you truly care and that you're not just an employee but part of their community," Payne said.
Games like Pokemon Go will not replace telephone calls or face-to-face prospecting, but they give recruiters additional tools to make an initial connection.