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05-17-05, 04:24 AM #1
Stealth Recruiting Ad Sparks Criticism
Stealth Recruiting Ad Sparks Criticism
By Nathaniel R. Helms
The U.S. Navy has pulled out all the stops to recruit hard-to-reach candidates using classified ads in newspapers across the country offering jobs as postal workers with "excellent pay & benefits" for high school graduates who respond to a toll-free "800" telephone number.
What has a number of critics seething is that the ads do not mention the Navy at all, or that the telephone number connects inquiries to a Navy recruiting team manning a nationwide telephone bank, a DefenseWatch inquiry has learned.
A woman in Bridgeport, Conn., seeking summer employment for family members stumbled upon the ruse when she dialed an 800 number last week for someone seeking postal workers. The so-called "blind ad" led her to a Navy recruiter instead of the U.S. Postal Service.
The resident found the ad in the Sunday classified section of The Connecticut Post on the May 8, 2005. The discovery so incensed her that she complained to her boss, Miles Gerety, an attorney who contacted DefenseWatch because he found the ad to be deceptive and unworthy of appropriate behavior by an organization such as the U.S. Navy.
"My secretary, Darrett Evans, showed me an ad in The Connecticut Post 'Help Wanted' section that read, 'Postal Workers Wanted,' Gerety explained in an email to DefenseWatch. "It gave an 800 number and said that anyone 17-34 could apply. She has a nephew looking for work so she called the number. A Navy recruiter answered it. His pitch was that this was for work on a Navy ship but would involve enlisting."
Ms. Evans, who already has a brother-in-law who just completed one tour in Iraq and doesn't want to send another family member there, grilled the recruiter as to whether he could guarantee that enlisting wouldn't mean going to Iraq. Of course, the recruiter couldn't make that guarantee.
"Darrett got the impression that this is a national recruitment program – not just an ad run by Connecticut recruiters," Gerety said. "It seems like a pretty desperate tactic."
In a separate interview, Evans agreed with her boss' assessment.
"I was looking for my nephew and my daughter," explained Evans, 43, a legal secretary in Bridgeport who works for the State of Connecticut Public Defender's Office. "I was looking at ads for jobs they might be interested in. It sounded good, I know a young man who graduated from high school not too long ago and got a job working at the post office. When I called I said I was calling for an ad in the paper. He [the recruiter] asked me if I knew this was the U.S. Navy."
Robin Watson, a spokeswoman for the newspaper, said The Connecticut Post was unaware of the Navy classified advertisement until alerted by DefenseWatch last Thursday. When Watson, a 29-year-old editorial assistant in the newsroom, called the 800 number last Friday morning, the recruiter who answered asked her a series of qualifying questions before he identified himself as a Navy recruiter, Watson said.
A Navy Recruiting Command spokesman says the use of so-called "blind ads" has been an approved Department of Defense recruiting policy since the mid-1970s. "Blind advertising had been used in the recruitment arena for a long time," said Capt. John Singley, a 27-year Navy veteran and Recruiting Command spokesman. "The Navy has had the permission of the Department of Defense [to run such ads] for a long time,"
Singley added that the Navy not only perceives the nebulous practice as ethical, but finds it a worthy marketing tool that can be aimed at particular targets that can't always be reached in mass advertising.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Singley explained. "The practice of blind advertising is widespread in the public sector. Some years back all the military recruiters adopted it."
Watson said when she called the 800 number a male voice on the other end of the line asked her a series of specific questions before he identified himself as a Navy representative.
"He asked for my age, where I lived, if I had a high school diploma, if I was single, had any children, and when I said no, he told me he was a Navy recruiter," Watson said.
Watson said Navy officials have not given an explanation for why they used that form of advertisement. She said her newspaper's inquiries to the Navy had been bounced around and nobody to date has provided her with a response of any kind. When DefenseWatch tried calling the 800 number listed in the ad Friday afternoon and Monday morning, there was no response.
Evans, of Costa Rican descent, said she thought the ad was sneaky and discriminatory because it targeted poor people and minorities that search the classified ads because they are desperate for good jobs that are hard to come by for inner-city kids and disadvantaged youth. She said the lure of a good paying job right out of high school is irresistible to kids who find themselves in that predicament.
Singley acknowledged that such was the case but that the Navy's motives were pure.
"The Navy and all the services are in a big battle for a small pool of qualified people," Singley explained. "We have an increased requirement for the test scores to get in the Navy. The Navy has also increased the number for diversity - minority applicants. We have a requirement to have a higher number recruits have a high school diploma and some college."
"The Navy has upped the requirements and standards and is looking for more qualified minorities," Singley added. "It has shrunk the pool a little bit. If we are advertising in demographic areas or minority influenced area (Singley was not sure the classified ad in Bridgeport was for that reason) it makes sense to me," he added. "Blind advertising is not widespread - TV and print media are for the mass markets – but sometimes when you are looking for targeted things like minorities it works quite well."
Whether it works well or not seems to be an issue outside the scope of this inquiry. The real issue is whether blind advertising in tantamount to unethical advertising, an accusation the U.S. military is facing more and more frequently as it becomes desperate for recruits to fulfill it needs during a war that is becoming unpopular.
Wanted: Postal Workers for the (Shh) Navy
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