Advice for Employers and Recruiters

Are robots about to cause the end of high volume hiring by the military? with Chad Sowash of the Chad and Cheese Podcast

Shelby Konkel AvatarShelby Konkel
November 7, 2022


Welcome back to another episode of the High Volume Hiring Podcast, the podcast that features news tips, case studies, and interviews with the world’s leading experts about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to high-volume hiring. 

The High Volume Hiring podcast

In this episode, host Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter’s Founder and Chief Visionary Officer, interviews Chad Sowash of The Chad and Cheese Podcast, about the high volume hiring practices of the military, including the U.S. Army and other branches.

Chad’s service within the Army and years of experience within the HR tech space gives him an unique perspective on the military’s use of automated systems for hiring at scale. He offers some insight into the high-volume scale of military recruiting and how AI might change this process in 20 years time. While the military currently uses automation to enlist millions of people on a yearly basis, will AI end up replacing soldiers on the battlefield? Listen to the full episode to hear what Chad has to say!

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TRANSCRIPT

Steven (00:11):

Welcome to the High Volume Hiring Podcast. I’m Steven Rothberg, founder of College Recruiter Job search site at College Recruiter. We believe that every student and recent grad deserves a great career. This podcast features news tips, case studies, and interviews with the world’s leading experts about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to high volume hiring. Thanks for joining us. Today’s guest is Chad Sowa. Many of our listeners will know him as the co-host of the Chad and she’s podcast, but only very frequent listeners like me will also know that he served in the US Army and Army, reserved and worked in a number of sales and veteran related roles for organizations such as Monster Direct Employers Association, Recruit, Military, and Ronstadt Source. Right. Hey Chad, welcome to the show.

Chad (01:00):

Hello. It must be an off week. You said you have experts on, so I guess I’m just filling in.

Steven (01:06):

Well, we can pretend to be experts because we’re not on TV and we have a face for radio, or I think I’m mixing up a couple of analogies there, <laugh>. So before we get into the meat of the discussion which we’re gonna be talking a lot about military hiring today. Maybe you can help the listeners better understand some of the experiences that you had. What did you do in the military? How old were you? Because you still absolutely have a huge passion for it. It’s very much sort of part of who you are, and that’s why I thought you would be the perfect guest for this.

Chad (01:47):

Yeah, I really appreciate you having me on, Steven. When we’re talking about military and we’ll dig deeper into this many individuals like myself I didn’t do well in school. And the last thing we wanted to do was go back into school, into college. Not to mention going to debt. So my parents weren’t going to be able to pay for college, so I was going to have to foot the bill, and if I was going to have to foot the bill, I sure as hell was not going to go straight after high school. Cause I wasn’t ready and I knew I wasn’t ready. So six days after I graduated high school I was in, or at least on my way to bootcamp in the Army went through bootcamp. Well, so this is a great year. So 1989, I graduated high school, graduated basic training, graduated ait, which is our advanced individual training, and then I found myself dug into a hillside in Panama taking AK 47 and mortar fire. So 1989 was one hell of a year for this cat

Steven (02:54):

Was the Panama Conflict. I’m trying to remember which of them that was that the Noriega one where we were blasting rock music at his compound. Okay. Yep. That was it. Wow.

Chad (03:07):

Yep. Downtown in the jungles downtown. I mean, we were all

Steven (03:11):

Over the place. Nice. Wow. I knew you had served in Central America. I think there was a recent podcast where you and Joel Cheeseman, your co-host on the Chad and Cheese podcast. I think you kind of briefly mentioned that, cuz he said something about overseas or something and you were like, Nah, Central American. He’s like, Yeah, whatever. But I didn’t think I knew the details on that. So you’re not just somebody who’s, whose affiliation, if you could call it that with the military comes from watching the history channel. You’ve served it. And then also, if I’m not mistaken, later in your career, you were a drill sergeant too.

Chad (03:51):

Yeah, that was actually my last job. So I was in the reserves. I did early active duty time, first four years. Then when I came out I thought, okay, I’m done with this. I’m going into corporate America, have a nice day. But I still had that yearning for the military, believe it or not. So I went into the reserves, did the weekend warrior thing, which is what everybody likes to call it until we get a war. And then we’re actually in the thick of things just as much as active duty is. But yeah, in 2004 for a year and a half was actually my main job was training as an infantry drill sergeant. So my place of duty was down in Fort Benning, Georgia and then we had to go back in 2008 to 2009. So I spent two and a half years full time as a basic training infantry drill sergeant. Personally been through basic training now more than 10 times, <laugh> infantry, basic training more than 10 times. So anybody saying that, Oh, I had to go through basic training. Okay, well that’s not really not that big of a deal to

Steven (05:04):

Me. Yeah, you call that Tuesday. Yeah,

Chad (05:07):

<laugh>.

Steven (05:08):

<laugh>. Yeah. So I guess a lot of the soldiers that you helped train ended up serving in Afghanistan and Iraq

Chad (05:14):

In many cases. They went directly either to ranger training or some advanced training, airborne training or what have you. And then they found themselves weeks after graduating basic infantry, basic, they found themselves over in the sandbox and in many cases National Guard troops. We would actually get them where they had to graduate a couple of weeks early after we got out of our last field training exercise, which is one of our biggest tests. They would actually graduate early because they had their reserve and or guard units that were getting ready to mobilize to go. So it was very interesting. Not to mention mean when you talk about training and you talk about a job at that point that you’re training these individuals to go over and survive and to ensure that their buddies survive, They’re going on the battlefield. So it was an entirely different persona I had to take on. I was not the Chad that now I was entirely different cuz I had

Steven (06:26):

To be. Oh, so you’d be likable.

Chad (06:30):

Not so much <laugh>. I went into this persona that we called God mode and I you, you could call it God mode or Trump mode. You were always right. I mean everything, The only thing different was that I was physically fit, which you never saw from him. But it was one of those things where you had to be better, you had to be stronger, you had to be smarter, and you just had to push yourself because if you didn’t, then everybody around you could feel the impact. And that could be dramatic on the battlefield.

Steven (07:04):

Yeah, yeah. No, that totally makes sense. So for the listeners who are wondering, what the heck does this have to do with high volume hiring, We’re about to find out. So one of the things that I’ve been hearing you talk a fair amount about on your podcast is the idea of robots. So before we get into how the military is, and we’ll use robots, let’s first define what you mean by robots and then if we can branch out and talk about the applicability those, the military, what that is gonna do to their enlistment needs, et cetera. So when you talk about robots, what are you talking about?

Chad (07:50):

Automation. Whether it’s automation to be able to help humans do their job faster or actual robots, drones any type of robot that could prospectively take a human’s place on the battlefield, which we’ve seen. We’ve seen much more of that happening in the last heck, 10 years than I think that we even knew was happening.

Steven (08:19):

So we’re including things and definitely tear me a new hole if I’m overstating things. But we’re including things like self-service, touch displays go into a restaurant and you, McDonald’s has a lot of them. For example, it’s like, I want this burger, I want that soda, blah, blah, blah. Here’s my payment. And then you walk up to the cashier and get your food. So you’re including that type of automation when you’re talking about robots?

Chad (08:51):

Yeah.

Steven (08:53):

Okay. And then also, I mean drones, some of them are piloted as you know, I live in Minnesota, right next door to us is a big air force base in North Dakota. And a lot of the drones overseas are flown by pilots sitting in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which to me is bizarre. But I guess physics has something to do with that. But you’re also talking about the robots like we see in Black Mirror, they look like a dog and they’re walking, but they’ve got some kind of rifle strap to their back. You’re talking about it at that level too. You’re talking about I suppose the wield kinds of vehicles that might go and deal with an improvised explosive device in a house where they can remotely manage that and steer that.

Chad (09:51):

Yeah, yeah, no question. I think before we start to see actual robot dogs or any type of robot on the actual battlefield replacing humans, we’re going to see more of what we’re seeing in Ukraine now. So we actually sent them anti personnel, man, mind or not, mines drones, anti personnel drones anti-tank drones. And you can actually have a single person engage platoons or battalions of individuals with these drones because they have more of a swarm effect. So you can take out big, heavy multimillion dollar equipment like tanks, and then also take out anti personnel with these. So I think that’s the first progression is to be able to slowly move our humans on the battlefield when we know it’s safe because we have less of them because of recruiting. But then also we start to roll out these new robots that are drones that are land driven as opposed to in the air.

Steven (11:14):

Some of the video that I’ve seen from Ukraine where they have drones, there’s an operator, miles and miles behind the front lines in a relatively safe location. No place in Ukraine is safe, but some places are definitely much less safe than others. But they’re remotely operating drones from miles and miles away. The drones will have basically grenade strap to them. They’ll fly hundreds or thousands of feet above the ground, they’ll look for Russian trenches, tanks, trucks, et cetera, drop a grenade. And if there are eight Russian soldiers there and you wound a couple of them, that takes out all eight because the other six are then gonna need to take to care for the two that were wounded or killed. And so what that does then is you’ve got one operator miles behind the front line, essentially taking the place of about eight frontline soldiers because that one operator is tying up eight.

Chad (12:15):

Yeah. Oh yeah. Or even more depending on the arsenal that they have available to them. And one thing that I think is interesting, because I think we will see this start to happen on the corporate side as well, is we’re seeing that the military is putting out a lot of these articles saying that they can’t meet recruiting deadlines. Well, whenever they couldn’t do that in the past, we heard advertising all over the place. I mean all the army logos and songs and jingles, and they were everywhere. But you’re not seeing that now. So my whole theory behind this is that they’re getting ready to say, Look, we don’t have enough people to be able to provide for the national defense, which is why we are moving to robots. Okay, so stick with me here. I’m not saying this is malicious, I’m just saying at the end of the day, this is going to be easier not to mention also from a PR standpoint to have less human beings getting attacked on the battlefield.

(13:17):

But when we take a look at the corporate side of the house, I see the exact same thing happening following this kind of template saying, Oh look, we can’t find individuals to do X, Y, Z, so therefore we’re going to automate. We can’t give you what you need and you deserve. I can see Jeff Bezos doing this in a heartbeat as he burns through people because they have horrible turnover and whatnot. We need to be able to provide to you. So we’re gonna use this template and we’re gonna go full automation and try to get the humans out of those jobs. Which to be quite frank those jobs suck in many cases.

Steven (13:55):

Yeah, no, I totally agree. And I don’t think that there’s anything negative. I can’t imagine that there are too many people who are all that concerned about a drone being shot out of the sky versus soldiers being wounded or killed. Especially when those soldiers that are being wounded or killed are on your side, maybe even members of your family. If you have to choose between somebody being under fire and some drone that’s purchased for a hundred thousand dollars, the choice is pretty simple and it scales better. I know you and I are both big believers in that. It’s one thing if you’re operating a corner retail store, is scale really important? No. But when you’re enlisting hundreds of thousands, millions of people a year and having them stationed all over the globe, and it’s an inherently dangerous occupation, call it robots, call it automation. But it’s a good thing.

(14:54):

And I think it also helps, I think the military uses the expression force multiplier. You can make one soldier do the job of eight or more, like you say. So enlistment one thing that we’ve seen at college recruiter is that the military branches are shifting their approach to their recruitment advertising. And I think this is to your point about we don’t see the TV ads as much as we did just a few years ago. We don’t see banner ads on random websites. We don’t see army logos on NASCAR vehicles. We did 10, 15 years ago. And I think that some of the military branches came under a well, figuratively speaking a lot of fire. I think the guard was one of them where they were called before Congress and asked to explain the return on investment with some of that branding. And they literally could not trace a single enlistment to the millions of dollars that they were spending with some of those branding programs.

(16:02):

Now, I’m a believer in branding, but you still have to be able to justify that spend, especially when it’s the public’s money and there’s a decent chance that you’re gonna get called before Congress. It was astounding to me that they didn’t anticipate the question and have a better answer to it. But one thing that the military has been doing is that they’ve actually been running a lot more job posting ads. They’re doing a lot of paper click, a lot of paper lead. It’s stuff that isn’t as splashy, it’s more targeted. But I think that’s also a function of, and <inaudible>, to get your thoughts on the likelihood of reduced enlistment. If we’re gonna have robots, other types of automation, multiplying the impact of each soldier, You don’t need as many soldiers. So inevitably that means less enlistment. That means drill sergeants. You don’t have as many fat idiots like me showing up <laugh>.

(17:04):

And what do you think we’re gonna see over maybe the next couple of years, the next 20 years? Are you thinking maybe 10% less enlistment, everything else being equal? Obviously if we get into a big shooting match, everything changes. But yeah, I mean, how significant, Cuz one thing I’m wondering, I mean a lot more about this than I do. I’m wondering if this is a massive change that we’re gonna see in the next year or two. Or if this is incremental that you and I are gonna both be sitting in rocking chairs in God forbid, Florida when this really kicks in.

Chad (17:43):

I will not be in Florida. I can guarantee you that <laugh>. So yeah, when we take a look at, when we take a look at the military, one of the things that I, being inside the machine, one of the things that I saw was that I saw that this was probably one of the best publicly funded programs in the world. And let me tell you why. There were so many kids that maybe like me, who really didn’t, had no path. They had, many of them needed to lose 40 pounds off their ass. They just had no motivation, no momentum. They had nothing going in their favor. They come into the military, they got everything that they needed. They got discipline, they got training. So many different things. I mean, I don’t know how many 20 ish year old kids came in that didn’t know how to do their own laundry, for goodness sakes.

(18:34):

So as we take a look at the actual public service on, we are turning these prospective liabilities to society into assets. And I’m not just saying an asset from the standpoint of we can put ’em on the battlefield. I’m saying when they get out, they at least have that discipline, that focus, that motivation. And that helped me. It gave me a framework for business. My military experience gave me a great framework for business because our focus is troubleshooting and then going to problem solving. And you’re working in a very fluid environment. There isn’t a single answer. That’s not how it works on the battlefield. So you have to be fluid. Much like in business, there isn’t always just one answer. So from my standpoint, yes, I can see where the numbers will come down, and that can happen easily just with them spending less money. Because the US military spends more than the nine next countries, seven of them, seven of them being friendly countries. So we spend so much money, waste, fraud, and abuse. What can we do to actually focus on getting the right people in? And then again, like it or not, we’re going to move more toward mechanized soldiers and drones.

Steven (20:00):

So do you think that the changes, do you think in the next couple years we’re gonna see a massive change in the desired enlistment numbers? Or do you think this is gonna be slow and incremental over decades?

Chad (20:12):

Yeah, I, It’ll happen. It’ll happen slowly. It’ll happen slowly. But it will happen naturally as the military doesn’t spend as much money in advertising to try to get humans into those slots. And one of the things I’d like to say is the military is probably the best recruiting machine in the world because the US military, because of all the money, number one. But you’ve gotta remember, they do something that corporate America, they actually build talent pipelines. We talk about talent pipelines all the time in corporate America. We have no clue what that actually means. They bring out raw material and they know where their skills gaps are or where their job gaps are. They train individuals to meet those gaps. Here in corporate America, what do we do? We sit back, we wait. And when the perfect individual doesn’t show up, we say, Oh, there’s gotta be a skills gap. Instead of actually going out identifying what that gap is and then starting to churn out individuals who fit perfectly into those positions. You can do that in college, much like the military does with rotc or even the GI Bill where they are they actually subsidizing the education? I mean, whether that’s in a university or in the more technical sector,

Steven (21:37):

Right? Yeah. Anybody who’s just focused on the corporate side of recruiting and wants to see what’s around the corner, what’s coming, Look at the military. The military has military recruiting, has always led corporate recruiting in the techniques, the messaging, the sophistication, the willingness, like you say, to train, God forbid that we’d spend weeks training somebody, some on the corporate side would rather spend years complaining that we can’t find people, spend weeks training them. So well, Chad, I thank you so much for joining us today on the High Volume Hiring podcast. Thanks

Chad (22:20):

For having me.

Steven (22:21):

Yeah, you’re welcome. I’ll send you that big check that I didn’t promise you. <laugh>. This has been a co-production of Evergreen Podcasts, which also is the partner of the Chad and she’s podcast and a co-production of College recruiter. Please subscribe for free on your favorite app, recommended to a couple people who wanna learn more about how to hire the best people in dozens or even hundreds. A special thanks to our producer and engineer, Ian Douglas. I’m your host Steven Rothberg of job search site college recruiter. Each year we help more than 7 million candidates find great new jobs. Our customers are primarily Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, including every military branch and other employers who hire at scale and advertise their jobs with us. You can reach me@stevencollegerecruiter.com and Chad, if people wanna reach you, what’s the best way?

Chad (23:20):

Go to Chad cheese.com and you can. There’s their ability to reach out to us there or go to LinkedIn. I am the only Chad Sowa in the world currently.

Steven (23:32):

<laugh> and Sowash, for those who’ve been hiding under rock, S O W A S H.

Chad (23:38):

Too easy.

Steven (23:39):

Awesome. Thank you so much.

Chad (23:41):

Thank you.

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