VirtForce Interview: Remote Work for Military Spouses, Veterans
America loves her military community.
Every day, a mere 1% of the nation’s population stands in defense of the other 99%, choosing to serve rather than be served. I can personally attest to the challenges faced by transitioning service members and their families. It is stressful, especially when trying to figure out what the next stage in life holds.
There are some fantastic organizations that make life a little easier for our beloved veteran community. Whether it comes to finding a job, preparing for interviews, or even locking down that social media profile in preparation for a new position, these organizations are a priceless asset to any transitioning service member, veteran, or military spouse.
>> Interested in contacting Virtforce? Please visit their website to learn more and register.
VirtForce’s mission is to cultivate “vetted virtual career paths” for the military-affiliated job seekers to reduce the unemployment numbers within that community.
I had the pleasure of sitting down and interviewing the founder and CEO of VirtForce, Kimber Hill, who provided a deeper look into what this company does and how it benefits veterans and military spouses.
VirtForce – The Beginning
The idea for VirtForce came to Kimber Hill in 2017, as she found herself surrounded by military spouses struggling to find or keep employment.
“I married into the military in 2017, and my work performance history is government contracting. I loved it. Then my husband commissioned and we received orders. We needed to be 500 miles away in two weeks.”
Fearing that she would lose her job, Mrs. Hill faced a crisis of identity between what she loved to do and the reality of the situation.
“Fortunately, I was able to go remote in that position, but it’s only because I had the gusto to advocate for myself in that role, and to pitch myself as a remote team member. This was pre-COVID, before remote was a thing,” she explained. “I was happy.”
Then, she started meeting other military spouses who had similar experiences with less positive outcomes. “I found that 80-90% of them had lost their jobs, and the majority of them had never thought about a remote career. It was then I was introduced to the reality of military spouse unemployment.”
After meeting a spouse who had just passed the state’s bar exam, but who had also lost her job opportunity because of a military move, Kimber Hill had an idea.
“My idea is to teach military spouses how to work remotely. That [idea] blossomed, it grew. This was in 2018 when we finally kicked off. Very quickly I realized that we were actually growing a talent community. Within the talent community for remote work, we started serving primarily military spouses, but also veterans and transitioning service members.”
Core Value – Servant Leadership
When asked about the values that drive Virtforce, Kimber replied, “Servant leadership, first and foremost.”
“I believe in serving by example and leading by example. When we first started VirtForce, every Monday night I would sit on my couch with my laptop and I would go to every job board on the internet, and I would search for remote jobs. Then I would publish them to the VirtForce Facebook group on Tuesday mornings.”
“That is a service we still perform today. So, we’re going on over 115 weeks of producing that resource for military spouses. That’s servant leadership.”
The impact of this approach drew not only job seekers, but employers as well. The VirtForce team gave free publicity to these employers, who ended up making hires from the VirtForce community.
“So, our core value is servant leadership, and the way that plays out is that we put our community first, their needs first. By doing that, the employment partners who have shared core values and who have a shared vision of hiring from the military, they find us.”
VirtForce offers uniquely tailored solutions to both the job seekers within the military community and the employment partners who wish to hire them.
“What we have now is our Candidate Arsenal, which is what we provide our employment partners. There are basically two services that they can take advantage of: Mission Staffing and Mission Recruiting. Both of those services give our employment partners access to our Candidate Arsenal.”
“On the other side of that, for our candidates, we have our Recruitment Arsenal. So they kind of meet in the middle. That’s where we can match military candidates with remote and location flexible positions to the employment partners looking for a dedicated, adaptable, dependable remote workforce.”
What makes VirtForce unique?
“We start with the candidate community and their needs. We focus on positions that are OCONUS versus CONUS. We look at whether you are hiring in the United States or outside the United States. We look at whether you are W2 or 1099. Specifically for the military community, we ask if employers are ‘quite office required’, or ‘quiet office flexible’. Which is a big indicator of whether or not a military spouse could have her kids at home while they’re working. So, we’ve profiled the needs of the military community.”
VirtForce’s approach to screening job opportunities is unique, in that they look for positions that do not require a candidate to be located in one particular state.
VirtForce also evaluates every job requisition to ensure that the employers are posting jobs that speak to a military spouse or veteran. There is a nuance to the military community, and they go the extra mile to offer the best opportunities for those job seekers.
In addition to vetting job postings, Virtforce offers specialized services like interview help, resume help, and even a resume bootcamp, which are all part of the career candidate support system they’ve established.
“This is huge for me,” Kimber explained. “We teach self-help. We’re going to teach you the principles of how to do it yourself, so that you can set yourself up for success. Everything that we teach is being authentic, being our true selves. Let’s display what we really can do and let’s build it ourselves.”
Rocket Remote Program
One thing that sets VirtForce apart from most other job placement services is Rocket Remote, their signature online school.
“Rocket Remote is the evolution of our program. We’ve slowly been releasing free courses as we’re catapulting these candidates toward remote careers. Rocket Remote is our free online school. We have set up a program for employment partners to fund Rocket Remote. That’s what makes Rocket Remote education free to the military spouse community, to include veterans. There’s probably over 17 hours of education in that school.”
Signing up is easy. After entering your name and email address, you simply indicate what part of the military community you identify with and then you have instant access.
“It’s all right there in front of you, it’s self-paced. You can finish it all in one day, or you can take your time. You can go through and learn what you need to learn.”
It’s not just the remote learning environment that distinguishes VirtForce from other employment services. It’s the community.
“So once you join, you can come and get live critiques. There’s a process in place for getting your resume and your LinkedIn critiqued. Take a picture of your ‘before’ and take a picture of your ‘after’, then submit it. Then we go live, and livestream your critique with the private community.”
The benefit to these processes is that it gets the knowledge into the hands of job seekers, which ultimately improves their chances of success.
“That’s what this course is for,” Kimber explained, “so you can quickly learn these steps and take action. They’re meant to be completed fast, so you can apply for that job you want, fast, and stand a better chance.”
VirtForce: Forward Thinking, Future Minded
“I think a lot of job search resources are short-sighted,” Kimber declared. “Programs will put you with a career counselor and have your resume revamped for you, and then send you off to the job market. That’s short-sighted for the ‘right now’.”
“The long term and the reality is that, it’s unusual for an employee to stay with an organization for longer than four years in today’s job market. The average is two. If you want career progression, if you want to be promoted, you want to take on bigger projects, you want to grow your organization, then you have to know how to support yourself,” she said. “You’ve got to always be forward thinking and future minded.”
Who is eligible for VirtForce’s services?
“We started as a military spouse-focused organization, so we’re 92% military spouses, 12% veterans. And there’s a crossover there where we have military spouses who are also veterans. So, we definitely see more success with military spouses, but that has nothing to do with the capability of our veterans. I think it has to do, more or less, with interest from our veterans,” Kimber explained.
“We see that military spouses are very zealous about remote work, which is our niche. However, we’re opening VirtForce Flex soon, which is going to be more focused on the military community member who is not necessarily married to the idea of remote work. They could telework or do location flexible work. And I anticipate our veteran community really blooming, as well as our transitioning service member community.”
One of the great benefits to the remote work opportunities that military job seekers find through VirtForce is that there really are no geographic limitations to entry into the workforce.
COVID’s Impact on VirtForce’s Mission
While the pandemic rocked businesses all around the world, some fared better than others. Surprisingly, even organizations that are solely remote work focused still faced their own challenges. VirtForce did see fewer candidates signing up as a result of family obligations like homeschooling during lockdowns.
“We had to wait on quarantine to be lifted. We found other ways to keep our organization and our employment partners satisfied, but we definitely went through some challenges, just like many other businesses had their feet to the fire.”
“We had to wait for a lot of those restrictions to be lifted. Some of the states were slower than others, but once kids could go back to daycare and school, our candidate community became more active.”
Even with a reduction in candidate engagement for employment purposes, there was a steady stream of participants who chose to better prepare themselves for future employment by going through VirtForce’s learning modules.
“Even if you’re not ready for remote work, or even if you’re not ready to look, you can still learn and prepare yourself,” encouraged Kimber. “That’s why we’re starting the #Hired community. It doesn’t stop at getting the job. That’s why we want people to get plugged into VirtForce, because everything we teach applies to your full career lifecycle.”
Why should I use VirtForce over other job boards?
“The answer for candidates is that we have sought out employers that already know who you are, a military spouse, a veteran, or transitioning service member. They don’t see any form of that as a liability. On the contrary, they see it all as an asset. So, rather than going through a public job board, or some other kind of recruitment mechanism, where you have to self-identify as a spouse or veteran, you don’t have to worry about that with VirtForce.”
There is an underlying belief among veterans and spouses that self-identifying doesn’t always benefit the applicant. Some job seekers believe that identifying as a spouse is a formality that prejudges what a candidate is capable of doing, especially when it comes to gaps in employment history.
“You’re going to employers who already understand that a resume gap is not a liability, and they appreciate the hard and soft skills that a military team member is going to bring to their team. They’re looking for you.”
“These mainstream job boards are not doing a good job of adapting to remote work,” Kimber declared. “A lot of remote job boards are only tech, which gives the impression that remote work is only available in the tech field. Our job board is also ad-free and scam-free.”
How can VirtForce make such a claim?
“We don’t have a single scam on our job board because I speak to every employment partner on the phone personally,” Kimber said.
Why should employers use VirtForce to find candidates?
“For the employment partners, who would you want to use our Candidate Arsenal and get your listing on the recruitment board for the candidates? The answer is simple: access to high-quality, verified, military-affiliated talent.”
“A lot of civilians applying for remote work don’t necessarily need to work remotely. But because the military community does need to work remotely, we experience a much deeper commitment and loyalty to each of the positions. So, the military community is a great place for employers to find reliable remote team members who are less flakey.
What if someone is unsure about remote work?
Not everyone knows how to, or even if they would be able to, work remotely. There are ways to test the waters, though.
“The podcast is where you need to be if you’re on the fence. I think it’s one of the core purposes of the podcast. Our team has done our best to make that show a tell-all. We don’t hold anything back. We let everything fly,” Kimber explained.
“On our success stories, we ask the candidate who got #hired, we ask them if this is just a job to them. We want people who are sitting on the fence about remote work to hear:
Hey! I was just like you. I thought maybe I could pull in a little bit of extra dough for my family by picking up a side-gig from VirtForce. But when I got to VirtForce, I found this ecosystem, fell in love with remote work, and now I work for my dream company from home!”
“That’s our Cinderella Story,” Kimber said proudly. “We hear that over and over again. We’re trying to meet our community where they are, and right now podcasting and video podcasts are just an incredible way to connect one-on-one.”
How does VirtForce choose an employer partner?
“Everyone we’ve worked with, I would say 80% become long term partners. They can post for a day. They can post for a week. They can post for a month.”
“In 2019, we picked up Intuit, and they’ve become a staple in our community. I think that VirtForce was a big influence in them creating and providing free education for the military community, and one that erased the requirement for one year of work experience to be employed with them.”
“When I say that we advocate for the military community, that’s really what I mean. Intuit is a salaried, benefited, W2 position, and the normal requirements are 3-5 years work experience. When we can build a relationship with a company like that, who has the power to make incredible economic change, not just for military spouses, but for the landscape of America, that’s economic change.”
“Another huge success story is working with Travelers Insurance. They’re one of the oldest companies in the United States, and in working with them, I asked them to just give us a shot. And now they’ve taken a position that has been traditionally on-site for hundreds of years and made it remote just for military spouses, because it works. We’re making changes with huge organizations.”
Success is not without challenges
Like every company and organization, success breeds more challenges. VirtForce, despite its hyper-dedication to the military community, has faced a number of challenges in providing it’s employment services.
“Challenges include finding high-quality positions. But not every candidate wants high-quality full-time positions. There is a spectrum of remote work. We’re working on a series right now that is an ‘Intro to Remote Work’ that discusses this concept. There’s gig-based remote work where you are paid per ticket. Then it goes all the way through per-diem, then part-time, project-based, and full-time. So, not everybody wants this golden ticket.”
“Another challenge is finding enough of each opportunity to service our candidate community,” Kimber continued. “We’ve been criticized in the past for not providing positions that provide a living wage. I think a big challenge there is communicating that, while that may not be a livable wage for some military spouse members who are looking for full-time work with benefits, that is a side-gig for someone who is interested in that kind of employment.”
“So, I counter that, maybe they’re not comprehensively thinking of the other socioeconomic demographics within the military spouse community, who maybe don’t have a college education, or who just have a GED. This kind of opportunity is exactly what they’re looking for. So, you can’t please everyone!”
Still, VirtForce has taken every measurable step to bring only the best opportunities to military job seekers.
“We’ve altered policies internally to make sure that every job that we have, regardless of whether it is gig-based, hourly, or salaried, has certain minimums at this point. So we are ensuring that we are producing quality positions for the military spouse community. For our free education, we’ve developed a whole new way to find that program. We respond, we listen, and we try our best to support the candidates the way that they need to be supported.”
The Immediate Future of VirtForce
“In the next twelve months, we will have at least two more shows. It’s a passionate project of mine to get the Duty Station Download out soon. Another show, Married to Military, we want to create content for the military community that reaches them at different levels of their lives.”
“Then, there’s #Hired, with which we will be supporting our candidates who get hired past the initial offer letter and first few weeks of employment. The next thing that I foresee in our community is #Promoted success stories.”
“VirtForce Flex is our initiative to start serving veterans, transitioning service members, and spouses of veterans, who are more rooted, who are not moving as consistently, and they are looking for positions for which they could potentially telework or on-site work.”
Why Choose VirtForce?
“We are the number one platform to connect you to employers who want you. If you are actually looking for a job, and you are ready to get hired, or you’re ready to be promoted, start with us.”
“If you’re curious about remote work, and you’re curious about VirtForce, start with the podcast. If you are ready to apply, start with the Recruitment Arsenal. If you need to get ready to apply, start with Rocket Remote”
“All of that is supported by a social media community. So, no matter where you are, in the social community on Facebook, you will find a lot of camaraderie there. We have hundreds of success stories!”
Being a military spouse or veteran is not a liability. There are many employers out there who actively seek members of this community to fill their open positions. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of VirtForce, finding meaningful, rewarding remote work is as easy as getting connected with this great organization.
MyMilitaryBenefits offers a special thanks to Kimber Hill, founder and CEO of VirtForce, for taking the time to connect with our readers.