BTU #189 - Marine Corps Veteran to 20 Years in Military Recruiting at Orion Talent (Brian Henry)

A recruiter can be a great resource. A recruiter with years of experience can have a lens into different industries and jobs. They can share those insights and help you grow your network.
— Brian Henry

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Brian is the Senior Vice President of Operations at Orion Talent, where he has worked in various capacities for 20 years. He started out at Penn State University, after which he served in the Marine Corps as a Infantry Officer for over 11 years. 

Why Listen: 

There are two reasons to listen to this episode. First of all, Orion Talent (and recruiters in general) are an excellent resource that members of the military should consider as they approach their career transition. Second, Brian has over 20 years of experience in the recruiting space. He talks about a range of topics like changes in the hiring landscape, how to prepare for interviews, and other topics that would benefit any Veteran. 

Our Sponsor: 

  • StoryBox- People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBoxprovides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBoxoffers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at

Selected Resources: 

  • Orion's new podcast, with 42 episodes (and counting) interviews about interviewing, resumes, and other timeless topics

Transcript & Time Stamps:


Joining me today from San Diego is Brian Henry. Brian is the Senior Vice President of Operations at Orion Talent. He has worked at Orion in various capacities for 20 years. He started out at Penn State and then went on to serve as an Infantry Officer in the Marine Corps for over 11 years.


How would you explain what Orion Talent is?

Orion Talent is a recruiting leader that provides skilled talent acquisition and military hiring. Orion was started in 1991 and for the first several years, the company was specifically focused on transitioning military members. In 2016, we acquired a mid-market RPO firm, Novotus, which added to our ability. So now we offer not only a specifically military focus but also recruiting at a broader level as well.


What do you do as Senior VP of Operations at Orion?

I’m in charge of recruiting teams nationally. I also oversee our systems and recruiting processes. I’m based out of San Diego but I oversee teams at our other offices in Virginia Beach, Raleigh, Cincinnati and Austin as well.

I started out as an Account Executive. We have two primary roles within Orion. One is the recruiter, the person that make the first point of contact with candidates. The other primary role is Account Executive. People in this role are reaching out to various companies and talk to them about positions veterans could fill at their organization. After my time as an Account Executive, I progressed on to becoming a branch manager and finally into my current VP role.


What kinds of companies does Orian primarily work with?

We aren’t interfacing with the nonprofit or government industries. We work with companies that are making, servicing, or moving products. It’s a lot of manufacturing and logistics organizations. There are also a lot of sales roles. Construction, both residential and commercial, is also very popular.


How do you recommend that someone engage with Orion?

The easiest way is to go on our website and apply. We have some core candidate profiles that are very effective. However, we are dependent on specific roles that companies want to fill. A lot of companies are looking for leadership roles to be filled. We also have a very robust team that focuses on filling roles for skilled technicians.


What is the basic process like?

The first thing is just to make contact with the candidate. Once a candidate is within about 90 days of being able to start in a new career, we start matching them up with opportunities. Prior to that, we still like to get in touch with the candidate to talk about their timeline and educate them on possibilities that could be available. We also help them out with interview preparation.


What makes someone either a good or bad fit for Orion?

If someone wants to stay in the federal government or other industry that is not in our core, we might not be the best fit for them. A lot of times we end up being a middle man between the candidate and the company. We are able to work with the company to translate a candidate’s experience and show them how that person could be valuable to their company.


It seems like recruiting companies do a very effective job of getting veterans in front of lots of companies.

Hiring conferences have always been the bread and butter of recruiting companies. This format gets candidates in front of lot of different companies and different kinds of roles. They are able to get a better idea of what these role would entail and what role would be a good fit for them. A lot of candidates aren’t sure where they fit in and these conferences give them the opportunity to get a better sense of what could be the right fit for them.


Is there anything else you’d really like listeners to know about Orion?

I would advise candidates to fill out an application at Orion whether you’re sure of what you want to do or not. If you’re an electrical engineer and want to work in the Bay Area, we have many opportunities that we could place someone in. But even if someone isn’t sure what they want to do, it’s worth being in our database so that we can reach out to you if there is a specific job that comes up that would be a good fit for you.

What we try to do is set reasonable expectations with the candidate. Maybe the candidate has very specific interests that could be a limiting factor for a recruiting firm. But it’s still worth being in the database so that we can contact you if a one-off job comes up that could be a good fit.

There are also misconceptions about recruiting firms. One candidate told me that they had heard that they shouldn’t use a recruiter because their salary was going to be reduced by the fee the company had to pay the recruiting firm. That’s just not the way things work.


Orion recently released a podcast entitled From the Battlefield to the Boardroom. It’s definitely worth checking out. One topic that is discussed in the podcast is the changes in the job market over time. Can you discuss a little bit of that?

In the 1990’s, as a recruiting firm, all you could do was send out mailers and things like that. So the biggest recent game change has been LinkedIn and other social networks. There’s an abundance of information. Sometimes that can be challenging because you have to sift through information and find what is valuable to you.

The other big change is the proliferation of veterans organization and programs that are around.  Since 9/11 we have seen many more programs helping veterans make the transition out of the military into the civilian sector.


How can a veteran start to figure out what they want to do after the military?

To me it all starts with doing some internal soul searching. You want to find out what is important to you. If you start to list out what are the drivers in your search are as far as location, functional role, etc., that gives you some target that you can go after. I would also encourage you to network in the industry that you’re interested in. Other veterans will be happy to talk to you about what they do.

The more time you put in up front shaping your game plan, the better off you will be. If you have a focused mindset, you’ll be successful. It’s when you’re wandering around aimlessly that you’ll struggle.

A recruiter can be one of these resources. They have a lens into various industries and the job landscape overall. And like I said, use other networking opportunities as well to get a better picture for the industry you want to go into.


What are misconceptions you’ve seen from veterans as they make their transition into the civilian sector?

One misconception is around figuring out where people believe they will fit into a company. Particularly more senior transitioning military members believe they will immediately go into Director level roles in a civilian company. But that might not be realistic. I think it’s important to have some humility. You’re bringing a lot of great skills and experience to the table. But you’re also going into a whole new industry and whole new career. So set your sights in a realistic way.

You also may not find that dream job right out of the gate. Take a good position with a good company and then proactively shape your career from there. You might stay with that company for 20 years or you may use that as a springboard to other companies and positions.

We have keynote speakers come into some of our events. They talk about the paths they have taken. They’re not usually linear. The experience they get in their first roles provide them with the opportunities they get after that.

The other key that you have to go into your first role and excel. Doors will open from there. You become even more attractive to an employer after you’ve left the military and gotten some experience at your first job because then you’ve shown that you’ve successfully navigated the transition and are excelling in the civilian sector.


What areas of the transition do veterans often struggle with?

I’m repeatedly surprised by the lack of preparation veterans put into preparing themselves for interviews and the job search in general. You don’t have to go overboard but you do need to put the time in to prepare for questions you’ll likely face in an interview.

And then the other big struggle is just figuring out what you want to do. If you know what you want to do, it’s much easier to prepare accordingly.

A lot of people also tie themselves down to a location right before they transition but that then really limits your job search. You have to make that call but you need to recognize the consequences of that decision.

And one more struggle that I see is that people struggle finding the same camaraderie they had in the military. People should realize that doesn’t have to be at work. You can get that camaraderie from volunteer groups or community organizations.


Are there any other resources you would recommend for veterans?

Tom Wolf’s book Out of Uniform is really good. The other thing I recommend strongly is to read a book about sales. For many veterans, sales is a great post-military option. But you need to understand the sales world. Even for people not interested in sales, when you’re interviewing, you are selling yourself. You need to understand how to relate sales to the interviewing process.

You likely already have leadership from your military experience. Having expertise in both sales and leadership will lend itself well to any industry.


Is there anything else you want to share with our listeners?

If you’re active duty and thinking about getting out, start researching. There’s a lot of opportunities out there. Companies are hungry for leaders. You just have to start early in your transition and put the work in to find out where you want to go.