Ductus Exemplo: Leading by Example (Part 1)


Recruitment Lessons from the US Marines

Ductos ExemploOne of the most successful recruiting efforts of all time doesn’t belong to a Fortune 500 company, but rather the United States Marine Corps. Despite ongoing conflicts and being arguably the most demanding service in the armed forces, the Marines consistently meet their quantity and quality metrics for recruitment. That’s why we wanted to see what lessons we could learn from our nation’s expeditionary force and how one of the Marines’ values “Ductos Exemplo”  (to lead by example) rings true in the recruitment space.

Introducing the first of a series of blogs focusing on performance-based leadership, diversity in recruiting, and empowering employees. Their principles have made the Marines consistently successful at reaching their audience. Working with J. Walter Thompson (JWT) for more than 67 years, Marines have developed nuanced messaging strategies to appeal to recruits for decades.

With a yearly marketing and advertising budget of $70 to $100 million, Marines spend only about $2,500 per successful accession (a recruit who successfully completes basic training). Compare that with the $2.4 billion Nike spent last year just to market shoes. This is truly an incredible feat considering the difficult and potentially life-threatening nature of being a Marine.

Emphasizing a performance-based culture, the first post in the series will show how the Marines’ Principles of Leadership can improve employees’ attitudes. More than a corporate feel-good exercise, a culture based on transparency and accountability can really translate to better financial performance.

Our next post will focus on improving the diversity of the Corps – in both culture and creed. In 2013, the Marines saw their most diverse group of officer candidates ever – representing 24.3 percent of the officer accessions.

Finishing the series, our last post draws inspiration from the idea that regardless of a Marine’s specialization, he or she is a rifleman first – individually empowered to complete the mission. Metrics are everything when gauging success, and the Marines have got them – in terms of candidates’ diversity, skill level, and commitment to the Marines’ core values.

“This is the most diverse group of officers we’ve brought in. It’s part of an upward trend. We’ve nearly doubled the diversity of officer accessions over the past five years,” Lt. Col. Chester McMillon, head of officer programs, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, was quoted on the Marines official website. “Academically they are outstanding. On average they carry a 3.5 grade point average and 1200 SAT. They are also proven leaders in their schools, communities or churches.”

Those are the qualifications recruiters everywhere would like to see in their candidates. The courage of the Marines’ tactics and messaging helped them to consistently achieve their goals, without sacrificing their culture.

What are some ways your company has taken recruiting risks? Did it work? What kind of messaging did you use? Get ready for next week’s installment of our Ductos Exemplo series focused on Marines’ performance-based leadership culture.


Michael Savage, the Director of Employer Brand at JWT INSIDE, is a communications strategist, storyteller and business partner. He has collaborated with executive leadership across a wide range of industries to develop employer brands that align workforces, attract talent and drive business forward. These employer brands have inspired enviable online and offline experiences – conversations, cultures and causes that employees and candidates alike want to join. Contact Michael at Michael.Savage@jwt.com.

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