by David Crenshaw
U.S. Navy Recruiting Command
January 9, 2019
Success is measured by more than just raw numbers. Every year, Navy recruiters enlist upwards of 30,000 new recruits, and as part of that process, help them select from more than 100 enlisted career specialties the Navy currently offers.
A recruiter is most successful when a new Sailor finds more than just a paycheck, and instead, gets a career they love so much they want to continue serving until retirement. But that becomes a tough task, since about 80 percent of students in the United States change their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. On average, college students change their major at least three times over the course of their college career. The fact is, most recent high school graduates simply don’t know what they want to do with their lives, and often recruiters are having to make educated guesses when trying to help them sort it out.
Navy recruiters are getting a powerful new tool to assist them in that process – the Job Opportunities in the Navy (JOIN) instrument. “JOIN is an interest assessment tool that will be placed in front of the recruit classification process,” said Gary C. Peterson, executive director of the Navy Recruiting Command (NRC).
Previously one of the biggest tools the recruiter currently had at their disposal is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The ASVAB is a multiple choice exam that grades the applicant in nine different areas of career aptitude, as well as in determining an overall fitness to serve. Based on the strength of their scores in each aptitude, the recruiter could then assist them in not only determining if they’d be a good overall match for military service, but also which of 11 different career areas they might have the greatest chance of success in. But the ASVAB is limited in that it provides a broad view of the career aptitude – 11 career areas vs. more than 100 enlisted ratings and specialties.
“The ASVAB is excellent at predicting training success and job knowledge, but the Navy needs additional tools to also predict job satisfaction and other performance criteria, such as attrition, advancement, and retention,” says Dr. Stephen E. Watson, Director, Navy Testing Science (NETC N55).
That’s where JOIN comes in.
“JOIN measures and records the applicant’s vocational preference in three general areas,” Peterson said, noting that each step of the decision process is done one at a time, to make it less daunting for the prospective Sailor. “Community preference means whether they might be most interested in submarine, surface, aviation, or special operations. Environment or work style preference helps them decide between factors such as indoor or outdoor, office or industrial, mental or physical. And the process-content preference looks at aspects of the job, for instance, is it operate-electronic, maintain-mechanical, or make-facilities?”
Survey respondents specify their level of interest in each of the areas, and a mathematical algorithm calculates a matching score between the respondent’s interest indicators and each potential job’s descriptors.
“The initial taxonomy is based on a formal analysis of official job descriptions for each rating, and validated with Navy subject matter experts,” Watson said.
Peterson explained that JOIN presents both representative digital images and text for each item. It randomizes presentation for vocational interest items within each general area. And it defines a ‘genetic description’ or DNA for each Navy rating in terms of the identified characteristics.
The vision for JOIN goes beyond recruiting, however – it’s developers see is as a tool for detailers as well, helping them to better match a sailor’s aptitude and interests within rate to their potential next duty station.
Watson said that the survey has already been in use since 2006 on a non-compulsory basis, and about 1,500 sailors a year have participated. In that time, data has reflected that sailors whose JOIN scores best matched their current jobs, also had stronger performance evaluation scores, were more likely to re-enlist, and more likely to be promoted to E-6 and beyond.
Watson also believes there are implications for JOIN outside the Navy, as well. “We’re also hoping to make the JOIN technology available to the other armed services,” he said. In fact, the United States Air Force has constructed an interest test based on JOIN features, including model structure and scoring algorithm.
The Navy’s recruiting force totals over 6,100 personnel in more than 1,000 recruiting stations around the globe. Their combined goal is to attract the highest quality candidates to assure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.
NRC consists of a command headquarters, two Navy Recruiting Regions, 20 Navy Recruiting Districts and six Navy Talent Acquisition Groups that serve more than 1,000 recruiting stations across the country.
Learn more about Navy Recruiting Command.