As a military candidate recruiter, I get lots of emails and phone calls daily. Service members are calling because they’re about to transition or have already transitioned from their military careers, and someone — either the separating service member or their spouse — is getting a bit antsy about the job prospects after they’ve hung the uniform up. All too often the questions are consistent:
“I see that you deal with military-trained mechanics and technicians, as well as junior military officers. Can you put me in touch with a good recruiter in my town?”
“Can you find me a job? I separate in 30 days and still haven’t found anything.”
“I know that you guys deal with the technical skill sets, but I really want to get out of that and into something else.”
I’m okay with these questions, because I’m acutely aware that most military professionals don’t know the difference between a headhunter and a recruiter. Furthermore, most don’t understand how third-party or in-house recruiters operate. Because of this confusion, many will have a bad experience and miss out on one of the most powerful resources in their transition toolbox.
I often wonder, “We all used a recruiter to join the military; why the heck don’t you use one to get out?” But I realize that when I get invited to speak to various commands and military groups, I’m often met with a bit of skepticism as soon as I’m introduced as a recruiter. Based on my numerous conversations and observations, here are the top six reasons why military professionals seem to hate recruiters:
1. The Recruiter Didn’t Find You (or Your Friend) a Job
As I’ve mentioned before, whenever I hear someone say they’ve “hired a headhunter or recruiter,” I know this person has no idea how the job market works.
Recruiters are hired by employers to find a specific type of candidate to fill an employer’s open vacancy. There are two flavors of recruiters: in-house recruiters work exclusively for the employer itself; third-party recruiters work with several different companies. It’s important that you accept this reality fully, so that you don’t get jaded if a recruiter tells you they can’t place your skill set or experience level.
Let me provide some perspective here. Let’s say that you wanted to join the military all over again. When you spoke with your recruiter, and they told you that your specialty was not being sought after by the branch of service you wanted to enter, what would you do? You would have two options: you could get in that recruiter’s database in the event the military’s need for that specialty opened up, then wait… or you could continue networking until you found the branch of service that was recruiting your particular skill set. It’s the same thing in the job hunt.
2. Recruiters Make Money From Working With You… Right?
Most recruiters, both in-house and third party, work on a contingent basis. This means they only get paid once a position is filled. However, there are some contingency recruiters who collect a base salary plus commission. There are those who may operate on a draw or commission-only basis. That is, if they don’t place anyone in a given month, they don’t get paid at all.
This is important for you to be aware of as a job seeker. It’s a fair question to ask any recruiter you intend to work with how they get paid in terms of their salary. The reason this is important is because you want to understand that recruiter’s agenda, especially if you feel like you’re being pressured with job prospects you previously said weren’t within your preferences in terms of location, salary requirements or the type of job.(Hint: commission-only recruiters may have less flexibility and objectivity when working with you because of the financial incentive.)
It’s also important to note that the commission or fee a third-party firm charges its clients is figured as a percentage of the new hire’s first year salary. That fee comes from the employer’s budget, not your salary.You may be thinking, “Why would a company pay a fee to find candidates?” Well, there are several reasons, including having a trusted relationship with a company or recruiter that has provided a reliable, steady supply of a specific type and prescreened candidates. Also, the recruiting firm’s reputation for providing a certain caliber/pedigree of candidate.
So, as you can see, this works out in the job seeker’s favor as well, because suitable candidates are catapulted past the normal HR screening maze and placed directly in front of the hiring manager. Subsequently, no out-of-pocket expenses should ever be incurred by the transitioning military professional. Recruiters get paid by their clients, not by their candidates. It’s a win-win situation, unless you get blacklisted in the process.
In the event that a recruiter attempts to require anything other than your time, tell them to kick rocks. The bottom line is that both in-house and contingency recruiters are paid by the sourcing, screening and placement of specialized talent.
3. Headhunters… The Name Says It All
I’m a recruiter. Now, before you call me out because of my LinkedIn profile headline, which calls me a headhunter, let me explain.
There’s a very small percentage of search professionals who work on a retained basis instead of a contingent basis. What that means is that employers hire them to fill very high-level jobs. They’re normally paid when the search begins, at a pre-agreed, specified timeframe (normally 30 days) and when the candidate presented is hired. These retained recruiters are often the true headhunters, as they are hired to fill vacancies or existing roles at companies of competing firms.
Let’s say, for example, that the money managers at Investment Firm A are doing extremely well. Firm B may retain a headhunter to convince an employee or employees from Company A to switch employers. As such, headhunters normally find and reach out to you, not the other way around.
So, why do I claim to be a headhunter in my LinkedIn profile? It’s solely because that’s what my target audience (military professionals) calls people like me. Subsequently, I use the terms they are going to search for because I know that folks aren’t going to look for a “military candidate recruiter.” (If you need more strategies regarding your LinkedIn profile, be sure to check out these free webinars.)
4. You’re Not Ready to Deal With the Truth
You need to be aware that recruiting military talent is a lot harder than it sounds. First off, hiring managers have very specific things they’re looking for almost, to the point of thinking they can find Mr. or Mrs. Right in the form of the perfect candidate. In that context, I’ll tell you something that most recruiters won’t.
Most recruiters categorize candidates in various groups: eagles, swans, ducks, geese and turkeys. Guess which one of these they will normally work with? You guessed it — eagles. That’s why recruiters are specialists.
A lot of disgruntled service members forget who pays the recruiter. An employer does. So remember that the employer isn’t going to pay a recruiter a fee for candidates they could find on their own by posting a job on a job board or in the newspaper. So if you’re thinking about not pursuing a career that taps into your technical military expertise, a third-party recruiter may not be the best resource for you as you transition and formulate your job search strategy.
Don’t take it personally if a recruiter tells you they don’t place your skill set a background. As I mentioned earlier, recruiters operate under similar restrictions as military recruiters, orders detailers, selection board members and assignment officers. That is, they have very specific quotas (job orders), skillsets and qualities they’re looking for. Consequently, a recruiter might say to you, “Hey, I know you’re an extremely skilled artist, but my manpower folks just aren’t asking me for that skill set.”
Also, keep in mind at the end of the day, the recruiter’s job is to fill openings for their clients, not to provide free career counseling. However, this should not mean to be reluctant to reach out to us. I always suggest to military professionals that they should strive to be a relationship-builder first, not just a job seeker. Most recruiters are “people persons,” and we do what we can to help others. Reach out to recruiters by first asking your comrades who have already transitioned or maybe are still in the uniform for recommendations. Use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. If you’re still hedging against using Twitter, you need to learn more. Find recruiters who specialize in your geographic areas of preference and your background. Don’t be afraid to ask them during your conversation, “How many people like me have you placed?”
Pick up the phone and call them. Seriously, do this. If they’re close by, offer to take them out for coffee or lunch to pick their brains at your expense. This is why you should have a separate transition fund established as you execute your job search strategy. Recruiters can tell you about the true state of the job market in their areas and offer you tips and suggestions so you can manage your expectations in terms of salary, job outlook and possible obstacles long before your actual last day in the uniform.Be forewarned, though: the truth may not be what you want to hear, but it’s better to get the “real deal” than be befuddled as to why your transition is failing miserably, and that final paycheck date is approaching or has already come.
Remember that most folks mistake the act of responding to job postings on the Internet as a solid job search strategy. Nothing is further from the truth. (Click here to tweet this thought.) As a matter of fact, you’ll probably get depressed and upset within a short period if you rely on this as your sole strategy. Sending out hundreds of resumes is a lot of activity,but not productivity. You have to step out of your comfort zone and self-promote. That is the job search strategy that will give you the ultimate return on investment. You have to put together an active transition plan, which includes making direct contact with employers and recruiters on a daily or weekly basis, depending on your timeline.
5. You’ve Procrastinated, and We Can’t Help You
One question I am often asked is, “How soon should I start?” The answer is simple: it’s never too early. The majority of recruiters won’t put you in front of their clients any further out than 90 days from when you’re available to start working. However, there are some simple things you need to be aware of so you can enable recruiters to be more effective in your job search and military transition.
Geographic inflexibility (Did you really buy that house knowing you were going to make the biggest PCS move of your life in a few years?), unrealistic salary expectations, and not having a marketable skill set are all things that need to be critically thought about and assessed years before you decide to get out. These factors and limitations really handicap any recruiter’s ability to place you.
Things such as these are best known while the active duty paycheck is still coming in. Are there any certifications or educational requirements that will make you an “eagle” candidate? A recruiter will be able to tell you better than any job description can. I’ve worked with candidates who have more than two years left in the uniform, and now they’re more than just a name in a database or a connection on my LinkedIn profile. Even if they don’t have the mechanic or technician skill set I recruit for, we give and share industry news and insights. Subsequently, when I do meet a fellow recruiter who’s looking for that candidate skill set that I could never place, who do you think comes first in mind?
You’ve heard it before: It’s all about who you know and who knows you. Word of caution: There’s a one-letter difference between talking and stalking; don’t be the latter. When you begin corresponding with a recruiter, establish the communication protocol. Ask them if it’s okay to contact them on a regular basis or just wait for them to reach out to you.
6. You Think They’re Just Out For Money
Now, I will admit that there are some recruiters out there who give the profession a bad rap. So, here are some red flags to look out for as you network with us:
As I mentioned from the onset, don’t ever pay a recruiter. We get paid by our client companies. Additionally, think very carefully before signing an exclusivity contract with any recruiter. It’s very tempting, especially when you’re in job search mode, but just be sure that it’s the best move for you and your unique situation.
Also, beware of any recruiter or agency who presents you with a pre-established list and requires you to interview with companies you’re not interested in, in order to get in front of those in which you are truly interested, without any flexibility.
Finally, steer clear of recruiters who focus exclusively on salary and won’t discuss the details of the job (although sometimes they legitimately can’t do so within reason).
Be realistic about your transition, grow your network and trust your instincts. If a recruiter doesn’t want to give you the time of day, cross them off your list and keep it moving. The greatest asset that you have is your time, so don’t waste that precious commodity on people who aren’t worth it, because you won’t ever get it back! Also, be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m eager to hear your thoughts!
Have you worked with a recruiter or headhunter before? What was the experience like? Tweet at us!