Hunting the Headhunter: A Task for Transitioning Servicemembers

Posted by Kelli McKinney

headhuntersWhen you think about it, finding a job is kind of like selling a house. When you sell a house, you’ve got to make sure you have curb appeal and a solid foundation. You’ve got to have up-to-date fixtures and the perfect combination of storage and open space. And you’ve got to have a rockstar seller’s agent to make sure your home’s selling points are seen by the right buyer.

It’s not really that different when you’re looking for a job. You have to make sure your resume is up to date and features your most competitive qualities for the job you’re after. You have to have the right mixture of skills, abilities, and “fit” for the company you’re interested in. And it doesn’t hurt to have a few strategically-selected headhunters looking out for you, either.

Working with a headhunter isn’t as violent as it might sound. A civilian headhunter is very much like a military recruiter in that they screen potential employees. The difference is that unlike the military, a civilian headhunter is usually an independant agent, who has several client companies.  

Finding headhunters isn’t hard. Finding the right headhunter can be a bit tricky at first, but it’s worth it for one reason alone: Headhunters often know about the unposted opportunities. Those are the ones you want. Here are a few tips to help you connect with the headhunter that’s right for you.

1) Get specific. Whether you’re just starting your quest for the perfect civilian job, or if you’ve been looking for a while, it’s a lot easier to find what you’re looking for if, well, you know what you’re looking for. If you haven’t written it down, write it down: the industry/ies, titles, experience, growth path, everything you’re targeting. Include “finding a headhunter with contacts at Dream Company, HQ” as part of your list. 

2) Use your network. Now that you know what you want, enlist help from people you trust. Use your Military Authority discussion boards, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn to reach out to people and let them know what you’re looking for. Chances are, you have a few trusted people in your contact files who have connections to the goals you seek. If people you trust recommend a specific headhunter, ask for an introduction. 

3) Be courteous. When looking for or working with a headhunter, it’s important to remember that you are one of many people they interact with. It’s not that your job search isn’t important – it is. But yours is one of many, and your connections/friends/headhunters also have their own lives to live outside of working hard on your behalf. Respect their time, communicate clearly and routinely (unless they establish other ground rules, checking in once bi-weekly is plenty – they will let you know when they find a good fit for you) and let them do their job. When you get an interview, no matter how well or poorly it goes, be sure to thank the person who helped you get the interview. A little kindness and courtesy goes a long way, and you just never know – in a few years, you might be reaching out to that same headhunter to help you fill a vacancy at your new company.  

There are plenty of resources out there to help guide you through your next job search. Headhunters are only one of many options. We’d like to hear from you – what’s your story?  Have you/did you use a headhunter or other search assistance? Tell us about it below.


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