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BY Joel Junker

Top Six Questions to Ask A Military Recruiting Firm

Be certain to ask the following questions when evaluating, comparing or interviewing military officer or Junior Military Officer (JMO) recruiting firms.  If you are currently working with one, it would also be wise to ask these questions of your current recruiting firm.  You may be surprised at the answers.Question

6.  How will you make certain you understand my goals, preferences and desires so that you match me appropriately?

A resume, application, evaluations and transcripts are just paper.  They do not tell the whole story of who you are, your values, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and preferences.  Nor do they describe what drives or motivates you.  A really good recruiting firm that is invested in you will meet with you in person, not just over the phone, to develop a personal relationship with you.  They will ask you a lot of questions to learn about you, document it and explain to you how they can help.  They will want you to have career field and location preferences and be an open communicator about them.  A top-tier recruiting firm will also be confident enough to tell you if they can’t help you reach your goals if those goals are not compatible with their services.  They will be objective and honest.

5.  Who are your client companies and with what types of companies do I have the potential to interview?

This question cuts right to the chase beginning with the end in mind.  A leading recruiting firm will represent industry-leading companies, and will be as careful in selecting their client companies as they are in selecting their military officer candidates.  It is unlikely when you ask this question that a recruiting firm will be able to tell you exactly the companies that will be at one of their conferences since companies sign up 1 to 3 weeks before a conference.  Also, firms may not publish a list of their clients because that is proprietary information and some of their clients ask them not to.  However, you should be able to ask the question and the recruiting firm be able to share with you numerous companies that have attended recent conferences and the types of positions for which they recruited.  If the firm is not forthcoming or gives you a list of companies for which they recruited several years ago, or provides you a narrow list, no matter how good everything looks with this firm, be careful.  Finally, when they do share with you names of companies, keep in mind that even though you may not have heard of a company before, it doesn’t mean that it is not industry leading.  Do your research.

4.  May I speak with some of your alumni who have similar backgrounds as mine?

Who better than someone like you with similar concerns and goals to share with you the pros and cons of a recruiting firm!  The recruiting firm should be able to give you 3 to 4 names and contact information of their alumni who will share their experience, answer your questions and provide transition lessons.

3.  How far in advance should I start preparing for my transition and how will you help me prepare?

Every recruiting firm is a little different.  If any of the firms limit how far in advance they will work with you or recommend preparing, that is an indication of their answer to Question #1, as well.  Is the recruiting firm just looking to place you?  Then they will likely provide you some books to read and things to do to prepare and then check back with you a few months before you transition.  Other firms do believe in preparation and they will start working with you no more than one year out.  However, a JMO recruiting firm that is a true partner in helping you reach your goals will help you develop a life-long habit of self-development, invest in you to help you become a better officer because that is what you sell to the business world in the transition, and will be committed to helping you continue that development throughout your career.  This type of recruiting firm will not talk in terms of time, but rather say, “Start as early as possible!”

2.  Do you have any type of exclusivity agreement?

Some recruiting firms will have a partnership type of agreement, sometimes referred to as an “exclusivity agreement,” by military officers.  I highly discourage working with a firm that is completely exclusive.  Our firm, Cameron-Brooks, has an agreement asking the officer not to contact companies or send out resumes for the purpose of setting up interviews prior to a Conference.  We do not consider it exclusive because the officer can contact companies immediately after the Conference.  At Cameron-Brooks, we do this for several reasons.  First, it protects the military officer candidate.  I know that sounds odd since it seems that it inhibits the officer, but when a company receives a resume from more than one source, it usually stops the recruiting process on ALL fronts.  A really good recruiting firm will only give your resume to a company with which you will interview.  So, if the company already has your resume, no matter how they got it, they will likely not move forward.  Why?  It’s confusing to the company; they have a relationship with the firm and want to respect it.   It is easier just to pass on and move to another candidate who isn’t as confusing.  Second, your recruiting firm should help you bypass all the filters to get to the interview with decision makers (hiring managers) and the decision makers are busy; they do not want to waste their time interviewing people who are halfway hired through another source.  The officer candidate also benefits in this case because the agreement attracts good companies with high-quality critical positions.  And, finally, if your recruiting firm is going to invest in understanding your goals and preferences, travel to meet you face-to-face and develop you, it is fair that you attend their Conference first in your interview process.  This does not mean and should not mean that you have to accept one of their client’s offers.  Be very careful of any firm that asks you to commit to an agreement any time beyond the Conference because then they are holding you back from pursuing other options than what they showed you.  Some recruiting firms do not have any type of agreement.  This fits their business model because they work with lots of candidates and invest very little in the relationship.

And the number one question you should ask…..

1.  How do you define a successful transition from military to business?

You may have to ask yourself this question first before asking the firm to ensure it is aligned.  Do you just want a job or a career?  A job is a task you routinely do in return for pay.  A career is the natural progression of a person’s professional life.  Unfortunately, jobs can be disguised as careers if the transition is not done right.  A successful transition has to be longer term than just a few months or a year from separation.  It should mean you are solidly on your feet in Corporate America with a strong track record of success over several years with a leading company.  To do this, your recruiting firm has to know you well and get you into interviews with several industry-leading companies so you can make a good choice, help you prepare and teach you what it takes to succeed in the business world with an excellent development program.  Additionally, a successful transition should mean that you win by reaching your goals, the recruiting firm’s client company wins by hiring a great leader who contributes immediately and has high potential for promotions, and then the recruiting firm wins because the client continues to recruit from the firm and the former military officer refers military colleagues to the firm.

Joel Junker
Senior Vice President/Partner
(16 years with Cameron-Brooks and in the JMO Recruiting Industry)