One of the biggest debates I have with my peers transitioning from the Army to Corporate America is whether or not using a recruiting firm is the way to go. For me, as a business newbie, having a recruiting firm help me was a no-brainer. But then again, location is a non-issue for me; I’m all about finding a job that I want, after spending years being placed/selected for jobs by the Army. I really credit my recruiting company with helping me feel more organized and prepared; I am currently working on my resume and interview prep for a career conference in just a couple of months. I’m excited, and having constant contact with the company makes me feel like I’m not in the search alone; they WANT me to succeed.
Recruiting firms aren’t for everyone. I have peers who have acted as free agents and landed great jobs, working with ACAP, attending career fairs (if you’re a Service Academy grad, check out the Service Academy Career Conferences) and putting themselves out there on LinkedIn and individual applications. Some of them felt like the recruiting firms treated them like just another ‘piece of meat’, especially since they receive a commission equivalent to a certain percentage of your first year’s salary; they don’t get paid until you get hired. Other friends had specific geographic areas they wanted to relocate to, so recruiting firms would narrow their field too much for them to feel comfortable. Some didn’t see the companies they wanted to work for at the conferences, and sought them out on their own. The exclusivity agreements turn a lot of people off; it can feel like putting your eggs in one basket, if you don’t have other backup plans if the recruiting firm doesn’t work out.
That said, having an aggressive recruiting company working for you can be beneficial. They want to get you the highest salary, so they work to make you the best candidate for their companies. They walk you through it. You may be required to promise exclusivity through the end of their career conference, or be limited by the companies/locations they have available. But you have someone working with you every step of the way, and you aren’t forced to take a job you don’t want; you’re free at the end of that career conference.
I’ve heard good and bad things about every single recruiting firm. Some from people who actually tried to work with them, others from people who just distrust recruiting firms in general. And that’s to be expected, because every job hunt is a unique monster. But here’s what I have learned, from word-of-mouth and Internet research.
(Firms are listed alphabetically, out of fairness!)
Alliance. Established in 1992, this firm focuses on Junior Military Officers (JMO) transitioning from the military. There is an exclusivity clause which, like other firms, is an agreement you won’t actively seek other jobs while you are in their program. A coworker of mine landed his post-Army job with Alliance. He had debated between Alliance and Cameron-Brooks as a recruiting firm choice, because he felt their exclusivity and reputations were top-notch. In the end, he had multiple follow-up interviews after his career conference and accepted a job that he wanted.
Bradley-Morris. Bradley-Morris claims to be the largest military job placement firm in the U.S., and caters to military officers, non-commissioned officers, and technicians of all branches. One of my classmates used Bradley-Morris because he and his wife didn’t want to deal with the usual career conference/follow-up process. They were able to get him a one-on-one interview with a company that seemed a good fit, and he accepted a job offer shortly after. One shot, one kill. I actually have a civilian friend who used to work for them, and still raves about what a great company it is.
Cameron-Brooks. Like Alliance, Cameron-Brooks works strictly with JMOs and has a long-standing reputation. They have a notoriously rigorous preparation program (reading list and personal interview sessions included), and none of their employees work based on commission. One alumnus of the program I spoke with actually returns to Cameron-Brooks career conferences to interview candidates for his current employer, a Fortune 500 company. He loves his job, had a great transition from the military, and credits Cameron-Brooks with preparing and helping him get there.
Lucas Group. Lucas Group isn’t just for military folks, but they have been helping JMOs and NCOs for over 40 years. (They were founded to help transitioning military personnel, and have been at it ever since.) A friend found a great job in his hometown after a career conference/follow-up interviews with Lucas Group, after spending a few fruitless months job hunting on his own. He felt recruiting firms offered him excellent resources and resume/interview prep. He also said the companies he interviewed with were pretty amazing.
Orion. Orion serves the same demographic as Bradley-Morris, encompassing all military leaders and technicians seeking civilian employment. My classmate initially hesitated about Orion’s ‘gentleman’s agreement’ not to use another recruiting firm, but they ended up being all he needed. He really appreciated the mock interviews and training, and Orion not only set him up with contacts they had, but helped him apply to other companies outside their built-up contacts. He found a job and is happy with the experience.
The bottom line? If you’re uncomfortable with using a recruiting firm because of its limitations, then don’t use one. It’s a personal decision, and you may even start with a recruiter and back out of their program. Heck, you may leave one and choose another. BUT THAT’S OKAY. Your career is your personal brand; don’t let anyone shove you into a job you don’t want. Do your own research on the individual companies/career fields. The overall goal is still to get a job… choose your own adventure to get there!
Did I forget anyone? Leave a comment and let us know your experience.