Job Search Tips From Special Operations

A few weeks ago I was in the position to play recruiter pro bono for a program manager I know. The program manager was looking for a hand full of former Special Operations professionals with experience in Africa who could advise the new government of South Sudan on force protection issues. After posting the requirements I was astonished to receive over twenty well qualified candidates.

Looking back through the emails I noticed three things this group did well and that any job applicant should replicate.

Networking: Looking Out For Others

Within a few hours of sending the force protection advisor requirement to the Sam Chappell email distribution list (you can send your resume and intro paragraph to him at I began to receive replies. These replies did not cite my original email but postings from several Special Operations job networking sites. The community members had seen the opportunity and thought to share the job lead without the “they could be my competition” thought crossing their mind.


Descriptive Email Subject Line

On every email I received, I had a variation of the job title, location of the job and a person’s name with correct spelling and grammar.

Doing so will ensure your message gets opened and does not leave the recruiter guessing which position you are applying for. Most recruiters are trying to fill several positions at once. On a slow day recruiters may give you the benefit of the doubt  and open a poorly labeled email but on the heavier days, it’s an easy delete.

Keep in mind most recruiters are just too busy to handle all the inbound messages they receive. Recruiters are looking for ways to reduce their correspondence load. Don’t make your message an easy inbox downsizing target.


Concise Introductory Email

The candidates were really good about making their message short and concise. The better messages were 6-10 sentences long. Candidates stated their name, what part of the Special Operations community they hailed from, rank, level of command, overseas experience and why they were a good match for the position in Africa specifically and when they could begin work.


Actual Intro Received From A Candidate:

Hi. I am a retiring United States Army Colonel. I am a Special Forces Branch/Foreign Area Officer. I have recently given up Command of the United States Military Observer Group where I was responsible for training all DoD officers prior to me deploying them to all United Nations Peacekeeping Missions where the USG participates. I was of course responsible for their FP from soup to nuts while they were deployed in Haiti, Liberia, the DRC, Ethiopia, Chad, Egypt, Israel, Iraq and the Republic of Georgia. I have Commanded various Infantry, Special Forces, Garrison and Defense Attaché Office military personal of all ranks, USG civilians and foreign civilians both stateside and overseas during my more than 30 years of commissioned service in the United States Army. I am a resident graduate of the DoD National Defense University as well as the resident USA Command and General Staff College. I have two Master level degrees and speak Tagalog fluently. Attached is my resume. Kindly consider me for this job. I will be ready to deploy no later than 1 November 2011.


So as you go fight off unemployment this day: don't just look out for yourself, refer leads to others, make your email subject lines descriptive in nature while keeping the body of your intro email short and concise. 

Lastly remember that the only easy day was yesterday!  


3 Responses to Job Search Tips From Special Operations

  1. Matt September 28, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    Excellent post. I always tell guys to hook a brother up. Because one day, they might be able to pay you back and hook you up with a job.

  2. R.Buck November 7, 2011 at 2:04 am #

    I always pass along the info that comes my way to my peers.

  3. Diedra Perry November 24, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    This advise was inspirational and received!  Great job at reminding candidates that it is not just enough to be a good candidate, but more importantly a good person.

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