This is a guest article by D. Alan Johnson, his latest book Asgaard explores the role of US military Contractors in far flung parts of the globe. D. Alan Johnson is well equipped to write not only Asgaard, but also this article. He is what he writes about! Since the mid 1980’s he has been a private military contractor – Simon

The private military contracting business depends on a source of men and women who are much different than the normal worker. Not only must they have a certain skill set and be good at their jobs, they must:

  1. Be able to be gone from home for extended periods. No whining about having to get home to plant their fall garden.
  2. Endure poor living conditions. Yes, often we get to live in five star hotels, but there are also the army barracks, trailers, and sometimes tents where we lay our heads. Not to mention the poor food and frequent power outages.
  3. Then there is the occasional gunfire and/or mortar attacks.
  4. And most important, they must be able to get along with others even when they work, eat and sleep together.

Scanning a resume will not tell an employer whether the applicant has the personality traits needed for his particular job. And it’s just too expensive to try someone on probation. Fielding one contractor might cost a company several thousand dollars for shots, visas, security clearances, training, embassy badges, contractor badges, uniforms, safety equipment, and transportation.

A recurring HR nightmare is to spend 18,000 dollars on a new hire just to have him wimp out after the first rotation. Or worse, have all the other employees upset because the new guy is so difficult to live with. So now we understand why a company can’t just ask for resumes, interview some guys and send them downrange.

How does a chief pilot or project manager find candidates who will fit into the organization?


We are used to talking about how an applicant must establish and mine his network for job opportunities, but we forget that the recruiter must do the same to develop qualified leads. Sometimes the pressure on these managers is intense. A Fortune 100 company tasked one of my buddies to find ten specialized aircrew within a month. Believe me, he didn’t make it. Better to be short-handed than have the wrong persons in the aircraft and living on the compound.

Why should we, as applicants, care about management’s problems? Because if we fit our networking into theirs, we stand a much better chance of getting the call to go to work.

How then, does management network for applicants?

  • Their own network.
  • Asking trusted subordinates for applicants.

Where can you get into one of these networks the easiest? The subordinate’s network, of course. Most of us don’t know top management, but we do know men and women with whom we’ve trained, worked, or interacted socially. Now that you have a target, let’s talk about how you go about getting that golden recommendation.

This one is tough. The normal route is that we send our resume off to a friend who is working for Such-and-Such Corp, and we ask him to put in a word to the chief pilot, or whoever is doing the hiring. What is going to make him go to that extra effort and go out on a limb for you?
Your Bank Account

In life one has a bank account with each person. That person keeps a balance of good and bad things that have happened in his interactions with you. Favors owed, genuine complements, and good advice compared with insults, slights, and conflicts. In your network, you must have a positive bank account for anyone to recommend you to their boss.

If your account is close to even, your buddy won’t not take the trouble or run the risk of recommending you. With a negative balance, your “buddy” may be evangelistic to everyone, saying, “Whatever you do, don’t hire this guy!” It’s a small world, and that kind of message gets around.

Now you may understand better why I don’t recommend you send in resume after resume. Those go to the files for a year to meet the rules. Hiring is done on a much more personal basis. Instead of applying over and over, you are much better off spending time upgrading your skills and caring on your network.

Tomorrow, we talk about “tending your garden”.

D. Alan Johnson

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