Debra Feldman

Are You a Hunter or a Farmer When It Comes to Job Hunting?

Find out.

November 19, 2009
by Debra Feldman

If you’re in sales, you know that talent is often labeled as farmers and hunters. One role may be better than the other because of their personal style and abilities. Today’s highly competitive job market demands the hunter approach, while farmers are often left waiting in the dust.

Similarly job seekers fall into two categories: browsers and shoppers. Browsers casually look in the advertised job market or contact recruiters, while shoppers shop for the unadvertised opportunities within the hidden job market being the first in the door pursuing a hidden gem. In the modern job market those who create positions for themselves are labeled as the go-getters or the “opportunists.” Applicants, on the other hand are those who merely reply to available openings online or submit a printed resume and wait for an employer to respond. The least assertive are those job seekers who do nothing but wait until their phone rings or an e-mail alert them not even bothering to comb through listings for possible matches. Need it be said that this last group is not making any progress for obvious reasons? There are far too many qualified individuals who are shaking the branches and getting employer’s attention. Today’s market is an employer’s market, not an employee’s.

The Hunter’s, Shopper’s, Opportunist’s Job Plan

Today’s highly competitive job market rewards those who are assertive and initiate proactive efforts to source a new job. Those landing a new job almost unanimously report having worked hard to find an opportunity and focused on a targeted job search strategy. In this economy, their new challenge did not fall just into their laps!

If you want to be a hunter, shopper or opportunist, here are some tactics you must include in your job search plan:

  1. Identify your unique value proposition. Make sure you differentiate yourself from potential competitors and can attract attention from prospective employers by demonstrating the ability to provide solutions to the employer’s challenges and impact the bottom-line by making or saving money.
  2. Find employers that will appreciate your potential contribution. Target those organizations who need your expertise and knowledge.
  3. Locate the appropriate hiring decision-maker. Research and Networking Purposefully™ to establish meaningful connections.
  4. Communicate your value proposition compellingly. Deliver your message consistently in written and verbal correspondence, confirming this through the social media and establishing credibility through mutual connections and shared interests to build trust.
  5. Promote a relationship through polite persistent pings to stay on the decision-maker’s radar screen and be top of mind for future opportunities.

Hunters vs. Farmers

Hunters pursue new business, seek out leads, and find potential new customers aggressively by breaking new accounts, expanding the existing footprint, thwarting defections and keeping clients loyal, generating additional revenues and producing new profits. In short, they hustle to win new sales, increase customer loyalty and do not ones to wait for customers and their needs to come find them. They go after wins. On the other hand, farmers maintain the status quo, harvest existing customer business and are often in maintenance mode. That only works if there is any business already in hand. Farmers are not assigned to a new territory or charged with developing a market for a new product or service.

Browsers vs. Shoppers

Let’s now put this into a different perspective. Browsers leisurely meander through the marketplace. They are not ready to make a decision or prepared to buy. They are waiting for something to light a fire under them. Shoppers on the other hand are out on a mission. They expend their time and energy looking for what they want, asking questions to bring them closer to finding what they need. They know what they want and they go after it just like the hunter.

Jobseekers in Today’s Market

Today, all job seekers are in sales. They are marketing themselves to prospective employers who have lots of choices with a huge pool of qualified prospects. With stiff competition for openings, candidates are not merely filling one of many openings. Successful candidates sell themselves to employers. They demonstrate that they will deliver what the employer needs and they generate a sense of trust and credibility for their skills, moral character and corporate culture fit.

To get your foot in the door, you need to assert yourself in order to appeal to employers and attract the hiring decision-maker’s interest. You not only have to sell yourself but they also hunt for potential opportunities, often before the employer has recognized their need for talent and creating a new job just for yourself to fill as the ideal fit. Candidates most likely to land in today’s job market have a hunter, not a farmer mentality -- they identify the challenge they want and then aggressively pursue their career goal usually relying on networking for leads, referrals and endorsements. They go after what they want. They connect with the hiring decision-maker and position themselves as the preferred solution.


The final decision lies with you. Do you want to be a hunter, shopper or an opportunist and land a new exciting career challenge as quickly as possible or are you content to be in transition or languish in an unsatisfying position? Choose to Network Purposefully and connect with insiders who know about potential openings and access the hidden job market. Show employers that you are a hunter who will deliver by aggressively initiating contacts, communicating an intriguing value-proposition tailored to the employer’s requirements and expectations and then following up consistently until you get the offer. Once you are in a new job, continue to politely and persistently ping your contacts to keep in touch and share leads, ideas and resources back and forth.

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© Debra Feldman, 2009

Debra Feldman, JobWhiz, is an executive talent agent who accesses opportunities in the hidden job market by personally developing inside connections for her clients. Forbes labeled her Matchmaker: Part sleuth, Part networker. Contact her for details on how to accelerate your career.