Most of you reading this have probably used a recruiter at some point in a job search and some might even be using one (or more) recruiters right now to help you find a job. Lots of people have had positive results using a recruiter, others have had mixed results and unfortunately, some have had very poor results using recruiters. Whatever your experiences have been, the case for using an effective recruter is strong. The first step is no doubt finding a good one! But past that, a successful job search will also require you to make it work.
Here are a few tips that you can use to actually help your recruiters help you get a job.
Work with recruiters that specialize in your profession:
Sounds pretty obvious right? Well let's define "specialize". For example, there is a big difference between someone who claims to specialize in technology recruiting and someone who only places .Net developers, or someone who claims they recruit in the finance and accounting fields, vs. some one who only places hedge fund traders. The more specific the person is in their industry, the more they will understand about your background and understand the types of jobs you are interested in and qualified for. These types of recruiters tend to know about jobs that are not advertised and typically have relationships with not only human resources, but also the hiring managers at the companies they are working with. A lot of these "specialty recruiters" work directly with the hiring managers and can get you face to face interviews with the decision makers very quickly. Think of it as VIP status for interviewing.
Work with recruiters that are local to your marketplace:
Work with recruiters that are local to the cities you are looking to work in. This doesn't mean a recruiter from Seattle can't find you a job in Miami. But, odds are that you are in better hands with a local resource. Chances are that a local recruiter has met with the companies they will try and get you interviews with, and can provide you with helpful tips about the company's environment and the manager's background, or hot buttons he is looking for in his next hire. It's also highly likely that he or she will be able to meet you face to face and this will help your working relationship. Which brings me to this next point.
Suggest a face to face interview:
The reality is most recruiters recieve more resumes than you can possibly imagine. The trick is to make sure you leave a positive lasting impression beyond a piece of paper. The best way to do this is to meet the recruiters you are working with. Not only will they remember you but they will know how serious you are in your job search. In fact most recruiters work harder for those they meet than those they don't because they make a better connection that becomes more personal. Just make sure you treat the meeting like an interview. Don't treat this as a chore. Interview to impress this person. Don't complain about your job search or talk about how desperate you are (even if you are desperate). It's your job to make sure everyone you talk to is impressed by what you have to offer including recruiters who are going to help you.
Think like a recruiter:
Do some homework for your recruiter. Put together lists of companies you feel would be a good fit for your background, as well as a list of companies you would be interested in. Recruiters will take that research and put it to work by trying to represent your background to those companies.
Understand that recruiters also have a reputation to protect in the marketplace. The best recruiters out there get a lot of inquiries from candidates looking for a job. I understand that it can be annoying or seem rude that they don't call you about jobs or return your calls. Suggest a time once a week where the two of you can speak. Beyond that let the recruiter know that you want full feedback from interviews and even resume submittals. While it is true they are also at the mercy of the companies for feedback, some recruiters hold back on specifics because they don't want to hurt a candidates feelings (Yes! recruiters do have hearts). Tell your recruiters that you can handle all feedback because you want to use that to get better. And don't shoot the messenger! The last thing a recruiter wants to do is deliver bad news. If you feel the feedback is inaccurate then offer some work samples that can prove your knowledge or skills. Most recruiters will take your feedback and work samples to clarify a potential misunderstanding. This could lead to a second interview and potential new job for you.
Understand the relationship:
You are using them to help you get a job. Recruiters will use you to try and fill the jobs they are working on. Try not and take it personal if a recruiter doesn't call you back right away. They most likely don't have any news for you and are putting their focus on trying to find opportunties for you and all the other candidates they are helping. My first advise would be to not rely on one recruiter to get a job. You should be searching for job opportunities and networking for connections, as well as using other recruiters to help you find a job. In fact the more interviews you get the more marketable you start to become. These relationships should be a 2 way street and should grow stronger based on each others ability to help each other out. When a recruiter delivers interviews for you they should be able to provide you with valuable information that can help in the interviews. Likewise you need to do your best to prepare and present yourself to the best of your abilities everytime a recruiter gets you an interview.
So there you have it. Working successfully with recruiters comes down to first finding a good one, and then putting your best foot forward to help that recruiter help you. Like Jerry Maguire said to Rod Tidwell, "help me…help you!!!"