Recruiters also called head hunters can be a valuable part of a job search strategy. They connect job hunters to openings that aren't advertised. They are free to job seekers (if one charges you, run away). The best ones understand what employers want, and can eliminate a lot of the guesswork in negotiating salary and perks.
Job seekers who aren't used to working with recruiters may have unrealistic expectations, however. Recruiters share suggestions for making the most out of your relationship with them.
Dig the well before you're thirsty. Erin Hobbs, an independent recruiter based in North Carolina, suggests starting a relationship with a recruiter before you're desperate for a job. "You'll improve your chances of finding the right fit when the recruiter knows you as more than just a resume," she says. "You can even invite a recruiter to coffee, and if we're not too busy we will probably take you up on the offer."
Recruit your recruiter. Just like you shouldn't apply for every opening on a job board, it's counter-productive to hit up every recruiter in the book, according to Greg Bennett, global practice director of the Mergis Group. "First look for those who specialize in your field, then approach several others. But don't throw spaghetti at the wall. And if a recruiter is not responsive, or if the comfort level or chemistry isn't there, don't work with him."
Don't rely on the recruiter to do your search. It's tempting to let someone else do the work while you sit back and let the offers roll in. But delegating your job search to recruiters is a common mistake, according to Jean Baur, senior consultant at Lee Hecht Harrison. "It's important for job seekers to understand that we're not miracle workers and we're not mothers. A recruiter is one part of a healthy job search, but only one part. You have to do most of the work."
Bennett agrees: "Recruiters are sales people, not employment agencies. Clients pay us to find the exact person they need for a particular job opening, and you might be the one. We work for the client. It is not our job to find you a job."
Be honest. Hobbs suggests laying it all on the line with a recruiter: "I appreciate it when a job seeker says, 'I can do these things, I can't do those things, and I need x salary.' The clearer you are about what you do and what you're looking for, the better the chances that we can match you with the job you want."
Check in periodically. If they don't have something for you the day you approach them and it's not likely they will recruiters will put your information in a database and call you when something comes up. That doesn't mean you can't check in now and then. Daily calls and emails, unless you're in active negotiation about a certain job, are not necessary, but a once-a-week call is appropriate. And recruiters all suggest being polite and professional. Just as with a hiring manager, a boss, or a co-worker, being demanding or rude won't get you very far.
Assume the recruiter is correct. When a recruiter says you're not exactly what a particular company requires, don't insist you're the right fit. "It's my job to understand exactly who can fit that role, not to throw every job seeker at them," Baur says. "If we say you're not the right fit for one job opening, don't take it personally. Another one may come along."
Don't go rogue. If a recruiter says you're not the right fit for a particular opening, don't go around the recruiter's back and apply for the job on your own. "In addition to being somewhat unethical, it really mucks up the process, and in the end you probably won't get the job anyway," Hobbs says.