Many job seekers view recruiters as only interested in their bottom lines and fully willing to throw resumes at the wall to see what sticks. But not all recruiters are those sorts of bad actors, and a relationship with a good recruiter can lead to some great results for your job search.
If you want to take advantage of the benefits of a recruiter relationship, it's important to consider them as potential allies rather than enemies. Clearly, this is easier said than done given the bad reputation that a number of recruiters have given the industry as a whole. However, there are good companies out there and it's those you should contact.
Separating the wheat from the chaff
Do your research. There's no point speaking or registering with a recruitment company that doesn’t recruit for the type of jobs you are interested in, so before you do anything, make sure you understand what you want out of your next role. Jump on your preferred search engine and type in the job titles of the roles you are interested in. This will show you a list of job sites and recruitment agencies specializing in your sector. Make sure you put location in to your search too. Add the terms "staffing" or "recruitment" to further narrow your results.
Review the job sites and enter your search criteria. You will quickly be able to see which agencies seem to be offering the best and most up-to-date opportunities. Have a look at the agencies listed for your area and review the quality of their website and the jobs they are advertising. It is likely that the ones with the most suited and up-to-date roles are the best ones to contact first off.
Note that just because a job site or recruitment firm is listed at the top of Google doesn’t mean they are the best, so be sure to look into at least 5 companies before making your calls. Also be aware that a number of the more unscrupulous agencies will advertise jobs that don’t actually exist to attract quality candidates. This is illegal, but a few agencies still maintain this practice.
Ask your colleagues/friends/family. Is there someone you can speak to who has applied for similar positions or has had dealing with relevant agencies in the past? In business, there is nothing better than a recommendation because it tends to come from someone who has had a positive experience previously.
Avoid scammers and spammers. Unfortunately, the recruitment field is marred by bad actors who take advantage of job seekers. Whether they target them with scams to steal money or personal identifying information, or they spam unrelated and irrelevant jobs your way, it's important to recognize them and stay away. Generally, if someone reaches out to you directly with what seems like an irrelevant opportunity, a poorly-catered email, or even one that has broken language and word structure, you should ignore that email.
Further, with recruitment firms you find, make sure you check their ratings on Yelp and other local services, as well as on the Better Business Bureau. Typing in the name of a company and the word "scam" or "spam" in Google might get you some good search hits as well. Finally, look up individual recruiters on LinkedIn to check out any client references and see if they're any good at what they do.
Building the recruiter relationship
Be clear in what you are looking for. Make sure you communicate clearly with your recruiter so they know what positions you would like to hear about, including what types of organisations, locations, salary levels, culture fit, etc... Many job seekers think it is better to be as open-minded as possible and cast a wide net across a variety of companies, industries, and fields. Actually, the opposite is true, and the job seekers who laser-focus their job search end up with better results faster, so try to be as specific as possible.
Respond quickly to advice. Your recruiter might suggest making changes to your resume/CV, how you present yourself in interview, or how you can articulate your experience better. Take any advice as constructive feedback and take heed. Remember that they're trying to help you and typically give good advice. When you're not sure about some things they advise you to do, do a bit of online research and come back with alternatives. And if you have any questions, realize that they're your lifeline for when you're feeling confused about the job search.
Quick response on interviews. This is a critical point that will set you apart in the eyes of the recruiter and recruitment firm. Recruiters and employers want to hear if you are interested and excited about a job they think you're a good fit for. Providing feedback quickly gives them the ability to respond to their client quickly. If it comes down to choosing between two candidates at offer stage, the recruiter will tend to push the candidate who is the keenest on the job. In short, don’t play hard to get, especially if you like the role and company.
Have your references sorted. Know who your references are before being asked to provide the details. Speak with them ahead of time to keep them aware that you might need their help shortly. Recruiters prefer to relate better to job seekers who are organized and ahead of the game (and a tool like JobHero can help you stay on top of your game).
Keep in touch. By doing the above, you will have built a strong relationship with the recruiter and they will be motivated to help you in the future as a result. Keep in touch with them, stay on their radar, add them as a contact on LinkedIn. You never know when you will need them again.
The short- and long-term benefits
Increase your chances of finding the perfect job. By engaging with a recruitment firm, they will be more motivated to help you find a job. When the best jobs come through, you will be at the top of their list.
Advice. Your recruiter is more likely to spend time giving you information on the latest market activity, salary levels, etc... This will be useful in the future when you start thinking about looking again.
New opportunities. If you have created a great impression, then the firm may well think of you in the future when they have an interesting opportunity. In other words they will initiate the contact rather than the other way around.
Image courtesy of K2 Space.