You’ve started a job search, and you’re not finding many positions that look right for you. You’ve contacted your network and applied for a handful of openings, but nothing has worked out so far. Before you get even more frustrated, you might want to consider calling a recruiter.

With all the resources online for job seekers these days, you might not think you need a recruiter’s help. But whether you’re looking for a new position or just starting your career as an administrative professional, recruiters can enhance your job search by broadening your network, providing job leads you wouldn’t otherwise hear about and offering background on prospective employers.

Also referred to as headhunters, recruitment consultancies, staffing firms/agencies or executive search firms, the best recruiters go to great lengths to understand the needs and preferences of both employers and job seekers. They use the knowledge they gain to make strong matches between companies and new employees.

Recruiters can also serve as an excellent source of career guidance and information. The best ones offer interview tips, salary data, resume/CV advice and other suggestions. And once an employer decides to make an offer, your recruiter can become a valuable liaison between you and the organisation, helping you come to an agreement on salary, benefits and other details that satisfy both sides.

There are plenty of benefits of working with a search firm. But if you’ve never done it before, you may be unsure about how to establish and maintain such a relationship. If you’re looking for a job and thinking about signing on with a placement firm, follow these tips to make the most of the experience:

Make sure you’re ready to move ahead. Don’t call a headhunter just because you had a bad day or because you’re feeling bored at the moment. It’s not fair to ask a recruiter to consider your credentials and job possibilities if you’re not really serious about entertaining a new position. Before you make the call, think it through and ensure that you’re committed to taking on a new job immediately.

Select a specialist. It’s always best to work with a specialised recruitment consultancy. These companies can offer more opportunities in your field than generalist firms can. But that’s not all: they also have a strong sense of the marketplace in their industry and, as a result, they can help candidates accurately assess their experience and skills, form realistic expectations about employment opportunities and identify openings that are a good match for their specific credentials and needs.

Be prepared, and know what you want. For recruiters to truly serve your interests, they need a solid understanding of your qualifications and experience, as well as your hopes for a new position. Before you approach a recruiting firm, update your resume/CV and craft a strong cover letter that details what you can offer a potential employer. Then think about the specific things you’re looking for in a new job. That way, when you call or visit the placement firm, you’ll be ready to give the recruiter a concise rundown of your background and skills, along with a summary of what you’re hoping to find in a new position.

Trust the recruiter you choose. It’s hard to work effectively with a recruiter if you don’t trust him to accurately represent your interests. Before initiating a relationship, talk through any questions or concerns you might have about how the two of you will work together. Assuming you’re satisfied with the responses you receive and feel comfortable with a recruiter’s qualifications, allow him to act as your advocate without undue second-guessing at every turn. A good recruiter has a vested interest in ensuring an all-round good fit, so make sure you have faith in his ability and desire to help you find the right situation.

Be professional. Your recruiter might not be the hiring manager at your dream company, but you should treat her with the same level of professional courtesy. In other words, don’t wear jeans and flip-flops when you meet with your recruiter, and don’t chat with her like she’s your best friend. Moreover, be open to any suggestions she makes about improving your marketability. Remember, she will play an important role in determining whether you even get to go on that interview with your No 1 company, so give her reason to trust that you’re going to make a good impression.

Be honest. Make sure you’re being completely honest with your recruiter when discussing your salary history, as well as any other important details pertaining to previous positions. For instance, if you were fired from your last job after a disagreement with your boss, be sure to share this information with the recruiter. If he learns potentially damaging information about you when the company he places you with discovers it during your background check, you can consider the bridge between the two of you burned.

Continue to participate in your job search. Unquestionably, recruiters are supposed to seek out opportunities for you. But you have a role, too. Make sure you don’t go on autopilot with your job search after you register with a search firm. Keep up with news regarding the job market, and regularly review the recruitment consultancy’s email notifications about new job listings; you might see a position that interests you that your recruiter has not yet considered.

Establish consistent and open communication. Check in with your recruiter every other week, or more frequently if you have something important to report, such as your thoughts about a recent interview or a job application you submitted on your own. (It’s important to make sure you and the recruiter aren’t both sending applications to the same job posting.) By staying in touch, you’ll show her that you’re committed to finding a new opportunity, which will encourage her to work even harder on your behalf. Also, answer emails and return phone messages promptly, just as you would if you were dealing directly with a hiring manager. And if you decide to turn down an interview opportunity, clearly explain why you made that choice. Your feedback will help the recruitment consultancy find more appropriate openings for you in the future.

Don’t go around the recruitment consultancy to the employer. If your recruiter has told you that you’re not the right fit for a particular position, listen to him. He has more inside information than you do about the job, and he likely has a better idea what the employer is looking for. By all means, don’t bypass your recruiter and go straight to the company’s HR department – that just shows the recruiter that you don’t trust or respect him, and he’s unlikely to work with you in the future.

When you work with a good recruiter, you have a strong, valuable ally in your job search. It’s important, though, that you complement your recruiter’s efforts with your own contributions. By following these simple rules, you can make it easier for a recruiter to represent you and, ultimately, improve your chances of landing that great new job you’ve been looking for.”

Robert Hosking is executive director of the administrative and customer support practice at Robert Half, where he leads operations for nearly 300 practice locations worldwide. With close to 30 years of experience in the staffing industry, he has extensive ... (Read More)

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