14 tips for working with recruiters

If you’re a job seeker, follow this list of tips to make the most of your relationships with recruiters.

working with tech recruiters
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How to get the most from tech recruiters

If you're trying to land a new job, it's almost a given that you'll be working with a recruiter at some point. Understanding the role a recruiter plays in helping you find a job can help you make the most of this critical professional relationship. Here, recruiting and staffing firm Venus Staffing shares 14 tips they've complied from their experts for leveraging these relationships to the fullest.

Understand that recruiters don't work for you
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1. Understand that recruiters don't work for you

This is a major misconception many job seekers have about a recruiter's role. While the ultimate goal is to fill an open position, recruiters work for the employers, not for you, the job seeker. That means that, while a recruiter will be delighted to work with you, you first must meet the specifications of their current assignment to fill a position -- they can't and won't pull strings to get you a role you're not qualified for, according to Venus.

2. Consider recruiters who specialize in your field
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2. Consider recruiters who specialize in your field

Because most recruiters specialize in specific industries and job functions, you will likely have the most productive relationships with recruiters specializing in your field and/or job function, according to Venus Staffing. Try checking out Oya's Directory of Recruiters, which lists recruiters by industry specialty as well as geographic location.

3. Backlog? Or brand new?
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3. Backlog? Or brand new?

You should find out whether a given recruiter first turns to an existing "inventory" of candidates when a new vacancy opens up, or whether they prefer to find fresh candidates each time. Ask the recruiters you contact whether they'd like your resume to keep on file, even if they don't have an appropriate active search going on.

[ Related story: 4 tips to help build your professional brand ]

4. Don't worry about the model
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4. Don't worry about the model

The model through which a recruiter gets paid (contingency or retained) shouldn't worry you too much, Venus Staffing's experts say, because you most likely won't have control over which type of recruiter you're working with. Contingency recruiters are paid when they make a placement, while retained recruiters are paid, usually up front, regardless of the search results. Darrell Gurney, author of Headhunters Revealed! offers a good explanation of the difference and notes that you won't have much say about which kind you align with.

"Which recruiter you work with depends primarily on your professional level, not how good you are at what you do," Gurney says, explaining that retained recruiters generally work with executive candidates who earn $200,000 a year or more.

5. Be positive about potential negatives
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5. Be positive about potential negatives

Be prepared to put a positive spin on your status if you're unemployed or have employment gaps in your resume. If you are unemployed, recruiters may see that status as a red flag, even in time when the economy and job market are weak. To some extent, you can combat this bias against the unemployed by engaging in productive, resume-boosting activities like consulting, project work, volunteering and/or professional development and continuing education. It won't always work, but it's better than not addressing your unemployed status, say Venus Staffing's experts.

6. Tailor your communications to each recruiter's preferences
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6. Tailor your communications to each recruiter's preferences

An exceptional resume and cover letter will always make a good impression on recruiters, but some recruiting firms have specific formats and submission guidelines, according to the Venus Staffing experts. Should you send these by email? How should you contact recruiters; by phone? Email? Text message? Research how each recruiter prefers to be contacted and stay in touch periodically, but don't be a pest. An initial follow-up call after you submit your materials, followed by another call a week or two later is a good rule of thumb. Of course, if you update or change your resume, resubmit it and let your recruiter know.

[ Related story: How to look for a job while you're still employed ]

7. Make it easy for recruiters to find you
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7. Make it easy for recruiters to find you

Since many recruiters prefer to make the first move, you'll want to be highly visible to them so they can find you. Make sure you're keeping your LinkedIn profile active and current; be active in trade and professional organizations; serve as a source for media outlets; be active in your community; guest lecture at a university or community college; or consider creating your own web site or blog to boost your profile, according to Venus Staffing.

8. Answer the call
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8. Answer the call

When a recruiter does call, make sure you're asking the right questions before deciding whether or not to work with them, Venus Staffing's experts say. Questions like, "What recruiting firm are you working with? What's your experience with my industry? What are some roles you've recently placed? How does the process work? How often should I expect to hear from you?" are great to gauge their competency. You also should reach out to your own professional and personal network to get any information they might have about that recruiter before you agree to work with them.

9. Maintain one point of contact
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9. Maintain one point of contact

You should never contact a potential employer directly once you're working with a recruiter. This is tantamount to going over the recruiter's head, and isn't looked upon favorably by either the recruiter or the hiring company. You have to trust your recruiter to get you through the process, Venus Staffing's experts say.

[ Related story: Why it's time to dump your outdated applicant tracking system ]

10. Stay committed
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10. Stay committed

Once you've agreed to work with a recruiter, you're in it for the long haul. You need to make sure you're serious about pursuing a new role or opportunity, otherwise it's a waste of both parties' time, and you could potentially develop a bad reputation.

11. Show me the money
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11. Show me the money

You should usually let the recruiter negotiate your compensation package. You should not only frankly discuss your current and desired compensation package, but ask for the recruiter's advice about what's realistic for your potential employer. Then, let the recruiter be your go-between in the negotiations.

12. Constant contact
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12. Constant contact

Be open to contact from your recruiter even after you've landed a job. You never know when you might need the recruiter again, and it's best to maintain contact so you're not just waiting for an emergency.

13. Remain a resource
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13. Remain a resource

You can continue to serve as a resource to recruiters after you land a job, according to Venus Staffing. One of the best ways to ensure a productive relationship with recruiters throughout your career is to recommend top-performing friends and members of your professional network, say Venus Staffing's experts.

14. Give thanks
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14. Give thanks

Thank your recruiter at the end of the process. A simple thank-you goes a long way toward cementing your relationship with the recruiter -- yet few candidates exercise this simple common courtesy. And giving the recruiter a positive LinkedIn recommendation also can't hurt, according to Venus Staffing's experts.