Okay, let’s bring this four-part series in for a landing with a few final thoughts about how to work with the recruiter channel, if you happen to be a professional currently seeking a new opportunity.  Again, I’ll emphasize that 1) I’m just sharing my own personal recommendations on these matters, not claiming there’s a perfect “right answer” for everybody; and 2) I’m advocating the steps I believe one should take from the job hunter side of the desk, without necessarily worrying about what’s best for recruiters or what will make their lives easier — not that this is always a mutually-exclusive thing.

And on this latter note, if any of my recruiter friends out there want to chime in to agree or disagree with any of the advice I’m giving, I’d certainly welcome your input and contributions to the discussion!

These disclaimers aside, however, let’s close with a simple checklist for how the typical job seeker should integrate the recruiting/staffing world into the mix of their job-finding activities:

The Mechanics:

1.  First, using the sources I’ve identified in my three previous articles, or any other methods you’ve uncovered, focus on building a suitable set of recruiting firms that specialize in your geographical location, job level, field, and/or industry.

2. Next, take a minute to review each firm’s website in order to learn more about them and again double-check to make sure they work with candidates who possess your particular qualifications.  If they don’t, take them off your list and don’t waste their time — or yours.

3. Then, check to see if they happen to have any posted jobs listed on their site that fit you, and if so, respond to these per the instructions given.  Keep in mind, though, that many recruiters DON’T list their current searches on their site or update their “jobs” page frequently.

4. Lastly, decide on a contact strategy.  If you’ve got lots of time available, I’d recommend you send a customized note of introduction to each firm, along with your resume — or that you possibly make a cold call to them, introducing yourself.  You might even check LinkedIn to see if you know somebody who can introduce you to the recruiter directly.  If you’re pressed for time, however, or targeting a sizable set of firms from across the country, you can also simply BCC: each firm a copy of your resume and a short note explaining your goals.  Your response rate will likely suffer slightly from this latter approach, since it’s less personalized, but you’ll cover an awful lot of ground in a hurry!

At that point, you pretty much have to let the chips fall where they may.  If the recruiters in question don’t respond to your initial inquiry, it’s not terribly fruitful to spend a lot of time following up with them.  Take the hint and move on to other things.  Hopefully, though, you will hear back from at least a few of them interested in a conversation, at which point, make sure you keep in mind these next five points:

The Etiquette:

1.  Be polite; remember, recruiters receive inquiries from hundreds of candidates each month and usually only have a tiny handful of job assignments they’re working on, so they’re no point getting mad at them, giving them a guilt trip, or acting like they owe you something.  As much as you might wish they did, they don’t, as I explained in my previous posting.  So unless they verbally abuse you or do something wildly inappropriate, be nice to them.

2.  Don’t stalk recruiters; again, if they can do anything productive to help you or place you somewhere, they’re usually going to be pretty motivated to get back to you on their own merits.  Following up repeatedly just to nag them about your need for a job will typically backfire and damage your future chances of being considered.

3.  If you’re working with a recruiter on a viable job scenario, don’t ever do an “end-around” and contact the company or hiring manager directly without the recruiter’s advance approval, except in extremely unusual situations.  I’ve had a number of impatient clients try this over the years, thinking the recruiter wasn’t properly advocating for them, and what they usually found out the hard way was that companies hire recruiters for a reason — to manage the hiring process and shield them from pushy, overzealous candidates who want to do things their own way and buck the system!

4.  When recruiters ask you to disclose your salary requirements or your full salary history to them, cough it up.  They need this information to do their job properly and if you play games with them or refuse to provide it, they’ll usually drop your candidacy like a hot potato.

5.  Lastly, and VERY importantly, don’t approach recruiters from a take, take, take point of view.  Try your best to be a value-added resource to them, in return.  Most recruiters (at least the quality ones) are sincerely interested in building relationships with  influential professionals around town and will definitely keep tabs on who’s “got their back” and been a helpful ally.  So keep your eyes peeled for things that might add value to them, such as introductions to other good candidates, useful sources of market research, and best of all, leads to potential companies that might consider retaining their services to fill a potential hiring need.

With these guidelines in mind, and the information I’ve shared earlier in this series, you’re now fully armed to make the most of the recruiter channel as a source of potential leads in your job search.  Remember, they’re not sports agents, they’re not career coaches, and they’re not (despite their brusque demeanor, at times) some alien species that doesn’t respond to normal human social conventions like reciprocity or common courtesy.  Best of luck!