As a recruiter, I'm on the receiving end of dozens of phone calls and E-mails a week from job seekers asking how to "enlist" our services. Job seekers often think recruiters are their solution to the job search and that once they're in touch with a recruiter, the job opportunities will come pouring in. While we can be incredibly helpful, it's important to understand how most recruiters work in order to avoid job-search frustration and disappointment.
Recruiters do not work for you, they work with you. Generally, recruiters are compensated for their work by their client companies. That means a recruiter is conducting a search for a company, not a job search for a candidate. Recruiters will select you as a candidate to present for a search only if you are an exact match. If selected, you can expect that they will work with you through the process for that particular search. They want to make it work.
It's a big mistake to stop your job search once you've had a conversation with a recruiter. Don't think she is out there actively sourcing opportunities to place you. Contingency recruiters are only paid upon making a successful placement, so their time will be spent where it is most likely to pay off--having conversations with candidates who are an exact match for their current searches.
It's difficult for recruiters to place career changers. Recruiters are expected by their client companies to find to present talent currently working in their field. If you are trying to make a major career/industry transition, you may be better off targeting companies directly. The same goes for entry level job seekers.
Recruiters are not resume writers or career consultants. It is not appropriate to expect a recruiter to write your resume, critique it, give you individual career coaching, or "put in a good word" with their contacts. This is especially true if you don't have a longstanding relationship or you aren't involved in an interview process. A recruiter may help you out if you have a relationship and your request is simple and quick, but don't expect it. Seek help from a professional resume writer or a career counselor.
Be open and honest. Recruiters don't want to make a bad matches, so help them by being upfront about your career goals. Get your questions answered and your concerns heard throughout the process. Nobody wins when a new hire and an employer part ways too soon. When a relationship goes sour, their credibility suffers and they'll likely have to do a replacement search for free.
Share information. Information is your most valuable currency as a candidate. Referring other candidates for a recruiter's open positions or sharing industry insights are excellent ways to stay on her short list. When new opportunities arise, you'll be fresh in the recruiters mind as a potential candidate before the search lists publicly.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and recruiter with Paradigm Staffing, a national search firm that specializes in placing public relations and communications professionals. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.