How to put a recruiter to work for you

Technology hiring may be gradually gaining momentum, but many skilled IT professionals are still finding that jobs are hard to come by . By partnering with a specialized recruiter, you can improve your chances of securing a rewarding new position even before the recovery is in full swing. 
Working with a recruiter need not interfere with your own job search efforts — it effectively doubles them. A recruiter’s network of contacts and knowledge of the job market can give you access to a range of opportunities beyond the popular job boards, including some openings that haven’t even been announced. A recruiter can also save you time by screening opportunities and helping you target only the most promising leads.

Experienced recruiters bring more than their connections, however. They can help you revise your application materials and point out ways to enhance your skills to attract more attention from potential employers. You may also get access to free training and even certification testing , helping to increase your marketability and keep your career moving forward. 
Establishing an effective partnership with a recruiter isn’t difficult, but it does require some effort. Here’s how to get the most out of the relationship:

Choose carefully. Start by asking friends and colleagues for referrals to recruiting professionals, or by contacting a few recruiters in your area. Your goal should be to find someone who inspires both comfort and confidence. Does the recruiter seem to have your best interests in mind, as well as sufficient bandwidth to devote attention to your search? How long has the recruiter been in business? The most effective recruiters draw upon long-standing relationships with local hiring managers. 
A recruiter who specializes in technology will be much better able to understand your needs and the expectations of potential employers. Your recruiter should have a firm grasp on the skills and experience IT hiring managers are looking for right now and thus be able to help you market yourself most effectively.

Keep in mind that you should receive a recruiter’s assistance free of charge; recruiters are paid by companies to find qualified candidates. Any recruiter who asks you to pay for job search services should be viewed with suspicion.

Speak freely. Some IT professionals approach their initial meeting with a recruiter like a test, trying to impress the person and provide the “right” answers to his or her questions. That’s understandable, but focusing on what you think the person wants to hear instead of articulating your actual interests and skills can hinder the recruiter’s efforts. When you’re open about your expectations, background and experience, you give the recruiter the best chance of connecting you to a job opportunity that’s right for you.

Before meeting with a recruiter, be sure you are clear about your preferences and requirements. For example, are you interested only in .Net development positions, or would you consider a role that relied on a different part of your skill set? What are your real salary requirements, and how do they differ from what you would consider ideal pay? Would you rather work for a large company or a small one? All this information may help your recruiter point out promising positions or career paths, even ones you might not have otherwise considered.

You should also disclose any aspects of your work history that might worry hiring managers, such as a termination or a long period of unemployment. The more upfront you are, the easier it will be for the recruiter to address the problem effectively.

Keep in touch. Throughout the relationship with your recruiter, openly communicate any changes in your career needs, preferences or availability. If you’ve set up an interview independently, let your recruiter know. He or she may be able to help you secure the position through contacts at the company or provide insight into the firm’s corporate culture.

After each interview, let your recruiter know how the meeting went. He or she might use this feedback in follow-up communication with the employer — for example, to address a concern the employer raised during the interview. A skilled recruiting professional may also offer guidance on answeringtough interview questions . 
Your patience may be in short supply, especially if your job search has been a long one. But keep in mind that even the most successful recruiting professional will need time to connect you to a satisfying position. Recruiters continually mine their sources for job leads and may suddenly discover an opportunity that’s ideal for you.

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. The company has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services For additional career advice, follow us on Twitter . 

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