How Recruiters Can Help Your Job Hunt

{Click here to read the original article on The Muse.}

When you’re deep in the midst of your job search, it’s easy to feel like you’re on your own – just you and your resume, against the millions of other job-seekers.

But you actually have an ally out there: Recruiters. Some recruiters work with hiring managers at companies, others work as headhunters at a third-party firm — but their goal is the same: to fill an open position with the right person.

And if they think you’re that person, they can be a huge help in getting your resume to the top of the hiring manager’s pile. Here’s everything you need to know about recruiters — from what they do to how to find them — to make the most of that relationship.

The Corporate Recruiter

Who They Are

A corporate recruiter is tasked with screening candidates and filling open positions at the company for which she works. Larger companies often have multiple recruiters for all types of positions and levels of experience, while smaller companies may only have one.

How to Find Them

Typically, a corporate recruiter will find *you*, either after you submit your resume to the company or by coming across your profile on a professional networking site.

You can also contact a recruiter directly to inquire about an open position or to request an informational interview — many job postings will list the name of the recruiter working on the position, or you can search for people on LinkedIn. (But keep in mind that this is *everyone’s* approach — so try to find recruiters that you have some sort of connection with, and don’t expect a response from all of them.)

How it Works

If a recruiter thinks you might be a fit for a position, she’ll contact you to ask some basic questions or conduct a pre-screening interview, usually over the phone. Then, if she thinks you’re a good candidate, she’ll pass your application along to the hiring manager.

If you’re selected for an interview, the recruiter will often coordinate the meeting, follow up with you as the process continues, and even send you the official offer.

How to Make the Most of It

Assume that any contact with a corporate recruiter is part of the formal interview process. So, show up on time, dress the part, and if she asks you specific questions about your background and what you’re looking for, target your answers to the specific company and position.

Also make sure that you follow up with her regularly. If she asks you for any materials or work samples, get them to her right away. Send her thank-you notes after each interview. And if you haven’t heard from her in a while, or aren’t sure where things are in the hiring process, don’t be afraid to check back in.

Finally, don’t lose hope if you’re not immediately placed within the company. Most corporate recruiters will keep your resume on file and contact you if a future position matches your skills.

The Contingency Recruiter

Who They Are

Unlike the corporate recruiter, the contingency recruiter — aka “headhunter” — works independently of the hiring company, often at a staffing firm. They’re contracted by a company to fill a position, but are only compensated if they find the candidate who’s hired.

How to Find Them

Similar to the corporate recruiter, they’ll often reach out to you via professional networking sites (and they’re usually more receptive than corporate recruiters to being contacted directly). If you reach out, make sure you choose someone who specializes in your field or industry, as she’ll have the best connections and openings. And you can definitely work with multiple recruiters at the same time — don’t choose one who wants an exclusive agreement (or money!) from you. The company that hires you — not you — will pay their fee.

There are many great staffing firms out there. For example, Robert Half International places seekers in accounting, finance, information technology, marketing, legal, and administrative jobs, and Maxim Staffing works with people in the healthcare professions. There are plenty of others — ask your contacts or do a quick Google search, then, give them a call, asking if you can be put in touch with a recruiter.

How it Works

The recruiter will call you in for an informational-style interview, either in person or over the phone, to get a sense of your background and career goals. After the interview, she’ll contact you if she’s hiring for positions that might be a good fit.

At this point, you can decide whether or not you want to be considered. Once you give her the green light, she’ll send your resume on to the company and help coordinate any interviews. If at any point the company rejects you from continuing on in the hiring process, she’ll pass on their feedback.

How to Make the Most of It

As you’re going through the process, be honest and open about your background, goals, and how you feel about the positions the recruiter sends your way. It’s in both of your best interest that you end up somewhere that will be a good fit, so if the position doesn’t sound right to you, ask more about it or let her know your specific concerns — the earlier, the better.

Also, stay in close contact with your recruiter. Follow up with her every few weeks if you haven’t heard from her. And if you find a job on your own, respect her time by letting her know, so she can stop considering you for positions.

Which One Should You Choose?

Wondering which type of recruiter you should work with? If you have your eyes set on working at a specific company, reach out to a corporate recruiter. If you have a couple companies in mind, but are open to other opportunities, too, contact corporate recruiters, but also meet with a contingency recruiter, too. If you have no idea what companies would even be a fit for your area of expertise, a contingency recruiter will definitely be your best bet.

Of course, working with a recruiter isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get hired — but it can help you out by giving you insider information, finding job openings you don’t see elsewhere, and landing your resume to the top of the pile. And at the very least, it’ll make the job search process a little less lonely.

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