05/07/2010 04:16 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Art of Working with Recruiters

Since we"re recruiters this might seem self-serving (and it is), but it's still beneficial to job hunters. There is an art to working with recruiters and we know first hand what works and what doesn't. It's smart to learn how to maximize your relationship with recruiters so they'll want to work with you. In addition, when two candidates are "neck and neck" for the position, companies will often rely on the recruiter to help them decide who should get the offer.

Given this, and the fact that life's too short, here's how to have a mutually beneficial relationship with your recruiter:

1. Be Clear and Realistic -- Don't try and position yourself as being all things to all people. While you don't want to pigeon-hole yourself, you do want to have a focus. Know what environment works best for you and what role you are best suited for. If you are trying to break into a new area, help the recruiter understand what your transferable skills are. Remember companies hire recruiters to find candidates who have specific experience (meaning they've done it before). While you may be a quick study, companies are generally looking for "plug & play" candidates.

2. Be Forthcoming -- No fudging your resume or involvement in key projects. The truth will come out eventually and inconsistencies will weaken your candidacy. Also, be upfront regarding your salary expectations - don't wait until the offer stage to unveil a new minimum compensation requirement. Nothing drives recruiters crazier than getting to the finish line only to find a candidate who has "upped the ante" considerably from what they said initially. Unless you've won the Nobel Prize during the course of the search, you shouldn't be changing your requirements. Finally, let your recruiter know when you are interviewing with another company. And by all means, tell recruiter "A" right away if you are close to getting an offer through recruiter "B". It's impossible to over-communicate.

3. Be Responsive -- When a recruiter approaches you about a job opportunity, get back to them ASAP, even if you're not interested. It's not only courteous, it's smart. Candidates who are frequently unresponsive stop getting calls and you may miss out on a great job in the future. Also, by getting back to the recruiter, you can tell them what types of positions you are interested in. Responsiveness is especially critical after you have interviewed with a company. Recruiters are counting on your timely (e.g., less than 24 hours) feedback so they can provide that to their client. Waiting too long can send a message of disinterest, which may not be the case. Just as you would like prompt feedback, so do the recruiter and company. Being responsive in all phases of the search - when initially contacted, after interviewing and during the offer stage - will encourage recruiters to work with you again.

4. Establish a Long Term Relationship -- Recruiters like to maintain relationships with people they know, long after they've helped them land a position. One of the best ways to cement the relationship is by staying in touch when you have new contact information: when you have started a new job, gone to a new company, or changed addresses. Also, it's a big plus to recruiters to get referrals for jobs they are looking to fill. When you get a "source" call, try and be as helpful as possible. Even if you don't have someone in mind for the position, at least get back to the recruiter.

5. Be Appreciative -- Saying 'thank you" and showing appreciation will make a recruiter more likely to help you in the future. If you have had a really good experience working with a recruiter, let the hiring company know how well they were represented. Also, if you know your company is actively hiring, offer to introduce the recruiter to the appropriate internal person.

If you are currently in a situation where you have to reach out to a recruiter you've ignored all year, that's okay. We're a pretty forgiving bunch. Just acknowledge that you realize you haven't been responsive in the past. Now, you can start with a clean slate, following the guidelines above and live happily ever after.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success