Tip 1: Make decisions before choosing a recruiter

The first and maybe most crucial step is finding the right recruiting firm to assist with your career progression strategy. Identifying a recruiter that specializes in your area of expertise is as important as locating a firm that regularly works with individuals in your salary range and within your geographic perimeters.

Before you call a recruiter, (or better yet, get a referral of a good recruiter from a friend) analyze your requirements for the position, industry, compensation package, and geographic region you're seeking. You can then investigate recruiting firms and specialists. There are many sources available online and through your local library that will assist you in narrowing your search.

Tip 2: Create the right resume approach

Candidate’s resumes should be performance-based rather than simply a list of past job responsibilities. It should contain significant accomplishments that are represented quantitatively, for example, "Improved profits by 23 percent" vs. "Improved profits."

Tip 3: Set specific expectations

View your relationship with a recruiter as long-lasting and mutually beneficial; decide who you would like to work with and generally limit it to two to three firms in the final selection process. In assessing recruiters, ask each one what would be a reasonable frequency of contact and whether they prefer phone calls or e-mail—you want a very comfortable communication experience.

During the initial discussion, inquire about other searches with which the recruiter is having difficulty and see if you can help with referrals or contacts. The recruiter will appreciate your networking assistance and most likely will attempt to work harder in assisting you with prospective leads. Remember that an experienced recruiter can be a valuable career counselor. Even if the recruiter doesn’t end up helping you find your next position, that person can bring an invaluable resource to your long-term career.

Tip 4: Understand the recruiter's true role

Understand from the outset that executive recruiters will call you about a specific set of requirements for which they have been engaged. Executive recruiters already have a client—a company seeking specific candidates—so their business is driven by that client's leadership recruiting needs, not the "availability" of candidates. This is a major misconception about high-level recruiting and is always an issue when candidates begin working with executive recruiters, he added.

Any recruiter that asks for a fee to assist you with your job search should be avoided.

Tip 5: Keep an open mind and take counsel

Listen to the recruiter with an open mind—especially when it comes to vital preparation and interview practice. The knowledge that the recruiter has about the unique requirements for the position will always help you to make a good presentation.

Tip 6: Tell the truth

It may be tempting to add experience and exaggerate abilities, but it’s the wrong thing to do. You have to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to your recruiter. Recruiters are solidly behind you and will be doing their best to help you get the great job you want. It’s imperative that recruiters know everything about your background.

If they know the negative things in advance, recruiters can help you best position yourself so that it doesn't get in the way. If the recruiter doesn’t know your secrets, and they come out later to the potential employer, everyone looks bad and your credibility will be damaged for any future opportunities.

Tip 7: Keep the relationship ongoing

Quick and efficient responses are necessary to a successful recruiter relationship, and a key element is returning phone calls.

The biggest source of aggravation for recruiters is when candidates refuse to return calls. They invest quite a bit of time developing a relationship, critiquing a resume, coaching a candidate for interviews, then when the candidate gets the job, they stop the communication. Just because the job search has ended doesn’t mean the recruiter relationship should end. Candidates may need those services again, and recruiters with whom you’ve developed a strong relationship will really knock themselves out to help you when the time comes.

Tip 8: Contribute to the relationship

The candidate-recruiter relationship is a symbiotic one. Job seekers should always try to be helpful with ideas, input, suggestions, or recommendations, noted Kendrick.

Good recruiters appreciate assistance and remember this in the future.

Tip 9: No undermining

While frustration and anxiety may tempt you, never circumvent the efforts of a recruiter who has submitted your resume to their client. Although you may become impatient from lack of feedback, attempting to go around the recruiter could lead to an immediate dismissal of your background and jeopardize your relationship with the search firm (and possibly other referral sources of the firm).

If you feel you can improve on the presentation of your resume to the recruiter’s client, you should document your justification in a concise summary that the recruiter can use to further qualify your background with their client.

Tip 10: If the relationship doesn't work, find another recruiter

Candidates need to know that not all recruiter relationships are successful, and it’s important to know you can move on to another if the experience isn’t proving rewarding or valuable.

Remember that your search consultant is your best representative to their client; if you are uncomfortable with their ability to represent you, withdraw your resume from their database and find a consultant you are comfortable working with.

Additional advice to job candidates

Finally, I’ll offer a bit of self-serving advice regarding the use of recruiters in general. Remember, we live in a dynamic world. Today you may not need the services of a recruiter, but tomorrow you might, and reciprocity and working together can be very beneficial for both job seekers and recruiters.