There's nothing like having an army of enthusiastic professionals all competing to offer you the very best career in town.Sound far-fetched? Maybe not.

By Christopher Duncan | September 2006

The first and perhaps most important thing to keep in mind any time that you're working with a recruiting company is the fact that you're dealing with individual human beings. Just as some companies are better to work with than others, individuals within a given business can vary to great extremes. Some are honest while others are unscrupulous, and though you may encounter those who rank among the clueless, you¿ll also find bright and inspired souls.

As you might imagine, each class of creature is going to require their own special handling if you're to get the most out of the experience. Bear this in mind as we delve into other aspects of the relationship and be prepared to adjust your approach to best fit the person on the other end of the phone. What's productive with one may prove a waste of time with another.

Running The Numbers

Recruiters and account reps alike both fall into the category of marketing. In the world of sales, success revolves around running the numbers. What this means is that you'll have a much greater chance of success talking to a hundred people than you will if you speak with only five. There are two things to learn from this.

First, you are nothing but a number to the recruiter you speak with, whether they called you or the other way around. More important, however, is the second point. What works for them will work just as well for you. By building relationships with recruiters and letting them beat the bushes for you, you're already ahead of the competition. Now let's apply the lesson from recruiters and extend this concept.

How many recruiting companies do you currently work with? With even a little research, you'll find that there are a large number of them out there, particularly in the major metropolitan areas. So, don't sit on your hands and wait for the phone to ring. Call each and every one of them, discuss the market for your skills, and get a resume into their hands. If you currently have three companies who know you exist, bump that up to thirty. You'll be amazed at the amount of new opportunities that come your way. That's because each recruiter will have jobs that others won't be aware of.

Details, Details

It's easy to understand the value of increasing your reach in the recruiting community. However, along with these larger numbers comes a greater need for good record keeping. The right tools will help you stay on top of opportunities and avoid looking clueless yourself. Search the web for "contact management software" and pick one that fits your style and budget.

There are several things you'll want to track diligently. First, never expect the recruiter to stay in touch with you. They're busy running the numbers, remember? When you speak with someone, put a note in your calendar to follow up in a week if you haven't heard from them. You'll be amazed at how many times they have an opportunity and simply didn't get around to calling you.

Once you discuss a particular job, make notes of the details, including the amount of money you discussed. Most of all, it's imperative to get the name of the company before you agree to being submitted, as you don't want your resume to land on a hiring manager's desk more than once. In order to avoid a fight with multiple recruiting companies over which one should get the commission for placing you, they'll simply throw all of your resumes in the trash. Most recruiters understand this. However, should they refuse to tell you the company name, walk away. They're not the sort of people you want to work with.

Let's Make A Deal

Of course, before you get submitted for a job, you'll have to agree on a rate of pay. This is among the trickiest parts of the game, and the more successful in the industry are those willing to gamble a bit here and there. When a recruiter tosses out an hourly rate or annual salary, be aware of the fact that it¿s negotiable, and don¿t be afraid to ask for more. Always frame that desire in the context of how perfect you are for the job, but remember - if you don't ask, you don't get.

Often, they'll ask you how much you want before revealing their rate. Whoever makes the first offer is at a disadvantage, so just smile and ask them what they're offering. Once they tell you, let the bargaining begin. Their first offer is rarely the best they can do. The only way to find out what you're worth is to take a few chances to see what the market will bear. Having a lot of recruiters working for you gives you the confidence you'll need to reach for something better.

Another plus to working with recruiters is the opportunity it offers to let you fight your battles in private. In business, everything is negotiable, and there's certainly nothing wrong with a spirited round of bargaining. However, no matter how diplomatically you handle it, the process often generates tension between the two parties. By working with a third party who's used to this sort of thing, you leave any negatives tucked safely away behind the scenes, allowing you to show up for your first day on the job as the great new hire instead of that pesky individual who kept asking for more money.

As you work through the negotiating phase, don't let yourself get hung up on how much the recruiting company is making from the transaction. Just ask for what you want, and don't say yes unless you're comfortable with it. Once you're happy with the amount, everything else is irrelevant. Remember, these folks have to make a living just like you. Show your recruiter that you¿re realistic and understand how the business works, and you'll be well on your way to building a profitable, long term relationship.

Which brings us to our final consideration. You're going to be in this business a long time, and few jobs in our industry last forever. If you treat your recruiters like friends and act in an honorable and dependable manner, you'll be the first person they call when something new comes along, even if you already have a job. Eventually, you'll establish yourself throughout the city as the techie everyone wants, and that's a great place to be. There's nothing like having an army of enthusiastic professionals all competing to offer you the very best career in town.

Christopher Duncan is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Atlanta, Georgia.