While it may seem that recruiters just randomly bombard your email box and message machines, they're actually your best ally.

By Megan Fleming | August 2006

"I sent my resume in, the recruiter seemed interested, then I never heard back." "I posted my resume and now my phone is ringing off the hook with calls from aggressive recruiters." "I'm a QA analyst and I get e-mails from recruiters about C++ jobs."

Any tech candidate will tell you that finding a job can be frustrating and time consuming. Most are also quick to pin the blame for their frustration on recruiters. While it may seem that recruiters just randomly bombard your email box and message machines, they're actually your best ally. "If you're put off by recruiters, it closes your network," says Steve Ferber, a solutions manager at a technology solutions company.

Recruiters know about the best jobs in the industry and have their finger on the pulse of the job market. If you know what to expect from recruiters and know how to respond to them, you¿ll lessen your frustration and improve your chances of success.

What should you expect from recruiters?

Recruiters may be time-pressed and face stiff competition for the best candidates, but they should always be upfront, honest, and professional.

Know Their Type

Did you know there are different types of recruiters? Third party recruiters and staffing agencies search for candidates on behalf of a hiring company. Companies employ direct recruiters to hire new employees directly for the firm. Be sure you know what type of recruiter you¿re talking to because it makes a difference. If it's not clear, just ask. "A lot of people don't understand the difference between general recruiters and internal recruiters like myself. I really try to let candidates know that I work for a company and that I¿m directly evaluating them for a position at my company," Jason Kreuser, corporate technical recruiter for Information Builders Inc., a software development company.

Expect Honesty

Gina Padilla, director of business development at Sharf, Woodward & Associates, Inc., a tech recruiting company, says recruiters must be forthcoming about what they do with a candidate's resume. "Candidates have a right to know who their resume is going to," says Padilla. "They should get the name and phone number of the recruiter and the name of the company that they¿re hiring for. If the recruiter refuses to give that information to you, hang up."

Work with Professionals

Most recruiters are hard-working, honest, professionals but as in any industry, there are some recruiters that aren't. Andrey Butov, a software developer who knows the recruiting process inside and out, urges candidates to use their judgment and gauge a recruiter¿s integrity and professionalism from the first conversation. "For me, a good recruiter is one who sounds least like a used car salesman."

What's your responsibility as a candidate?

Make it easy on yourself and improve your odds of landing the job - be organized, available, and professional.

Be Organized

Butov says that managing recruiters' calls and emails can be overwhelming. "The pitfalls and logistics of who is who and where they're from and where they sent your resume are very hard to keep up with."

The key is to remain organized. "Job seekers need to be very organized with their submissions process. Candidates should look at the company online, do the research, and know the job before they apply," says Kreuser. You should also maintain a list with the names and numbers of recruiters who've been in contact, as well as when and where they¿ve sent your resume.

Mike Bridges, a principal QA analyst who frequently works with recruiters, suggests candidates be organized about their goals as well. "Know what you are looking for. Pre-qualify leads about your criteria - like salary and location - so you don't waste time."

Be Available

Maintaining confidentiality and finding time to talk with recruiters are two of the biggest challenges for job seekers, especially candidates who are employed. A separate email address and phone number with a message system just for your job search can streamline organization and maintain privacy.

It's also important to establish - and clearly communicate - contact parameters for recruiters. "There are a lot of ways to deal with a deluge of calls or e-mails from recruiters," says Padilla. "Start by putting directions for contacting you on your profile. You can say:'Please call me after 5 p.m. at this number,' or 'Leave me a message and I'll return your call.'"

Be Professional

You must do your best to respond to recruiters as quickly and professionally as possible. "Don't burn bridges," says Kreuser. "It tends to become a pretty small town when you're in an industry long enough." That's especially important when negotiations are underway with a recruiter. "When yo've really started the process of learning about the job and talking to them, don't just cut them off," says Kreuser. "If you're not interested or you've moved on and found another opportunity, at least e-mail the recruiter and let them know."

One last tip for candidates working with recruiters: Try establishing a small, personal network of recruiters you know and trust. Fostering a long-term relationship with just a few recruiters can pay off as it did for Steve Ferber. "There are a few recruiters that I've stayed in touch with for 15¿20 years," says Ferber. "It¿s been an advantage because they still know me and can help me when I need it."

The bottom line: Recruiters ¿ and job seekers ¿ should always be professional and responsive. Kreuser sums it up this way, "If people on both sides consciously think about their communication process, it would work a lot more smoothly."

Megan Fleming is a freelance writer who lives in New Mexico.