4. Recruiters know what the best job fit is for you
Many times, recruiters who call you are simply fishing to round up a batch of potential candidates. They may actually know very little about your work experience and current situation beyond what they have seen via your social media profile and online résumé.
It's up to you to take charge so that you don't waste your time getting calls for jobs that don't interest you. Ask upfront if there's a specific job they have in mind for you, and be clear about the salary you require. Prepare to answer detailed questions about your résumé, job experience and any gaps in employment.
You should be able to "quickly review the highlights of your career success, the things that you think clearly separate you from all the other candidates out there," says Dixon. "Quantify your achievements. Don't simply say that you improved results … instead state that you improved results by 47 percent and saved the company $2 million. Using numbers drives home your achievements much more than just words."
Many recruiters look at how often you have switched jobs. Job changers aren't looked on favorably. They will also want a list of references. And the recruiter might need to know if you have any issues with relocation if the job involves that. If you have to travel to get to an interview, be clear on who is paying the travel expenses.
Depending on the job opening and employer, the recruiter will probably ask if you're willing to agree to a drug test, criminal background check, reference checks, educational background checks and credit checks.
Next, tell the recruiter that you want to be notified when your résumé is sent to one of his clients or if he makes any changes to your résumé.
One caveat: Your conversations with recruiters should be kept strictly to business. They're not your career coach. Don't mention money concerns or insecurities about your chances for landing the job. And unless it's part of the job description, this is not the time to ask about telecommuting policies or other flextime options. Save that for until after you get an offer.
5. If you don't get the job, they will stay in touch
It's a recruiter's job to find people for jobs, not jobs for people. "A recruiter will show interest in a candidate when they have a position that they think the candidate is qualified for," says Dixon. "So if a recruiter doesn't call you, it means that they don't have a position that matches your qualifications at the time."
That said, many of the best recruiters network with other recruiters. So even if they don't have an open requisition that's perfect for you right now, if you have built a good rapport with them, they just may know of another opportunity and make an introduction, Babbitt says.
6. They're résumé wizards
Résumé writing is not a recruiter's job, but it's generally in his or her wheelhouse. While good recruiters will take the time to fine-tune your résumé for the specific job at hand, this isn't a revamp for you to use universally. The onus is on you to bring a résumé that's in good shape.
"Both recruiting agencies I worked for required recruiters to rewrite résumés," says Jackson. "We stripped objectives from résumés and replaced them with summaries that bulleted sentences targeting the parts of the candidate's experience that matched the job opening. We added information that was obtained from our screening interviews. This is so that the hiring manager will immediately see if the candidate is a match. Additionally, we proofed the résumés for consistency, matching tenses, spelling and format."
7. The recruiter negotiates your salary with the employer
Recruiters aren't paid to negotiate your salary. That's your job. Recruiters are paid by the employer, so technically it's in the best interest of the employer to keep your salary within the set parameters.
Many recruiters, however, will provide coy advice like, "I wouldn't take their first offer" or "If it was me …" says Babbitt. "Even the noncommitted recruiters who refuse to give advice will send you to resources such as Glassdoor.com and Salary.com so you walk into the interview with data that will help you make a good decision."
That's not surprising. The recruiter's fee is paid by the client — typically based on a percentage of what your annual salary will be.
Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her books include What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.
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