Recruiters Prefer Someone They Know
If a recruiter has a position open, guess who their first move is when they want to fill it. If you guessed posting a job on a job site, you're wrong (at least most of the time). Recruiters are like any other human being and they want to get their work done with the least amount of effort. So a recruiter's first move is usually to call (or email) someone they already know. Posting a job on a job site is time consuming and typically requires having to deal with a deluge of responses (most job ads yield 300+ candidates responding with their resumes). It's much easier for the recruiter to try someone they know first.
Being the Candidate the Recruiter Calls First
In addition to the hassle associated with posting a job on a job site, there is another downside to a recruiter using this approach: since they don't know the people responding to a job posting, they have to take the time to review the resumes, talk to potential candidates, and try to get to a comfort level where they feel like they can recommend the person to a client. If you already have a relationship with a recruiter, they're going to be much more comfortable recommending you than someone else.
Don't Let the Relationship Die Out
Most job seekers, and frankly most recruiters, make the mistake of letting their relationships die out. Recruiters get busy with new open positions that have to be filled. Job seekers get distracted by new jobs to respond to or calls from new recruiters. So the time invested in getting to know each other often goes to waste. Does this mean you need to work hard at building a relationship with every recruiter you talk to? Not at all. Rather, you may notice as you go about your job search that certain recruiters seem to understand you and your strengths better than others. It is these recruiters who you want to stay in touch with.
Typically, the recruiters you want to maintain a relationship with will have come to a good enough understanding of your background that they've submitted your resume for a position that you recognize is a very good fit for your background and interests. You may even have gone on an interview that the recruiter has set up for you but it didn't work out for whatever reason. These are the recruiters who you want to maintain relationships with. If they recommended you for a job in the past, chances are they'd do it again in the future. For simplicity, let's refer to these people as "High Probability Recruiters."
Don't Be a Pest
While it's important to stay in touch, you also don't want to become a pest. If you haven't heard anything from one of the High Probability recruiters as described above for a couple weeks, go ahead and shoot them an email to let them know you're still on the market. In the long-term though, you don't want job searching to be the only reason you're in touch with a recruiter. Try to find out (in a phone conversation or in person) what some of their interests are. This gives you an opportunity to have something else to mention when you email them. For example, if you find out the person is fanatical about college basketball, you can email them if there was a great game on TV the night before.
Another way to keep up a relationship with a recruiter is to offer to be helpful to them. Networking expert Harvey MacKay has talked about how a friend of his, a former coach of the Notre-Dame football team, would always end conversations by asking sincerely if there was anything he could do to be helpful. In a recruiters case, they may have hard to fill positions that you could help them with by asking your friends if they know anyone who could be a good fit. If you demonstrate your willingness to help them, they will be much more open to maintaining a relationship with you, even if they do have a hefty workload and work schedule.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Brown is the author of the Job Search Handbook (http://www.JobSearchHandbook.com). As editor of the HireSites.com weekly newsletter on job searching, Scott has written many articles on the subject. He wrote the Job Search Handbook to provide job seekers with a complete yet easy to use guide to finding a job effectively.