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Working to work: professional recruiters help job-seekers. (Professional Recruiters).

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, especially when job hunting in today's economy. But don't lose heart. Professionals looking for a new position can boost their job search by working with a professional recruiting firm.

Recruiters often have the inside track on job openings and are aware of openings before they are advertised - as well as many jobs that aren't advertised. "We're an underground source of positions the public doesn't know about," says Jill Perelson, owner of Prince Perelson and a principal partner with the Diestel Group.

"Recruiters often have valuable insight about the company and can provide job candidates with valuable insight into what a firm is looking for in order to fill the position," notes Franci Eisenberg, senior executive and technical recruiter with Professional Recruiters.

There are two types of professional recruiting firms -- prepaid recruiters who are on retainer with a firm, and contingency recruiters who are paid only when they fill a position for the firm. Most recruiting agencies in Utah are contingency firms. Since recruiters are paid by the firms that hire them, candidates aren't expected to pay for the service.

But keep in mind when working with a recruiter that the client is paying the tab. "People often misunderstand the job of a recruiter," says Pete Taylor, manager with Management Recruiters International (MRI). "We work for the employer, not the employee."

Another misperception people have of recruiters is that they help candidates make the leap to a new career, which isn't necessarily true. "People have false expectations of what recruiters do," Perelson says. "We can help candidates find a job but can't help with career changes."

Before contacting a recruiter, be familiar with their areas of specialty. MRI, for example, specializes in outsource business processes, biotech, banking and local markets. Prince Perelson's specialties coincide with the industry needs. "We follow whatever is hot," Perelson says. "We're strong in F1 administration, accounting and finances, human resources, sales and marketing." Professional Recruiters serves a broad range of specialties.

Next, be ready to send in a current resume. Though this may seem obvious, recruiters find that often candidates haven't updated their resumes in years. A targeted resume is also critical since this is how a recruiter best determines whether a candidate is a match for a job. Recruiters can assist candidates in creating a targeted resume for a position. "Clients are looking for a piece of a puzzle," says Eisenberg. "An employee needs to include certain accomplishments, features in their resume that fit the puzzle if they legitimately have that experience."

Though styles of resumes vary, how the information is presented is critical to getting your foot in the door. "Treat your resume as a marketing tool instead of a chronology of your life," Perelson advises. "Look at job descriptions on Monster.com. Align your resume with the job description."

Contents of resumes are being scrutinized as never before, and rightfully so. Stories of high-profile executives padding their resumes have employers on guard. Last year, George O'Leary left Notre Dame after admitting he'd lied about his academic and athletic credentials on his resume, while former USOC president Sandy Baldwin was forced to resign after admitting she'd lied about the academic credentials on her resume.

Don't be surprised if a recruiter checks credentials listed on your resume. After all, their reputation depends on it. If a candidate misrepresents a fact, their resume is withdrawn from consideration. On the other hand, Eisenberg says, candidates should accentuate the positive and de-emphasize the negative.

Taylor advises candidates to ask recruiters to let them know when sending out their resume to potential employers. "Know what happens with your resume," Taylor says. "Some recruiters take the information and broadcast it out. Ask the recruiter not to send out your resume without prior knowledge."

The first step a recruiter takes when a client contacts them with a position to fill is to look at the pool of available candidates. "We throw our net as far and wide as we can to find the right candidate, whether it's from direct sourcing, professional associations, networking or referrals," says Perelson.

If your resume gets you in the door, be prepared to sell yourself. "The interview is the chance to tell your story," Perelson says. "Let the recruiter know how your experience and talents relate to the position available."

Other advice to heed when working with recruiters is to be open and honest. Using a couple of different recruiters without their knowledge will hurt you in the long run. "Don't sneak around," Eisenberg says. "It reflects poorly on an applicant's integrity to do so. Also, the client and recruiter don't want to get in a disagreement regarding an employee. They'll often toss out the applicant's resume for the position rather than get in a disagreement."

Finding the right job takes time, so be patient. When someone asks Eisenberg how long it will take to get a job, she answers, "As long as it takes to get the job done. I used to say one month for every $10,000, but not in today's economy. There are a lot of logistics involved in finding the right applicant. It takes longer than you think."

According to Perelson, the amount of time it takes to find a job depends on the position. "If it's a midlevel management position, it could take weeks or months. If it's an executive-level position, it could take a year," Perelson says.

How often should a candidate check in with a recruiter when job hunting? "Recruiters are market-driven, which means they're filling existing positions," Eisenberg says. "There's a point when staying in touch is too much, because more phone calls don't create more jobs. There's a balance."

That balance isn't necessarily clear. Times have changed, and the downturn in the economy has impacted recruiting firms. "Last year has been a challenge for everyone," Eisenberg says. "Many employers are puffing positions on hold."

Industries that are presently hiring recruiters include biotech and vitamin supplement firms, while recruiters are seeing less activity from technology companies.

And while there are fewer jobs available, there are more candidates in the job market. "Firms get deluged with resumes," Perelson says. "It's overwhelming to companies. There's a real need for a recruiter's help by going through the resumes and narrowing the candidate pool." Perelson also notes that the downturn in the economy has made candidates more realistic about wages and in general more grateful to have jobs.

RELATED ARTICLE: Tips When Working with a Recruiter

* Accurately represent your experience on your resume.

* Treat your resume as a marketing tool and an interview as an opportunity to sell yourself.

* Ask recruiters not to send out your resume without your prior knowledge and approval.

* Be open and honest with a recruiter. Let them know upfront if you're working with another recruiter.

* Let recruiters know what type of jobs you're interested in. Be specific about what you want to do.

* Have a clear understanding of what the market is offering and what companies are looking for.

* Keep a recruiter current on your information. Let them know when you have a new job.

* If you're not interested in the position, give recruiters names of others who might be.

* Let a recruiter know if your company is hiring and has a job opening.

Nancy Volmer is a Salt Lake City-based freelance writer.

Nancy Volmer has worked 18 years in communication and marketing for a variety of organizations including SLOC, the Salt Lake Chamber and Park City Chamber/Bureau. She is a graduate of Westminster's Master of Professional Communication Program and holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Utah. Volmer writes on a breadth of topics for various local and national publications.
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Author:Volmer, Nancy
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Date:Mar 1, 2003
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