If you’re conducting an active job hunt, you’re probably aware that working with a recruiter can be an effective method for your search. However, finding a recruiter that specializes in your field can be a daunting prospect. Where should you look? How do you know what to expect? And what precisely should you be prepared to provide?

Finding and effectively collaborating with recruiters is mostly a matter of sharpening your networking skills (which is a good idea during any phase of a job search!).

Read on for some ways to expand your options and locate key professional recruiting contacts that may also be looking for YOUR expertise:

1 – Avail yourself of professional organizations in your industry. These associations can be a boon to the active job hunter, as they frequently offer job postings, member networking events, and other resources that can help you tap into unadvertised positions.

Recruiters who source candidates from a particular industry will often attend professional association meetings. Where allowed, recruiters may introduce themselves with the idea to stay in touch, although most won’t solicit members directly.

If you don’t attend association meetings, there’s never been a better time to start. Perform an Internet search for organizations in your industry, and attend some of their events in order to familiarize yourself with potential new resources for your transitions.

2 – Consider automating part of your search. Recruiter distribution services abound on the Internet and elsewhere. What do they offer? For most, this is a combination of fast access to recruiters, plus ease of use.

When evaluating different distribution services (a few are ResumeRabbit, ResumeMachine, Resume Zapper, and ResumePromotion). Be sure to compare distribution coverage (as in the number of major metropolitan areas), plus the number of recruiters that the service claims to have in their network.

Two caveats should be mentioned in conjunction with resume distribution: first, not all recruiters appreciate receiving an emailed resume, and may not respond, and second, if your resume isn’t a fit for current openings, you may not receive the same level of personal consideration had you contacted the recruiter personally.

In addition, if you aren’t a great candidate for the requirements of the market, distributing your resume to recruiters won’t increase your chances of success. However, in terms of time savings, this type of mass distribution can definitely cut some corners.

3 – Use online social networks to find additional contacts. This method also allows you to view recruiter qualifications and specializations. For example, if you’re concentrating on getting out of the mortgage industry, contacting a recruiter who works exclusively with technical sales professionals would not be a fit.

Conversely, most recruiters who maintain profiles on LinkedIn or other social networking sites will delineate what they are looking for in a candidate, and this can save you some time.

4 – Build your own online profile to make it easy for recruiters to find YOU. If you don’t already maintain your own LinkedIn profile, this is a great time to jump on board. Visit www.LinkedIn.com to build an online presence, add connections from your email address book, and start looking around to see what else is offered, including plenty of job postings and professional advice.

You can also view my LinkedIn profile here, and be sure to connect with me to find out how many recruiters are in my network.

5 – Send a brief query that indicates your interest, and then follow up. After you’ve identified recruiters that specialize in your field, it’s best to attach a resume for perusal, or point to your online profile to give the recruiter more information. Follow up with a phone call to gauge the level of interest and start building a relationship.

I recommend sending out a short, pointed letter of inquiry, rather than a wordy description of your skills. Recruiters are by definition quite busy, and they’ll appreciate your brevity.

To summarize, finding recruiters takes the same type of activity that you would typically engage in for a job search.Be prepared, just as you would be to approach an employer, to review your goals in some detail and decide if there’s a collaborative fit.

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