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  5 Tips for Working With Executive Recruiters

Whether you're at the outset of your career, a mid-level manager or someone looking for that next executive-level position, at some point you're likely to consider an executive recruiter to help you take that next step. But finding the right match isn't as easy as picking up a phone book. There are several key tips to keep in mind when you're looking for a recruiter that will not only look out for your best interests, but also help you land your dream job.

DiversityInc recently interviewed several executives from Wachovia (No. 14 on The 2008 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity? list) to get the inside scoop on how you can get the most from working with a recruiter. Here are some of their best suggestions:

Be proactive in your search.

Think you're in your dream job now and have no reason to be talking to a recruiter? Then it's the perfect time to start looking for one, says Bret Marshall, a recruiter in the Capital Management Group at Wachovia.

"My biggest advice is don't wait until you need a job to start establishing relationships with executive recruiters, both inside and outside of companies," he says. "Executive roles are usually very specific and don't come along every day, so I'm always looking for people to establish that relationship with." In fact, Marshall says he recently extended a job offer to a candidate he first made contact with in 2003. "Sometimes it's five years in advance of when they might actually join the company. So the most important thing is to network all the time and not just when you absolutely need something to happen."

Do a comprehensive self-evaluation.

Jim Fahy, a corporate-business-executive recruiter with Wachovia, has been hiring talent for the company for the past seven years. He says undoubtedly he has the easiest time placing those that have a good sense of their background and capabilities. "Before you even talk to a recruiter you have to know who you are and who you aren't so you're not personally mismatched," he says.

Make sure diversity is high on the priority list.

When the recruiter is interviewing you, make sure you're asking questions as well. Chief among them should be ensuring the recruiter knows you want to work for a company that values diversity.

"The candidate should ask what the diversity philosophy is at that organization. What do they have in place to support diverse talent, and do they have an inclusive culture?" says Janet Manzullo, senior vice president, director recruiting solutions at Wachovia. "Everyone says they have one, but when you can, get a recruiter to articulate what that means. That recruiter on the outside should know the company well enough to articulate that and if he doesn't, that should send a signal to any candidate if the recruiter wasn't familiar with the diversity strategies and philosophies of a given company."

Be aware that the recruiter is usually working for the company not you.

There are two types of recruiters. Internal recruiters that search on behalf of the company they're hired by to fill positions and external recruiting firms contracted by companies. In both instances the recruiter's number-one goal is often to get the best fit for the company, not necessarily the best fit for you.

Marshall warns that when dealing with external recruiting companies, you may find yourself being represented as a candidate for positions at multiple companies. Since the recruiters are working with several companies at once, they may not be able to focus on how your individual skills match a specific job. By contrast, when internal recruiting specialists like Marshall are looking to fill roles within a specific company, they may have an easier time matching a candidate's experience with available positions. "When they call in and speak to someone like me, we are only representing Wachovia, so part of that initial expectation is for us to clearly understand where the strengths are in the candidate's background and then talk to them about where those strengths may fit in at our company," Marshall says.

Use every tool at your disposal.

Again, you're not going to find the perfect recruiter match by picking up the phone book. So use every other device at your disposal, from the Internet to word of mouth. Using your networking tools will prove critical to finding the right match.

"One of the best tools that I've found, and people have used it to find me, is LinkedIn," says Marshall, referring to the professional networking web site. "That's a great place to find executive recruiters. Once I needed to speak to someone at a company in St. Louis. I went on LinkedIn and found the head of recruiting, picked up the phone and called and said, 'I don't know you but I want to talk to you, and someone called me back within an hour.'"

DaCare is the leading bi-lingual executive search firm in China. Ranked top 10 in China by People's Daily.