Johanna Rothman over at Hiring Technical People has recently blogged a colleague's comments about the benefits of befriending those of the Recruiting persuasion. Although being aimed more at those recruiters working in Agencies I'm not 100% sure I agree with them all.
1. Some of the best jobs / candidates are rarely advertised
This is largely true. When I used to work in an agency often we didn't advertise because we were already calling a contact we knew was right for that particular role. When a requirement arrived from a candidate it was immediately followed up with a call to discuss the finer points and acknowledge receipt, then with the call finished a "top 3" candidates landed in the client's inbox. These were people with whom I had an existing relationship and the only way you can get into this "first pass"...befriend a recruiter.
2. If you refer people to your friend the recruiter, there is the possibility of a finders fee
For some agencies this is true, I wouldn't hold your breath! The best way to supplement your income in dealing with a recruiter is to let them find you a better paid role. It's a little mercenary to trade on your friends. That said, referral networks are big business, look at commercial ventures like LinkedIn, now a billion dollar company. These networks are not closed shops to recruiters and if you have any form of online presence you should expect to be contacted.
3. They can keep you aware of trends in the local market
Absolutely, if you want to know about hiring trends, downturns and new projects launching it's the Recruiters who will have the inside track. Whether it's official or not, one of the first questions a recruiter will ask a speculative candidate is "Why are you thinking of leaving?". Ask that question to 100 people, a week and eventually you're going to build up a pretty good picture of the business landscape.
4. You might be able to get a free lunch every so often.
I'd hope this is a joke, and if it isn't candidates need to be aware that the impression they give to Recruiters will speak volumes about the professionalism the recruiter believes they will display to their clients. Chances are that to an agency recruiter a client relationship is worth more than a candidate relationship.
I'd add one major exception to the list, make friends with a recruiter you trust. It's all too easy to fall foul of an inexperienced "Recruitment Consultant" so it's important that your career aspirations are in the hands of someone you trust. Use agencies wisely and if there's a company that you know you'd like to work for contact them directly. Send a speculative CV if necessary and follow up with a personal touch of a call or email - you can further gauge the reality of that company based on the type of response you get. If you think you we're treated shoddily in the hiring process what makes you think things will be different on the other side? Recruiters are the reflection of the internal culture of any company, it's their job to find out what's best about their employer and project it further - a recruiter with nothing to be passionate about may well be working for an organisation that there is nothing to get passionate about.