Don’t wait until you need a recruiter to develop a relationship.
Target your overtures to consultants and research associates who do work in your job function or industry.
Contact research associates. Over the years, these individuals have taken on greater responsibility for search execution. They share responsibility with their search consultants for servicing clients and delivering successful searches. Unlike consultants, they have limited responsibility for client management and candidate assessment, and no responsibility for business development. They tend to work on a greater number of searches at one time because of this. As such, they can be good initial contact points for executives looking to establish a search firm relationship.
Do not cold call search firms. This will waste their time and yours.
Prior to contacting a targeted consultant or research associate, you should send your resume to them with an appropriate cover letter, and suggest that you will call them the next week for a brief 10-minute introduction. In a future post I will provide a good example of a cover letter.
Ensure that you have accurate and up-to-date information in their database.
When possible, establish a face-to-face presence. Ask to stop by their office for a ten-minute meeting when you are in their city. This should occur after you have developed a phone or Internet connection with them.
When they call you about an opportunity, be candid as to your fit and interest in the position. If it is not the right role for you, make a genuine effort to try and be helpful—this will be remembered.
If you become aware of an executive search that is about to be conducted within your firm or the industry, give your favorite recruiter a call and alert him or her of the new assignment opportunity—provided it is not confidential. Bringing in new searches is part of their livelihood. They will appreciate the lead and remember you for it.