Recruitment agents are a very useful—sometimes critical—part of job hunting. While it is possible to find a good role directly with an employer, most potential employers now use recruitment agents to advertise and pre-screen potential candidates.
Nowadays, once you’ve submitted a CV/resume in response to a particular job opportunity, your CV will be stored in the recruitment agencies database—whether or not you were successful in getting the job. Your experience and details can then be included in future searches by the agency. So, it’s essential that you include in your CV appropriate key words and terms relevant to your profession (within the context of the text of course, as someone will still eventually read our CV—ie. just a list of unsubstantiated keywords will certainly get your CV not included in future searches!). And keep your details up to date. This is best done by regularly keeping in touch with the agency; if you can find one person to keep in touch with, all the better.
Remember, recruitment agencies are paid to work for the employers, not you. But, building a good relationship with agencies helps them as well as you. For instance, if you see that you’re not suited for a particular role, but know a friend who is, then say so. You should tell your friend too, of course! And keep the agent informed of your job hunting progress. They know that you’re also working with other agents, but appreciate you keeping them advised. Maintaining a two-way relationship is essential—not only will it keep you in their mind when a suitable role for you comes up, but not respecting the importance of an agent will almost certainly lower your ranking with them when a potential opportunity comes along.
Headhunters are usually recruitment agents, but ones who actively seek candidates using their contacts and stored data such as previous CVs. Note, however that some headhunters are quite exclusive in the process they use to find potential candidates for a client, and will work through their own networks to find candidates, regardless of whether they already have their details.
However, it is possible to register your details and CV with most headhunters, which at least gets you included in their searches.
If a headhunter contacts you and presents an opportunity that may not appeal to you, the best thing to do is to hear what they have to say and have an open conversation. Ask them why they think you’re suited for the role—you may be surprised.