Remember that search firms are hired by organizations to fill specific positions; their customer is the employer. Recruiters are interested in qualified candidates, but most of their attention has to go to those who meet the criteria for the searches they are conducting at the moment.

The best way to be noticed is to respond to a posting for a current search. Leslie Hortum of Spencer Stuart appreciates a letter that says, "I understand you're conducting a search for X. I feel I may be a good match for that position for these three reasons." 

If you don’t find a current posting that’s right for you, note the kinds of jobs the search firm often handles. If they work in your field, you may get into their database by asking them to keep your resume on file for the next relevant search.

Your prospects improve if you can write a recruiter on the referral of someone they know. Many will circulate referrals among peers within their firm and get them into the database,

Each search firm has its own way of handling the dozens of unsolicited resumes it receives each week. A few start make it into the firm’s database; most get discarded. If you chose this route, make sure it’s only one element of your search.

Published in Associations Now, May 2006