Working with a recruiter or headhunter can be a great benefit in your job hunt, but only if you understand their role in the hiring process.
The recruiter's job is not to help you find employment. The recruiter works for a client and their job is to find the best possible candidate to fill the position the client needs to fill. There are essentially two types of recruiters for full-time permanent jobs: contingency and retained search.
Contingency recruiters aren't paid unless their client hires a candidate they submit. If a recruiter advertises a search for "my client," but doesn't include the name of the client, it is likely a contingency search.
Retained search recruiters are paid by a client to take on an exclusive role in a given search, with the understanding that they will receive a higher level of service and more complete candidate vetting than is typically the case with a contingency firm. Executive level searches often call for retained search recruiters.
Recruiters generally work with candidates they know they can place depending on the openings they are trying to fill at the moment. While they might have feedback for you regarding your resume and other marketing materials, they are not a job coach or career counselor. They are also likely to ask tough questions and test your interest, skills, and experience as they try to determine if you are or would be a candidate for them. If they do decide to work with you, clearly communicate what are the most important criteria for you to make a move. Nothing is more frustrating for a recruiter than doing all the work required to get you the offer only to have you rejected later.
Remember, the process could take time. The recruiter might not have a job for you at the moment, but something could come up in a few weeks. One thing you can do to if you want to be top of mind for a recruiter is help them by providing a referral is possible. Maybe you are not the right candidate for a position, but you know someone who could be. Connect them to that person.
Not every job seeker will find success working with a recruiter. However, if you are accomplished in your field and committed to staying in it, building relationships with recruiters who specialize in your skill set and industry will be a great asset in your job hunt.
For a list of recruiting firms in the area based on the area they specialize go to Career Connect and visit the Career Resources Library.