HR Specialist

Archive for the ‘Human Resources’ Category

New ADA regulations & how to prepare

In Human Resources on November 8, 2010 at 3:47 pm

The EEOC has proposed new regulations to enforce the expanded version of the Americans with Disabilities Act passed last year. They’re going to have a big impact on many HR functions, including hiring.

The law doesn’t, and never did, require you to hire anyone who’s unqualified. But with new opportunities for people to sue, it’s important than ever to keep the hiring process focused on the applicant’s ability to do the job.

Call Cardinal — & keep those job descriptions up to date.

Click here for a summary of the new regulations.


Supervisors Are The Key to High Employee Engagement And Customer Loyalty

In Human Resources on June 1, 2010 at 8:11 am

As customer expectations ratchet higher and higher, companies are looking for creative strategies that will keep their customers from fleeing to the competition. Great customer experiences are the new differentiator. Customers ask themselves, “If I can get fabulous service from a Zappo’s service rep, why I can’t get the same experience when I call every other company?” Top companies are focusing on building the engagement and commitment level of the customer-facing employees.

Employees who are dedicated to delighting customers are game changers. Research has proven a direct correlation between high customer satisfaction and high employee engagement. Employee engagement scores account for as much as half of the variance in customer satisfaction scores. This translates into millions of dollars for companies if they can improve their scores. Studies demonstrated that engaged employees are more productive, more profitable, more customer-focused, safer and less likely to leave their employer.

For customer-centric companies like Zappos, Southwest Airlines and Nordstrom’s, creating high employee engagement is a core business strategy. According to the latest research by the Ascent Group on customer service success, the most highly rated companies focus on the human aspect of customer care. Ascent says, “People matter. Engaged employees are the key to excellent customer service. Engaged employees are employees who feel as though they are truly valued at work; that their efforts directly contribute towards the mission and success of the company.”

The definition of “employee engagement” varies. Most experts agree that engaged employees care about the future of the company and dedicate their discretionary effort to making the company successful. In customer service, engaged employees consistently deliver top box customer care by “going the extra mile” for customers.

The sad fact is that as important as these stellar performers are to a company’s profitability and long-term viability, according to Gallup, only a small percentage of employees (28 percent) consider themselves truly engaged. Studies by Gallup, Towers & Perrin, and others point to several key drivers of employee engagement, one of the most important of which is the quality of supervision and support employees receive from their immediate supervisor. According to Gallup, “Supervisors who cultivate positive, caring relationships with agents generate high levels of engagement.”

It makes sense that when employees tasked with serving customers have the confidence of knowing their supervisor cares about them, they feel more valued. When these service providers feel valued, they are eager to pass that positive feeling on to their customers by making them feel valued and important.

What makes the supervisors who have highly-engaged employees different, is how they view their relationship with their direct reports. Rather than seeing themselves as an enforcer of performance; they consider their role as a manager and developer of front-line talent. While conventional supervisors rate the person and develop the performance, this new breed of supervisor does just the opposite—they rate the performance and develop the person. Highly effective leaders believe that every person is different and should be treated as such.

Despite the fact that quality supervision is a critical success factor in delivering superior customer service and a key driver to employee engagement, supervisors are among the most under trained and ill-prepared employees in many companies. Most supervisors are experienced service reps promoted from within the service center. New supervisors receive training in the technical and systems side of managing a service operation, but rarely receive in-depth training in coaching and mentoring—two of the basic skills for gaining employee commitment and engagement.

In addition to engagement skills training, supervisors require three more ingredients in order to be successful: time, tools and accountability.
Building engagement requires regular one-to-one interaction. Internal surveys reveal that what service professionals crave most was quality “face time” with their immediate supervisor. Eight out of 10 supervisors asked if they could meet that need said they were too busy with other tasks. But, when these same supervisors examined how they spent their time, they discovered they could easily increase the amount of face time with their team if they let go of “low-value” tasks and activities.
Supervisors need the right tools to open up communication and build trust. Trust is the cornerstone of employee engagement. Leaders gradually build trust by taking the time to get to know each employee. Fables and parables in book form are becoming popular tools for leaders at all levels to use to connect with their employees in meaningful ways. Supervisors find that the shared experience of having read the same book opens doors to discussing crucial issues such as: how to achieve work-life balance, how to live personal and corporate core values, enhancing relationships with co-workers and family members, as well as learning healthy ways for dealing the inherent challenges of working with customers every day.

What gets measured gets done. When supervisors are responsible for employee engagement survey scores, they dedicate the time and energy necessary to meet that goal. Many are delighted to discover that when their team’s engagement scores improved, so did other performance metrics. In a recent survey, supervisors commented that while they already knew how important it was to connect with their people and build a more trusting relationship, a formal measurement tool provided important validation.

It is clear that the key to long-term success and any company’s ability to build customer loyalty and gain more market share to focus on the quality of the experience customers receive from customer-facing employees. Focus the necessary resources on making these important employees feel valued. As corporate executives and HR craft plans for improving customer care, it’s best to keep one basic fact in mind—customer service is the business of people helping people.

Determining Independent Contractor Status

In Human Resources on May 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

 Appropriately classifying individuals as employees or independent contractors can be more complex than it appears. One complexity involved in determining independent contractor status, notes Attorney James Coleman, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Constangy, Brooks and Smith, is that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII of federal civil rights law, and some state-level regulations each define such contractors in slightly different ways.

Focus, Coleman says, on the big areas of commonality among the laws that define independent contractor status, such as these:

  1. Independent contractors commonly work for several businesses, not just one;
  2. They should provide their own tools and resources;
  3. There should be a low level of control exercised by the hiring entity over the contractor; for example, the focus should be on the contractor’s completed output, and not on how he or she does the work, and particular hours of work should not be dictated; and
  4. The method of compensation will typically be on a project basis–for a certain amount of product or service–rather than hourly.

An IRS study of misclassification in 1984 found that about 15 percent of employers nationally had wrongly categorized a total of 3.4 million employees. A more recent study, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, found in 2005 that 10.3 million workers, or about 7.4 percent of the workforce, were classified as independent contractors.

Arguably the strictest definition of independent contractors is that of Massachusetts, created by a 2009 legal opinion: no contractor in that state may perform any work for a company that is similar to work performed by employees. Only such services as plumbing, landscaping, legal advice, and the like qualify as contract work. Coleman believes such a method of determining independent contractor status may be government overreaction that will make doing business much tougher for state companies. He strongly believes that both state and federal lawmakers should focus on genuine abuses of classification rather than striving to generate revenue for tax coffers.

“By and large, most workers are properly classified as employees by most employers,” Coleman says. But he agrees that some employers do deliberately declare people independent contractors, because it’s very tempting to save significant amounts of money compared to maintaining employees’ benefits packages and paying payroll, unemployment insurance, and other taxes. It’s often estimated, for example, that those expenses add at least 30 percent to an employee’s wages or salary. So, Coleman advises, “If it walks like an employee, talks like an employee, and smells like an employee,” classify the person as an employee.

The following resources can help you determine whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee and provide further details of what constitutes and employer-independent contractor relationship:

55 Jobs with High Growth in 2010

In Human Resources on May 5, 2010 at 9:34 am

Although 2009 saw some of the most desolate unemployment numbers in history, there is reason to believe that things are starting to look up.

Both the unemployment rate and the number of jobless persons decreased in November to 10 percent and 15.4 million, respectively, according to the most recent date from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was down from October, when the unemployment was at an all-time-high of 10.2 percent and there were 15.7 million unemployed persons.

In addition, although employment fell in several industries, several groups saw little change or added jobs in November. Employment in professional and business services rose by 86,000, with temporary help services adding 52,000 jobs, the majority of the increase. Since July, temporary help services employment has risen by 117,000. Health-care employment rose to 21,000 in November, with gains in home health-care services (7,000) and hospitals (7,000). The health-care industry has added 613,000 jobs since the recession began in December 2007. While there was little change in wholesale and retail trade, department stores added 8,000 jobs over the month. Finally, the number of jobs in transportation and warehousing, financial activities, and leisure and hospitality showed little change over the month.

As these numbers continue to trend upward, there should be hope for the millions of people still looking for a job in 2010. The labor force is projected to increase by 12.6 million people during the 2008-18 period, according to the BLS. Total employment is expected to increase by 10.1 percent, adding about 15.3 million workers over the decade — including in 2010.

It should be noted, however, that the jobs that will be added won’t be evenly distributed across industries and occupational groups. It goes without saying that changes in consumer demand, technology and the like will continue to affect the economic structure.

If you’re looking for a job this year, here are 55 (of many) jobs to look for in 2010, defined as jobs that saw growth in the second half of 2009 in every industry.*

Industry: Management, business and financial operations
Jobs that saw growth in management:

1. Marketing and sales managers

2. Purchasing managers

3. Property, real estate and community association managers

Jobs that saw growth in business and financial operations:
4. Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products

5. Cost estimators

6. Meeting and convention planners

Industry: Professional and related occupations
Jobs that saw growth in computer and mathematics:

7. Computer programmers

8. Network systems and data communications analysts

9. Statisticians

Jobs that saw growth in architecture and engineering:
10. Electrical and electronics engineers

11. Materials engineers

12. Engineering technicians, except drafters

Jobs that saw growth in life, physical and social sciences:
13. Market and survey researchers

14. Psychologists

15. Urban and regional planners

Jobs that saw growth in community and social services:
16. Counselors

17. Social workers

18. Religious activities and education director

Jobs that saw growth in legal:
19. Judges, magistrates and other judicial workers

20. Paralegals and legal assistants

Jobs that saw growth in education, training and library:
21. Archivists, curators and museum technicians

22. Librarians

Jobs that saw growth in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media:
23. Designers

24. Athletes, coaches, umpires and related workers

25. Editors

Jobs that saw growth in health-care practitioner and technical:
26. Chiropractors

27. Occupational therapists

28. Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Industry: Service occupations
Jobs that saw growth in health-care support:

29. Nursing, psychiatric and home-health aides

30. Massage therapists

31. Dental assistants

Jobs that saw growth in protective services:
32. Firefighters

33. Bailiffs, correctional officers and jailers

Jobs that saw growth in food preparation and serving related occupations:
34. Chefs and head cooks

35. Bartenders

Jobs that saw growth in building and grounds cleaning and maintenance:
36. Pest control workers

37. Grounds maintenance workers

Jobs that saw growth in personal care and service:
38. Tour and travel guides

39. Child-care workers

40. Recreation and fitness workers

Industry: Sales and office occupations
Jobs that saw growth in sales and related:

41. Cashiers

42. Advertising sales agents

43. Travel agents

Jobs that saw growth in office and administrative support:
44. Customer service representatives

45. Human resources assistants, except payroll and timekeeping

46. Office machine operators, except computer

Industry: Natural resources, construction and maintenance
Jobs that saw growth in construction and extraction:

47. Carpenters

48. Cement masons, concrete finishers and terrazzo workers

49. Electricians

Industry: Installation, maintenance and repair
Jobs that saw growth:

50. Automotive body and related repairers

51. Electrical and electronics installers and repairers, transportation

Industry: Production, transportation and material moving
Jobs that saw growth in production:

52. Bakers

53. Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers and weighers

Jobs that saw growth in transportation and material moving:
54.  Refuse and recyclable material collectors

55.  Industrial truck and tractor operators

7 Things You Should Say in an Interview

In Human Resources on April 26, 2010 at 8:29 am

Today’s job market is as competitive as ever. You need to be able to effectively communicate you skill set so that you will give yourself the best competitive advantage to secure employment. During the interview process, you want to highlight as many of your strengths as possible. An easy way to do this is by slipping a few simple phrases into your next job interview. Here are seven things you should say in an interview.

1. I am very familiar with what your company does.
Letting a prospective employer know that you are familiar with what a company does shows that you have a legitimate interest in the business and are not just wasting their time. Do your homework before arriving for an interview. Check out the company website for information about products and services. Search for the latest transactions and pertinent business news.

Be sure to let the interviewer know that you are familiar with the newest company acquisition or the latest product that was just developed. Explain how your skills and experience are a perfect fit for the employer.

2. I am flexible.
Work environments are always changing. Prospective employers are looking for candidates that are open to change and can adapt at a moment’s notice. In today’s fast paced business world, employees must have the ability to multi-task.

Stating that you are adaptable lets an employer know that you are willing to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. This may mean working additional hours or taking on additional job duties in a crunch. Show your potential employer that you are equipped to deal with any crisis situation that may arise.

3. I am energetic and have a positive attitude.
Employers are looking for candidates with optimism and a “can-do” attitude. Attitudes are contagious and have a direct affect on company morale. Let the optimist in you shine during the interview process.

Be sure to always speak positively about past employers. Negative comments and sarcastic statements about past employers and co-workers will make you look petty. If you bad mouth your past company, employers are liable to believe that you will do the same thing to them.

4. I have a great deal of experience.
This is your chance to shine. Highlight any previous job duties that relate directly to your new job. If it is a management position, state every time that you were responsible for the supervision, training and development of other employees. Discuss your motivational techniques and specific examples of how you increased productivity. Feel free to list any training classes or seminars that you have attended.

5. I am a team player.
Do you remember when you were young and your teacher wanted to know if you could work well with others? Well the job market is no different! Companies are looking for employees that are cooperative and get along well with other employees. Mentioning that you are a team player lets your prospective employer know that you can flourish in group situations. Employers are looking for workers that can be productive with limited supervision and have the ability to work well with others.

6. I am seeking to become an expert in my field.
Employers love applicants that are increasing their knowledge base to make themselves the best employees possible. Stating that you are aiming to become an expert causes employers to view you as an asset and not a liability. You are a resource that other employees can learn from.

This is also a subtle way of illustrating that you have an attitude of excellence. You are aiming to be the best at what you do! This will let employers know that you are not just a fly-by-night employee, but in it for the long run.

7. I am highly motivated.
A motivated employee is a productive employee. Talk about how your high level of motivation has led you to accomplish many things. If you are a meticulous worker, discuss your organizational skills and attention to detail. Companies are always looking for dependable employees that they can count upon.

The Bottom Line
Remember that a job interview is an opportunity to sell yourself to a prospective employer. Be sure to slip in the right phrases to give you the best chance possible of securing that cushy corner office on the ninth floor.

Are Your Employees Happy?

In Human Resources on April 12, 2010 at 10:43 am

As job losses continue to pile up, the vast majority of Americans still say they love their job as much as before the recession, a year ago.

Of 2,158 Americans surveyed by the Swiss human resources firm Adecco, 78 percent report they love what they do as much as or more than before the start of the recession. Only 14 percent said the economic downturn has made loving their job less important.

But the report also suggests their true feelings are mixed. Fifty-four percent would pick another career if they could choose again. And the biggest pre-workweek emotion was not excitement or even indifference, but gratitude. Forty-one percent reported that appreciation for having a job as their dominant feeling on Sundays.

Bernadette Kenny, Adecco North America’s chief career officer, warned employers against taking advantage of these feelings by overworking employees.

“While it is normal for companies to ask their staff to do more during a recession to keep the business performing successfully, equally important is recognizing the limits to each employees’ time and capabilities,” she said.

After fifteen years of research into well-being in the workplace, Thomas Wright, a professor of management and chair of business administration at Kansas State University, concludes happy employees are crucial to a successful organization.

“The bottom line is that there’s a definite benefit for companies,” he said. “Whether it’s just a means to an end or an end in-and-of itself, the evidence is extremely clear that the individuals who have better psychological well-being are better performers.”

7 Things Your Boss Should Never Say to You

In Human Resources on April 1, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Last week, I listed seven things employees should never say to bosses. A look at the various comment threads shows that a few bosses out there could also benefit from a review of the basics of good workplace relations–not to mention a quickie refresher of what constitutes good leadership.

So, bosses, are you listening? Here are seven things you, as a boss, should never say to your employees:

1. “I pay your salary. You have to do what I say.” Have you not heard? It’s the 21st century. Threats and power plays just do not cut it anymore (and they were always a terrible way to manage). Yes, you pay people’s salaries but that doesn’t mean you’re their lord and master. You are their leader, however. Leaders lead by inspiring, teaching, encouraging, and, yes, serving their employees. Good leaders never need to threaten. So keep your word, set a good example, praise in public, criticize in private, respect your employees’ capabilities, give credit where credit is due, learn to delegate, and when you ask for feedback don’t forget to respond to it. (Another sentence to be avoided: “Do what I say, not what I do.”)

2. “I don’t want to listen to your complaints.” Hey, boss, you have this backwards. You do want to listen to employees’ complaints. That’s part of your job. You should be actively seeking feedback, even negative feedback. It may be annoying, even painful, but that’s why you get the big bucks. Complaints point to where your processes and practices need improvement. And even if a problem absolutely can’t be helped, allowing your employees to vent can go a long way toward restoring morale and building loyalty.

3. “I was here on Saturday afternoon. Where were you?” This kind of “subtle” pressure to work 24/7 is a good way to burn out your employees. You won’t get that much more productivity out of them, and you will destroy morale. You may choose to work seven days a week. That’s your call. But your employees shouldn’t have to. If you observe that they are working way more than their job descriptions call for, consider that maybe it’s because you’re overloading them. Look for ways to fix this problem.

4. “Isn’t your performance review coming up soon?” Maybe you’re trying to motivate an employee to do a better job. Maybe this is just a ham-handed way to remind underlings of who has the power. Who knows. Either way, a statement like this is not only tacky and passive-aggressive, it’s ineffective. If you really want to motivate people, consider giving them a stake in the success of your enterprise. Show employees you value them. Let them know what they have to gain by doing a good job. The results may surprise you.

5. “We’ve always done it this way.” Want to crush your employees’ initiative? This is a good way. News flash: Your employees may actually have a pretty good idea of how to do their jobs. Maybe they know even more than you. Your job as boss is to encourage them to have the energy and motivation to be innovative. In fact, employees who come up with better ways to do things should be celebrated and rewarded. (Hint: Cash is nice.)

6. “We need to cut costs” (at the same time you are, say, redecorating your office). Nothing breeds resentment more than asking employees to tighten their belts while you, to their eyes, are living it up. Even if the office redecoration can be totally justified in business terms, or the budget for it was a gift from your uncle, it still looks hypocritical and is demoralizing. Being sensitive to other people’s feelings is good karma. Leading by example is the best way to lead.

7. “You should work better.” Managers need to communication expectations clearly, to give employees the tools they need to do a good job, to set reasonable deadlines, and to offer help if needed. When giving instructions, ask if they understand your instructions. Don’t assume. You may not be the stellar communicator you think you are. If your employees are making mistakes, or not performing up to par, consider that maybe it’s because you’re giving them vague instructions like “you should work better.”

The bottom line is that in the workplace respect, a little tact, and a good attitude go both ways.


7 Things Never to Say to Your Boss

In Human Resources on March 29, 2010 at 8:44 am

A big part of maintaining the boss-employee relationship is to never allow a boss to think you dislike your work, are incapable of doing it, or–worse–consider it beneath you.

These sound like no-brainers, but many statements heard commonly around the workplace violate these basic rules. Looking for an example? Here are seven heard in workplaces all the time. They may seem ordinary, even harmless. But try reading these from your boss’s point of view. You’ll see right away why it’s smart to never allow these seven sentences to pass your lips:

“That’s not my job.” You know what? A lot of bosses are simple souls who think your job is to do what’s asked of you. So even if you’re assigned a task that is, indeed, not your job, refrain from saying so. Instead, try to find out why your boss is assigning you this task–there may be a valid reason. If you believe that doing the task is a bad idea (as in, bad for the company) you can try explaining why and suggesting how it could be better done by someone else. This may work, depending on the boss. In any case, remember that doing what’s asked of you, even tasks outside your job description, is good karma.

“It’s not my problem.” When people say something is not their problem it makes them look like they don’t care. This does not endear them to anybody, especially the boss. If a problem is brewing and you have nothing constructive to say, it’s better to say nothing at all. Even better is to pitch in and try to help. Because, ultimately, a problem in the workplace is everyone’s problem. We’re all in it together.

“It’s not my fault.” Yet another four words to be avoided. Human nature is weird. Claiming that something is not our fault often has the result of making people suspect it is. Besides, what’s the real issue here? It’s that something went wrong and needs to be fixed. That’s what people should be thinking about–not who is to blame.

“I can only do one thing at a time.” News flash: Complaining you are overworked will not make your boss feel sorry for you or go easier on you. Instead, a boss will think: (1) you resent your job, and/or (2) you aren’t up to your job. Everybody, especially nowadays, feels pressured and overworked. If you’re trying to be funny, please note that some sarcasm is funny and lightens the mood. Some just ticks people off.

“I am way overqualified for this job.” Hey, maybe you are. But the fact is, this is the job you have. You agreed to take it on and, while you may now regret that decision, it’s still your job. Complaining that it’s beneath you only makes you look bad. Plus, coworkers doing similar jobs may resent and dislike you. And guess what? Bosses will not think, “Oh, this is a superior person whom I need to promote.” Nope, they’ll think, “What a jerk.”

“This job is easy! Anyone could do it!” Maybe what you’re trying to convey here is that you’re so brilliant your work is easy. Unfortunately, it comes off sounding more like, “This work is stupid.” Bosses don’t like hearing that any work is stupid. Nor do they really like hearing that a job is easy peasy. It belittles the whole enterprise. If a task is simple, be glad and do it as quickly as you can. Even “stupid” work needs to get done.

“It can’t be done.” Saying something can’t be done is like waving a red flag in a boss’s eyes. Even if the thing being suggested truly is impossible, saying it is can make you look ineffectual or incapable. Better to play detective. Why is the boss asking you to do whatever it is? What’s the problem that needs to be solved? What’s the goal? Search for doable ways of solving that problem or reaching that goal. That’s what bosses really want. Most of them do not expect the impossible.

Last words: When in doubt, remember that silence really is golden.

Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act

In Human Resources on March 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm

On Thursday, March 18, 2010, the US Senate passed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (the “HIRE Act”).  This act is intended to focus on job creation at a time when many Americans are struggling to find employment in a challenging economy.

 Included in the HIRE act is the Schumer-Hatch Jobs Payroll Tax Exemption. This provision would offer employers an exemption from social security payroll taxes for every worker hired after Feb. 3rd, 2010 and before Jan. 1st 2011 that has been unemployed for at least 60 days. The maximum value would be equal to 6.2% of wages up to the FICA wage cap ($106,800). There would also be an additional $1,000 income tax credit for every new employee retained for 52 weeks to be taken on the employer’s 2011 income tax return. This proposal is estimated to cost $13 billion over ten years.

“For those employers that are on the verge of hiring, but for financial reasons have not made the decision to move ahead, the HIRE Act may be just the push needed to make a decision,” said Mike Freeman, CEO of Cardinal Services, Inc. “The incentives appear to be straightforward and immediately available, and while we do expect these measures to be welcomed by employers, staying compliant is likely to be a burden for them as well.” 

As a provider of payroll and other employer services for many employers in the area, Cardinal plans to take a lead role in ensuring their clients have everything in place to take advantage of this opportunity, including:

  • Determining eligibility of job applicants and current employees, including ensuring that the employee affidavits required by the HIRE Act are completed correctly.


  • Keeping a pool of those unemployed job applicants that will qualify for this program, for fast and efficient hiring for those employers that will take advantage of this act in the upcoming months.


  • Maintaining all necessary documentation and assisting clients in responding to related audits.  As with its predecessor the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), it’s likely a close eye will be kept on employer compliance, and that includes documentation.


  • Notifying clients of the availability of the $1,000 per qualified employee new-hire income tax credit after the eligible employee completes their necessary employment period, and assisting them in receiving the reward.

According to Freeman, Cardinal plans to offer these services at no additional charge to their clients, effectively playing their part in any push in restoring employment in their communities.  While Cardinal’s first priority is their current clientele, Freeman did offer that if employers are in need of assistance, or just have general questions on how to proceed, they can contact any Cardinal office statewide.

Cardinal Services is a payroll and employer services provider, with offices throughout Oregon.  They help small and mid-sized businesses manage and retain their employees.  For more information, visit the company’s web site:, call or email Derek Jensen at 800.772.8792, ext 2210,

4 Tips for Working with Recruiters

In Human Resources on March 22, 2010 at 9:11 am

 A good recruiter can be worth his or her weight in gold to a job seeker. Good recruiters have access to jobs and information about the market, and they can even give you advice that will improve your chances of getting interviews and offers. Many job seekers find working with a recruiter to be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.

The following four ways to work more successfully with a recruiter may help you with your job search:

1. Understand what recruiters do
Recruiters work for their clients because the client pays the bill — they don’t work for their candidates. If you understand this dynamic, you can use it to your benefit. The recruiter’s relationship with the client means that he typically has access to inside information. Listen to a recruiter’s advice very carefully when it comes to résumé changes, interview coaching, etc. This advice is given to candidates because recruiters know what will maximize a candidate’s chances of getting an offer.

2. Work with the best recruiters
To find the best recruiters, start by asking colleagues for referrals. Also try to identify recruiters who specialize in your job field, geography, career level, etc. Recruiters want to work with marketable candidates, and that means you want to talk to recruiters who specialize in your discipline.

Once you have found a recruiter, don’t be afraid to ask her about her experience, process and approach to the job search. Recruiters are not obligated to work with you as a candidate, nor are you obligated to work with them. Recruiters will be highly selective about whom they work with, and so should you. A recruiter works for her client, but she is also representing you, so make sure you are comfortable.

3. Work  with them, not against them
If you have little or no experience working with recruiters, you may be put off by some of the questions they ask. Understand that recruiters need a detailed and thorough understanding of your background, education, work history, compensation, etc. A recruiter may even ask you if you have a criminal history, bad credit or an arrest record. It is best to answer these questions openly and honestly.  If you have some skeletons in the closet, it does not mean that the recruiter won’t work with you. On the contrary, the recruiter may be able to offer advice on how to handle sensitive subjects (such as a drunken-driving charge).

You should also openly share feedback with the recruiter throughout the search process. Honestly discuss your career goals, salary expectations, feedback from interviews, level of interest in a given job, etc. The more the recruiter knows about what makes you tick, the more likely he is to find you a job that is a good fit.

4. Even  if you are not actively looking for a job, talk to a recruiter If talking to a recruiter when you are not looking for a job seems pointless, I can assure you it is not. The most valuable candidates to a recruiter are those who are not actively looking for work.

If you consider a recruiter’s point of view, the reason for this is clear. First, employers generally consider employed candidates more favorably than those who are unemployed. Right or wrong, gainful employment suggests that the candidate is good at what she does and relatively stable.  Second, a passive candidate means less competition for the recruiter, thereby maximizing the recruiter’s chances that he can earn a placement fee. Conversely, if you contact a recruiter when you are actively looking for a job, the recruiter knows that his chances of placing you are minimized because of other competition. 

Finally, and most importantly, a good recruiter can be your eyes and ears on the job market when you are too busy to pay attention for yourself. If a recruiter understands your background and goals, he can contact you if and when a potential opportunity arises. When you have a job that you like, you are probably too busy to keep up on the job market. A recruiter can keep you connected to the market so you don’t miss out on a potentially great opportunity.