How do you choose who to work with?

This is a question that's as important for clients as it is for candidates. It's your business, it's your career -- it's pretty damn personal and important. As someone making hiring decisions your annual review probably has a line or two about recognizing, recruiting and developing talent. If you're doing your job and one day a call from out of the blue land on your voice mail you have to move quickly past the mystery and romance and think not about your job but about your career (and your family, your car payment, your lifestyle and your five year have a five year plan don't you?).

Making the choice isn't too different than which car dealership you decide to buy from or what grocery store discount card is swinging on your key chain. On the surface the choice is about price, inventory, accessibility/convenience and the brand image. Your decision though is more emotional -- who you feel more comfortable with and the relationship that goes with the job.

Relationships begin with trust, move toward intimacy and finish with passion. It's not too different than healthy dating. If you're at a party and see a twinkle in a pair of eyes across the room-- zzzzz, the electricity begins it's where then BOOM, before you know it you're having breakfast together -- and probably wondering what the hell were you thinking last night. That's the relationship building process in reverse, passion comes first as a recruiter describes a candidate recently seen walking on water or a job with the promise of a seven digit net worth right after the IPO. The end result is a Dolly Pardon hit called "D-I-V-O-R-C-E."

It's the recruiter's job to constantly cultivate relationships, and these are often times best done when there's no need. No need equals no pressure and gives you an opportunity to think long term and about possibilities you might not be able to consider when your forced to make a decision -- when someone quits or you get laid-off. Working with an expert in your industry segment is also a big plus, these professionals are tapped into the jobs before they become jobs and the candidates before they become candidates. That's what real recruiting is all about -- companies who are willing to hire talent to take them to the next level and candidates who are smart enough to know the best time to quit is when they're at the top of their game.

Now if you're an employer and it's time to make a hiring decision and you're asking yourself: "Who is the industry expert I should hire for this search." STOP. You're already in deep do-do. Why hasn't this supposed "expert" already approached you, why don't you already know who they are because they called to come by and meet you -- isn't that their damn job anyway? If you find yourself in this position all is not lost, experts are usually pretty visible and with a little effort they'll be glad to spend some time with you.

If as a candidate you find yourself in this same position, well then, shame on you. You should always have one foot in the door of relationships with recruiters who are helping you manage your career while you do your job. Part of your job is managing your career...isn't it?

So, when recruiterless, begin the process by establishing a relationship based on trust and look for quantifiable evidence (just like when your hiring someone) of where and how the recruiter has done this before. One of the best indicators of potential success is the amount of repeat business the recruiter does with his or her clients or their depth in the industry or job function you're focused on. The single most important quality of successful recruiters is desire, and shouldn't be confused with ego-- so check references, get referrals and think about the quality of the relationship you want to have.