As the job market heats up it is a great time to be a candidate. But just because competition is high for skilled IT workers, don’t believe that the help of a qualified IT recruiter can be ignored. In fact, in this job market, the help of an experienced recruiter can be the key to getting the position and compensation you want for your next career move. Here are a few tips from Katharine Hansen’s article on working with a recruiter.

Understand that recruiters don’t work for you. The clients of recruiters are employers, not job-seekers. A recruiter will be delighted to work with you — if you meet the specifications of a current assignment to fill a position for an employer.

Consider recruiters who specialize in your field. Because most recruiters specialize in specific industries and job functions, you will likely have the most productive relationships with recruiters specializing in your field and/or job function.

Know whether a given recruiter first turns to an “inventory” of candidates or uses his or her inventory only as a last resort. Some recruiters maintain a backlog of resumes that they turn to when a client employer requests that they fill a position. Others prefer to find “fresh” candidates and won’t consult their inventory of resumes unless they can’t find someone. Ask the recruiters you contact whether they’d like your resume even if they don’t have an appropriate active search going on.

Don’t worry about the model (contingency or retained) through which the recruiter is paid because you probably won’t have much control about which kind you work with. You’re probably aware that contingency recruiters are paid when they make a placement, while retained recruiters are paid, usually up front, regardless of the search results. Darrell Gurney, author of Headhunters Revealed! offers a good explanation of the difference and notes that you won’t have much say about which kind you align with. “Which recruiter you work with depends primarily on your professional level, not how good you are at what you do,” Gurney says, explaining that retained recruiters generally work with executive candidates who earn $200,000 a year or more.

Be prepared to put a positive spin on your status if you’re unemployed. If you are unemployed, recruiters may see that status as a red flag. Especially in a weak economy when they can be very selective, recruiters, like many employers, assume that something is wrong with you if you are out of work. Of course this judgment is grossly unfair. To some extent, you can combat this bias against the unemployed by engaging in productive, resume-worthy activities while out of work — consulting, project work, volunteering, and professional development. It won’t always work, but it’s better than not addressing your unemployed status.

Finding the job you want isn’t as hard as it was in the last downturn, but it still hasn’t reached cakewalk status. Use these tips when working with your recruiter and land the job you want.