ASIA'S dynamic job market has seen an increasing number of recruitment companies operating in the same space.

To take advantage of the opportunities available, it is important for job seekers and hiring organisations to understand the differences between recruitment agencies and executive search consultancies.

Understanding how recruiters work is the key to leveraging on the relationship for your own benefit.

The difference

Essentially, a recruitment agency operates on behalf of an individual who is looking for new employment. It usually amasses curriculum vitaes and then aggressively markets them to many companies at the same time.

This usually takes place alongside other agencies attempting to persuade the same company into taking their potential candidate. The agency that is successful in placing a person with an organisation will get a fee.

Agencies are most successful when handling junior placements as their knowledge of a client company need not be so comprehensive.

The client concerned may consider that for such a position, the agency need not have an exclusive, detailed relationship encompassing its culture, organisational structure and other pertinent issues.

When recruiting senior positions that demand multi-faceted executive skills coupled with strong managerial ability, the agency is clearly at a disadvantage.

Its understanding of the client company and the individual whose skills it is marketing tends to be superficial.

A search consultancy, on the other hand, will know the client company very well as it works on behalf of clients, not individuals looking for work.

This requires the search consultancy to gain an intimate understanding, not just of the client's organisational structure, but also of the key individuals within the organisation.

The search consultancy will also need to gain a firm understanding of the company ethos and culture, and a "blueprint" of the type of individual the client is looking for.

Keep an open mind

Although you might be satisfied with your present job, if you are approached by a search consultancy, try to keep an open mind and listen to the opportunity being offered to you.

Search consultancies often work on filling positions that are not in general circulation. Moreover, they are used to working confidentially, so this is your opportunity to explore what is happening in your sector to gauge if it is the best time to consider a move.

A search consultancy can assist you with the interview process and manage the process of negotiation should you be the selected candidate.

What the consultancy cannot do is:

* Get you the job. You still have to be to the primary force in getting that position.

* Act as "miracle workers", and therefore, grant you an interview opportunity that you are not qualified for or help you change careers when the economy does not permit it.

Securing the job requires tangible and intangible factors. The tangibles are domain knowledge and hands-on experience. The intangibles are a sense of personal worth and where you are heading. It is important that you understand your strengths and weaknesses.

Working out a career map is essential to achieve professional success. It is a strategic plan in progress - adaptable, flexible, and reflective of what your situation is at any moment in your career.

By knowing yourself, your ideals and wants, you will best be able to present yourself to both the executive search consultant and the client.

Take the lead

Being proactive in your career management can also make it easier for the headhunter to find you for the next right opportunity.

Think about it this way: nobody buys a product unless they can find it. Here are a few tips to boost your visibility in the marketplace:

* Manage your web presence and online identity. Google yourself and do it often so that you can see what others see if they search for your name.

* Create and post your profile on business networking sites.

* Join professional associations in your field and attend professional conferences and industry functions.

* Demonstrate your expertise by writing thought-provoking articles on relevant industry topics in your field for professional association newsletters.

* Build your credibility, visibility and goodwill in the community by serving on community and civic boards.

Finally, to be recruited as the best possible candidate, it is essential to build a relationship with a recruiter long before you actively start looking for a job.

Think of it as a networking relationship in which you can be in a position to help a recruiter through candidate referrals and vice versa in your next job hunt.