In your job hunt, you might be tempted to use several recruiters with the belief that a more widely cast net will prove more rewarding in terms of job interviews and opportunities.

Before you begin working with several recruiters, know the pros and cons of establishing multiple recruiter relationships; it could prove less rewarding than you might think.

The pros of multiple recruiters
Working with multiple recruiters could be viewed as a pragmatic approach. David Marts, an IT executive with more than 20 years of experience in strategic planning, data center operations, application development and support, and staff development, hopes that it is.

Marts has been searching for a senior IT management position for four months and has been doing everything from calling recruiters to cold-calling companies.

He believes that most companies’ candidate search efforts are focused on the Internet, which offers job seekers little personal contact with the hiring company and recruiters. Since recruiters are able to build close relationships with fewer companies, they aren’t able to get candidates in as often for interviews. Marts believes working with several recruiters gives him a better chance at getting an interview.

Try this TR tool

In evaluating recruiters, there are a variety of factors and issues to consider, and it’s a good idea to use the TechRepublic recruiter evaluation tool to determine which recruiter, or recruiters, you want to work with.

According to Denny Xu, a corporate technical recruiter for Oracle, some recruiters tend to specialize in recruiting for specific industries, so by working closely with one or two, you may pigeonhole yourself.

Xu also pointed out that no single recruiter can successfully maintain a relationship with every major employer. If one recruiter has no working relationship with companies you really want to work for, you can work with a different recruiter.

The cons
Having your resume distributed and pushed by many recruiters could hurt you. With recruiters, the more widely distributed your resume is, the less of a commodity you are.

I regularly get resumes from people who have included me in a mailing list of 50 or more recruiters. Generally, such contacts receive no more than 30 seconds of my time, and here’s why—with each additional person that you contact, you diminish the chance that any effort I make on your behalf is going to result in any income for me. My time as a recruiter is better spent with the person who is putting his trust in me specifically to market him to my clients. That way, I’m offering someone unique that the employer probably doesn’t already have access to.

Xu cautioned that problems can arise when multiple recruiters submit a candidate to the same employer. This isn’t always going to be a problem because companies have policies that state that the recruiter who submits your resume first is the one representing you. The bottom line, though, is that most companies track resumes based on when they receive the document, not when it was supposedly submitted.

Some companies don’t want to fool around with the potential mess that arises from recruiters squabbling over the same candidate. In those cases, they’ll simply move on to the next candidate rather than consider you.

Xu advised that when you get a call from a recruiter, you should find out how long they have had a relationship with the company. Ideally, they should have a good enough relationship that they can tell you about the company’s culture and prep you for your interview.

The point here is to assess how strong the recruiter’s relationship is with the client. If it seems solid, you probably should move forward quickly, but also ask questions if you get calls about similar positions soon after. Not only do you have your relationship with the employer to consider, but also your relationship with the recruiter.

Just as employers are probably going to think twice about the ethics of candidates who didn’t disclose that they were working with multiple recruiters, an individual recruiter is probably going to think long and hard about ever submitting you again if you have done anything that has diminished his credibility with the client.

Xu also suggested that when you are contacted about a job, you wait a day or so to give other recruiters time to contact you too and then give one, and only one, of them explicit permission to submit you—making sure that the others know that they don’t have permission to submit your resume.

Broadcasting your resume to several recruiters can also put your resume in places you don’t want it to be—or get you caught in a job negotiation dilemma. For example, a client seeking a contract Oracle DBA contacted me recently. I found someone quickly, only to learn that he had released his resume to another recruiter who had already submitted it. What I found unusual was that the other recruiter hadn’t discussed anything about pay with the candidate—I knew for a fact that the client had specifically requested that candidates be submitted along with their prenegotiated bill rates.

The bottom line in this situation was that the candidate had given up any negotiating power with regard to compensation in his rush to get his resume in quickly.

Be aware of what legitimate recruiters call the paper mills. These are recruiters who will take your resume, boil it down to two or three lines that summarize who you are and what you do, and broadcast the information out to about a million potential employers. This shotgun blast approach to getting your name out is very unlikely to get you a job. It’s going to waste your time while you deal with them and will unnecessarily get your hopes up.

The bottom line
Often, recruiters have worked hard to develop relationships with hiring managers who can help you get your resume from the middle of the pile to the top. But be careful—not every recruiter deserves to get your resume.

I recommend that you work to develop an ongoing relationship with three to four recruiters who seem to be knowledgeable and professional, and who appear to represent a diverse selection of companies or locations. This strategy should result in a steady flow of opportunities for you.