Q: Should I use even go through the recruiter?
A: Like a lot of things, that all depends.
Understand this, first. Recruiters may be involved in hiring decisions, but they generally do not have the final word.
Secondly, know this: Recruiters do not work for you. They work for their companies. Good recruiters take a long view of things and will help you with honest advice and leads at any stage of your career. Short-sighted recruiters consider whether you're qualified for present openings, period.
When job-seekers ask whether they should go through the recruiter, they often mean: "can I count on the recruiter to get my résumé to the right people?" The short answer is, no. One function a recruiter has is to serve as a filter. That means remembering, finding or attracting good candidates and screening out second-best.
If the recruiter decides that you're not going to compete well with other candidates for the position, he or she will not pass your résumé along. In most newsrooms, recruiter are not just allowed to screen out less qualified candidates; it's one reason they get paid. Recruiters who forward along applications from unqualified people lose credibility in their newsrooms and with their bosses. They can be seen as lacking in judgment. Recruiters sometimes talk with hiring editors, like the photo director or copy desk chief, about how fine that filter should be.
If you think you're being screened out, ask. "Will you give me résumé to the city editor?" "Do you think I have the experience to qualify for this job?" "Did anyone else see my material?" If the answer to any of those questions is no, feel free to ask the recruiter to do it anyway, but have a reason why they should. They might still say no, but you won't be any farther behind than you were before. You're always free to bypass the recruiter and go directly to the editor who's trying to fill the position. But that generally doesn't get you the job. In fact, what might happen behind the scenes is that the hiring editor will write "please reject" on a sticky note, slap it on your résumé and send it to -- the recruiter. Don't worry about having that happen. There is not a worse stack for people who have been double-rejected because they applied to two people.
If smart job-seekers, like smart recruiters, take the long view, they can find that recruiters can be far more helpful than other editors. Remember, it's the recruiter's job to find candidates for all newsroom departments and to know what's going on in the industry. It could be you have avenues you haven't considered. Maybe there's a similar job available in another department or at another newspaper. Also, because they act as filters, recruiters should be aware of the entire range of candidates for a position, not just the top end, and they should have a clearer idea of how careers develop.
So, the recruiter says, "No, I haven't forwarded your application.'' Ask questions like:
Do you have other openings I should apply for?
Are you aware of openings at other papers?
What papers do you generally hire from?
What do I need to do to improve my chances?
How is my résumé?
How are my clips?
Recruiters generally have better answers to these questions than anyone else at the paper. Remember, recruiters know what is going on in more areas than an individual department head, and they have more experience looking at résumés and clips. They might also have more expertise tracking and counseling people who are trying to build their careers. Recruiters also are the ones who should make the time to give advise you.
Finally, just as newspapers use recruiters to flush out candidates, strain the pool and handle the paperwork, they also count on recruiters to build pipelines. You want to get into that pipeline. If you show potential, the recruiter will help you get ready so that, one day, you won't be calling the recruiter to ask what happened to your application; the recruiter will be calling you, encouraging you to apply.