First, don’t use recruiters as a last resort. If you determine that you are ready to make a lateral move, call a recruiter right away. There are many reasons for this, of which I will mention a few. A recruiter cannot present you to a firm to which you have recently applied yourself. If you send out your resume to a bunch of firms in which you are interested, you have greatly limited the pool of firms from which you can contact through your recruiter. Also, your recruiter is there to help you every step of the way. She or he will discuss with you which firms may be a good fit for you, give you advice to make your resume stronger, and, most important, send a great cover letter along with your resume to the firm. This cover letter markets you in the best way possible. Utilize your recruiter’s experience to highlight what firms look for in a candidate.
Second, don’t leave your job! Ninety-nine out of one hundred times, leaving your job looks bad. Even if you left voluntarily. Even if you left on good terms. Leaving looks bad. It makes a prospective employer think that either you couldn’t hack it, or you left so you wouldn’t get fired. If they think you couldn’t hack it at your former job, they will think you won’t be able to hack it at their firm. And, if they think you left to avoid getting fired, then they will assume you must not put out good work. Ironically, it is easier to find a job if you have a job.
Third, don’t lie to or purposely withhold information from your recruiter. You may choose not to reveal something that could actually be important or helpful to obtaining the position you want. You may choose to withhold something that you are unhappy about, but that provides a reasonable explanation for a gap in your work timeline. Or, worst case scenario, you lie about something and the truth comes out later. You cannot recover from that. It is always better to reveal something that may be slightly unfavorable or a bit embarrassing, then to hide something and appear suspicious.
Always remember that your recruiter is there to help you. Help your recruiter help you. Working together brings about the best results.