I've seen some amazing talent come & go in this industry. Just because you have the most sought after certifications and a high level of technical experience doesn't mean you're a shoe-in for any opportunity you apply for.
Most people that have rare and highly sought after expertise are aware of their unique abilities and often feel they can demand extremely high pay rates and control every step of the interview process. While higher rates can often be accommodated, a person's attitude during interview process will normally be a strong indicator to whether they are chosen for the position. Being condescending, rude, overly-demanding or short-tempered can quickly eliminate someone from the candidate pool, even if that pool is very small.
Recruiters understand and respect that everyone is busy and that a candidate's time is valuable. We will do our best to accommodate the candidate needs and schedule interviews around their availability... however, when asked to provide available times to interview.... coming back with 30 minutes tomorrow at 1pm isn't going to cut it. Clients & Executives also have busy schedules, so it is imperative to provide a few day/evening times for up to 1 hour that you can chat with your potential employer. It should go without saying that if either party must cancel or reschedule an interview that all parties should be notified as far in advance as possible.
If you want a position, don't play "hard to get" assuming this will make you appear more valuable to the potential employer. It actually has the opposite effect. People want to work with people that are enjoyable to be around. If you have other opportunities on the table, it is certainly a good idea to say "I've been offered a position at XYZ Company, but have not accepted yet, I would prefer to work with your company but I must make my decision by COB tomorrow". It is not a good idea to say things like:
"This interview process is taking too long, I could get a position anywhere" or "My qualifications are highly sought after and your company would be lucky to have me" or "Did you READ my resume?!, why should I have to go through a technical interview" etc.
Admittedly Recruiters do not always have in depth knowledge of each particular skill-set they are interviewing for. A Recruiter's knowledge is usually surface deep over a broad range of qualifications and skill-sets. It is up to Recruiters to scratch the surface, make sure the candidate has the necessary specifics and the right personality/attitude to be a good team fit. The subsequent technical interview or client interview will dig deeper and get into the nitty-gritty regarding the technical/managerial or clinical expertise. Therefore, talking down to a Recruiter due to their lack of understanding of specific technical or clinical skill is a sure fire way to be eliminated from the candidate pool. Everyone wants to be respected.
As you move through the interview process, try to think to yourself "If I were on the other end of this conversation, would I want to work with me?" Of course the interview process is a 2-way street, if you are treated in a condescending fashion, if the potential employer misses calls, doesn't provide adequate information or is rude... you certainly should decline further discussions.
Here are just a few more tips to navigate the process:
Do have a resume that clearly states your experience and highlights your skills.
(see my post on building an eye catching resume 9/2011)
Do smile while you're on the phone... it's true that people can "hear a smile".
Do NOT be rude or condescending, even if the person on the other end is.... if the call is going poorly you can thank them for their time and hang up.
Do not OVER-sell yourself. It's been my experience that the people that work the hardest to prove to you how great their qualifications are, are actually the ones that lack the necessary qualifications for the position. Desperation is a turn-off.
Do provide a variety of dates/times when you are available for an interview.
Do have flexibility where your hourly or salary rates are concerned. Sometimes the experience that can be gained from a position can outweigh a few dollars in rate.
Do talk about rate expectation and full job requirements up front, no point in continuing to interview for a position if the rate is completely unreasonable or if the requirements are not something you would find interesting.
At no time during the interview process or on a job site should you yell at or talk down to another person. Professionalism is key! News travels fast in this industry. There is a lot of truth in the old adage "Treat others the way you want to be treated."
As a side note, most Staffing Firms and Consulting Firms have a Candidate/Resume Database where resumes from anyone that has ever applied are stored. The database will also house a record of any contact / interview / placement activity for each candidate. Often Recruiters will search that database for resumes that match specific qualifications that match new job openings. Emails or phone calls are then placed to any candidates that might be a fit, regardless of how long it has been since they originally applied. Recently I sent just such an email to 15 Analysts and there is one particular reply I received that surprised and amused me... it read: "You & your company should've hired me 4 years ago! You can go to hell!" First, I wasn't with the company 4 years ago so I cannot speak to their experience then.... 2nd No matter how negative this person's experience may have been, responding like this to an email will immediately black list them from the company... and Recruiters share information with each other across the industry, they ask each other about candidates, if they've ever worked with those individuals, what their impressions were etc. The best advice I can provide is don't burn any bridges. Just because you had a prior negative experience does not mean the company, employees and management hasn't changed. Be honest about your experiences in a professional manner and see if they can be addressed, if not, move on. Sometimes the best response is no response at all.