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Job Search Requires Precision Marketing

Many employers cutting back hiring, in part for lack of qualified applicants.

Recent job market figures show the nation's businesses and government cut back hiring in March for a third straight month, sending the unemployment rate to 5.1 percent or its highest since September 2005. Those figures also raised talk about recession and discouraged many from even looking for a job, fearing it was a futile exercise.

But here's some good news for those job seekers; small business owners are feeling equally challenged to find good help. Seventy-eight percent of those trying to hire in March reported few or no qualified applicants for the job openings they were trying to fill, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

"We are seeing recession readings," said NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg. "[But] this is a much stronger labor market than typically found in a recession, although conditions could worsen from here."

That means now is the time to pounce.

Other reports offer a similar snapshot.

In a recent Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, 74 percent of small business owners who hire paid employees said it was difficult to find qualified employees. That's up from 65 percent in March 2005. The major barrier to finding and hiring qualified employees was the cost of providing benefits and insurance, cited by 58 percent of those surveyed. Forty-four percent said it was the actual task of finding talented employees that was most challenging.

For small business owners who have employees, they do what they can to retain their staff. Seven in 10 offer paid-time-off (69 percent) to their employees and two-thirds offer pay raises on a regular schedule.

"Small businesses generate most of the job opportunities in the United States and their ability to recruit and retain employees, even in tough economic periods, is incredibly important," said Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann, executive vice president and head of Wells Fargo's small business segment. Firms like Wells Fargo have developed insurance and retirement plans designed specifically for small business owners.

There are jobs to be had out there. But first, you have to get in the door.

Here are some tips for standing out in a pack of resumes:

1. Tap friends and family for connections. You'll do the work in getting hired, but if you have a friend of a friend of a friend that can put you in touch with key decision-makers in a desirable company, by all means, tap that resource. Just plan to repay the favor some day.

2. Form an advisory panel of friends, family or professionals whose opinion you value and have them take a top-to-bottom look at your job hunt, your resume and your interviewing skills. Have this group help you fine-tune an elevator pitch or a 30-second (the time of an elevator ride) sales pitch of yourself. Return to this group if you're hitting several dead ends and see what you might have done differently.

3. Don't be so broad. Rework parts of your resume to show that your skills and talents apply directly to the description of the job you're applying for.

4. Advertise yourself. Don't just reply to job postings. Put your information out there, on blogs and job boards and at hiring fairs.

5. Tackle a job search in small steps, if that's what suits you (particularly if you're currently employed elsewhere). Experts advise job seekers to do one thing each day - a fresh Internet search, sending one resume, attending a networking cocktail party. This way, you won't become all consumed in the search and risk draining yourself of your composure and confidence.

Rachel Koning Beals has written about credit, real estate, personal finance and investing for 13 years

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