It’s a tight job market out there right now, with fewer jobs and more applicants, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t improve your situation. Whether you are looking for your dream job, need to move up, or just want employment, period, here are a few tips that can make your job search more effective.

Call your Friends

Most jobs aren’t posted. I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but how do you find out about these jobs? From your friends and former co-workers who are either employed at the company or know someone who is. Don’t be shy; just return the favor once you are employed! An employer won’t pay the $200 per month to post a job if a trusted co-worker has a friend who has the skills they are looking for. So polish up your resume and send it to your “network” of people. Think creatively about who this includes. Talk to people from your church, school, former co-workers and anyone else in your social circle who can vouch for your character.

Take it Online

It used to be that people beat the pavement when it was time to look for a new job. They made phone calls, knocked on doors and got in front of hiring managers. Today, managers seldom want to be bothered with applicants face to face and these techniques are more of a nuisance than a help. After networking, the best approach is to get online. It’s quick, easy to track and less intrusive.

The first place an employer will post a job is on their own website, because it’s free. So if there are companies that you specifically want to look for, check their job page on a daily basis. You can usually find job listings in the About Us or Contact Us section of a website, if an employment link is not obviously posted. Some job sites will collect these job pages for a specific geographical area, so you don’t have to think about who in your city might be hiring. Try going to a powerful search engine, like Google, and typing in your city and the word “jobs” and see what you get.

After that, you’ll want to check out some sites like Monster or HotJobs. Don’t waste your time with too many of these, because you are likely to get duplicates. I recommend finding your favorite three, and include the job listings from your local newspaper if they are available on-line. Post your resume on these sites, and set up e-mail agents to have the new jobs sent to you. That way, all you have to do in the morning is check your e-mail, see if any of the new listings appeal to you and click a couple of buttons to send your résumé and cover letter.

Contract Agencies and Recruiters

Depending on your goals, it may be more beneficial to you to contract than to seek permanent employment. Because contract agencies pay less in the way of benefits, you generally get paid more per hour. If you prefer variety and a higher paycheck and don’t mind the uncertainty of contract work, then this is a good choice. One thing to consider is that recruiters often get compensated based on how many applicants they send to an interview, not just on your getting hired, so you may go on several interviews before finding a job.

Contract agencies often work within a specific job sector, which can be beneficial to you because they know the market and can talk to you about your skills and what you can expect to earn. So whether you are in creative services, technology, sales or another field, look for the agency that can best serve you and your specific needs.

Market Yourself

Your résumé should instantly tell an employer why they should hire you instead of the other twenty applicants. It does not have to perfectly summarize your work history, and shouldn’t, unless all of it directly applies to this job. Your résumé should highlight the jobs and accomplishments that make you stand out. Think about putting a section at the beginning that makes this easy for the employer to see. If you are applying for a programming job, list the languages and computer skills that you possess. If applying for a sales position, give them figures showing how you have increased revenue for previous employers.

Another great marketing tool for you is the cover letter. Don’t omit this. It is one more chance to show how you stand out. Your résumé should be geared towards a job, such as outside sales, and the cover letter focuses in on the specific position. Briefly tell the manager why you would be perfect for their department. Look at the requirements listed for the position, and point out for the employer that you have those skills.

Remember me?

Follow-up is a huge determining factor in getting hired. I’ve worked at companies where we’ve decided to go with a candidate simply because they sent us the most follow-up e-mails. They show an employer that you are serious about wanting the job and that you will demonstrate the same tenacity when employed by them.

An easy way to do this is to keep a spreadsheet. List the company name, job title, contact person and their e-mail address, fax number, or means of contact used. Once per week, go through your spreadsheet and contact everyone again, reminding them that you are interested in the position and asking if you can supply any information that would help them make a decision. Another way to do this if you use e-mail is simply to save a copy of each e-mail to your sent folder. Just copy the address to a new e-mail and send out your reminder.

Put it Together

Remember, there are jobs out there, and you are entitled to one that you enjoy, that gets you closer to your goals and that you can be proud of. So call your friends, open a browser and start letting employers know why they absolutely have to have you on staff!

READ MORE LIFE | POST COMMENTS BELOW