By Joyce Lain Kennedy

DEAR JOYCE: My husband, a professional in manufacturing, is unemployed. I worked as an administrative assistant until last month. How can we quickly improve our job prospects? -- C.S.

Consider these fast-read, actionable tips.

Ready or not

Most people overestimate how prepared they are to launch a search. Try the new and free Job-Hunt Readiness Evaluator from Robert Half International and Upwardly Mobile Inc. at

Right resume

The days of sending the same resume to every company are long gone. Customize and target each resume with keywords and phrases mentioned in job postings. Free help: Search on for my article, "Write Hot Resumes that Open Job Interview Doors."

Self-marketing documents

Develop an arsenal of cover letters, networking letters, sales-oriented thank-you letters and other self-marketing messages designed to spur interviews and job offers. But you have modest writing skills, you say? So pay an English major at a local college to polish your work, or hire a professional resume writer. Free ideas: Go to; click on "Resumes/Letters" and read about cover letters. More detailed ideas: my 2009 book, "Cover Letters For Dummies."

Fast move

Scurry to send your resume within 48 hours of a job posting. Flooded with qualified applicants, companies may not process late arrivals. Follow directions in the job posting.

Smooth moves

Reconnoiter the company's Web site to possibly find the e-mail address and phone number of the executive who ultimately makes the hiring decision. Send your customized resume and cover letter to that person. Even if the hiring manager merely ships your resume to the human resource department, it will get more notice because it came from the inside.

Online sending

Equip your computer with up-to-date antivirus software. E-mails with a virus are unlikely to get through the company's virus protection. Spam filters can send your resume into cyber-oblivion as well. Follow up with a call to confirm your resume's receipt and ask if it has been routed and to whom.

Power plays

If a friend works at the target company, ask your connection to walk your resume into the hiring authority. Cruise social networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, to see whether anyone you know can provide key contacts or job leads.

Social media

Recruiters are signing up for Webinars and workshops that teach them to use online social networking techniques in job search. Explore digital avenues on your own, or see if you can find how-to instruction at local community colleges and libraries.

Short-span bridges

Temporary hires provided by staffing companies are surging -- up 34,000 last month. Reason: More temporary help is being sought in this downturn until the commitment to hire full-time employees no longer gives employers sleepless nights. The temps are well positioned to transition to future regular status. Demand is reported to be highest in technology, customer service and tax accounting.

Specialist Sources

Specialty (niche) job boards focus on specific occupations. You can use occupational terms to search for relevant boards, such as accounting job boards or public relations job boards. You can also use aggregators and

New Job Boards

Direct Employers, a nonprofit recruiting organization of large employers, has launched what may well mushroom into many thousands of new, geographically and occupationally focused job boards. All share a .jobs extension -- and, for example. Check out this development at the organization's site,

Super interviewing

From appearance to knowledge to mannerisms, interviews demand mastery of a set of skills -- skills that reflect fixation on the needs of the employer, not on yourself. Research about the company and its people, bolstered by robust interviewing practice, is what separates the new hires from the disappointed. If you still don't get the job because someone's cousin did, at least you won't be kicking yourself for lick-and-promise preparation.

Holiday hunting

Keep jingling those job-search bells throughout the merrymaking months. Between holiday parties and high-intensity networking, you may discover 2010 staffing plans and meet managers who could hire you next year. And don't forget seasonal jobs -- using search terms such as "Christmas tree," "Santa," "delivery," "gift wrapping" and "retailing." Hiring is slow, but keep trying. Check leads in this paper's help-wanted ads and online at


Quick Tips to Find Jobs | Jobs & Careers

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