Spring came early this year to parts of the country, including my home state of Michigan. Now the job market looks to be warming up, too.

Almost every week, I receive or read two or three reports showing hiring momentum is increasing. Manpower’s second-quarter Employment Outlook Survey showed “growing optimism” on hiring, with nine in 10 U.S. employers expected to either add staff or make no changes to it through June 30. Some 35 percent of human resources managers expect to add jobs, and almost six in 10 are optimistic about U.S. job growth, according to the new quarterly report from the Society of Human Resource Management. Positive job reports have sprung up like dandelions on the lawn.

Even the relatively weak U.S. jobless report, out Friday, showed 120,000 new jobs created in March, less than the average 246,000 added in each of the previous three months. Since the depths of the recession, business and professional services firms have added 1.4 million new jobs, and manufacturers and restaurants and bars each have added around a half million jobs. An earlier Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed payrolls increased in 42 states in February, and that first-time claims for unemployment were continuing to drop.

Combined, all this data means job seekers with excellent skills can be choosier about the job and the employer – and they are, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. More than half of employers that recruited for openings last year said a candidate rejected their offer. The big reasons: The job didn’t meet the person’s desired salary, or the candidate had already landed another job.

So how do you put yourself in that beautiful position where those optimistic employers are eager to hire you? Some of it comes naturally if you’re a petroleum engineer or a COO with turnaround experience or in another high-demand job. And some of it comes from endorsements you have and track record you have established. But you also can improve your chances to be in demand by being strategic and paying attention to trends.

Here are four ways to be strategic about your job search:

1. Target growing companies.

About one-third of companies see growth and increased hiring, while 55 percent expect more sluggish staffing up, according to a Right Management study. You want to go after those that are ambitious and hopeful, not the slow-moving ones. Both may post jobs, but the ambitious company could hire quickly, or even add a second job.

2. Look up.

One-third of CFOs say they will consider hiring someone who’s “too junior” for the job opening and train them, according to a Duke University / CFO Magazine survey. This gives job seekers an opportunity to step up to a position where they have most, but not all of the experience required.

3. Take a temp job.

Be smart about it, and use the job or the employer to add luster to your resume or skillet. Or land a short-term assignment at a company where you really want to work, and then be the temp they cannot stand to let go. Almost one-fourth of employers in the CareerBuilder survey expect to move some temps into permanent jobs in the second quarter, and that’s up from 17 percent last year.

4. Show your growth.

Companies are concerned with finding people whose skills and knowledge are keeping up with the changes in the world, so spell out the ways you’re doing this. If you recently learned how to use WordPress to design websites, add it to your professional profiles and resumes. If you’re researching sales techniques that have higher degrees of success for a major presentation at an industry convention, put that down. Indicate how you’re adding to your skillet and growing your talents.

A warmer job market will mean more possibilities, yet it doesn’t mean you can cool off your diligence in development or active search. Use the blooms in the economy to bring back your higher expectations for a new job.


Vickie Elmer regularly contributes articles on careers and small business to the Washington Post. She has collected a slew of journalism awards, large and small. Her career and workplace articles also have appeared in Fortune, Parents, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, the Financial Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday and many more. She has been called “dazzling,” “incredibly competitive” “creative” and “prolific and feisty” by those who work with her. Elmer is the mother of three children and the co-owner of Mity Nice, a start-up that employs teens to sell Italian ice and sweet treats from a shiny silver cart in Ann Arbor, Mich. An active volunteer, she encourages kindness and creativity and embracing change, and she blogs and tweets under the moniker WorkingKind.