IT IS a competitive job market out there. Fewer positions are being advertised and more people are looking for work.

Recruitment firms are managing increased volumes of applications and employers are taking longer to make hiring decisions.

As a job-seeker in this environment, your challenge is to stand out from the crowd and stay top-of-mind with recruiters who are best placed to find you that job.

Here is some advice on how to achieve this:

1. Take a step back and consider your options

Before you begin your job search, take the time to consider the full range of opportunities available to you.

Do not limit yourself to a particular industry sector or job function.

Many of your core skills will be transferable, so make a list of the varying opportunities you are potentially qualified for.

The next step is to review and prioritise your list of career options. Be honest with yourself — remove those jobs and industries you are qualified for but unlikely to pursue.

Your goal should be a refined list that you can use as the template for your job search.

As part of this process, decide whether you are open to both permanent and contract roles — your recruiter will want to know this information.

2. Your CV is your sales tool

People often underestimate the importance of the curriculum vitae (CV) or resumé.

The reality is that the strength of your CV gets you through the door with recruitment firms and employers. You may be an excellent candidate, but if your CV is poorly written, you have little chance of even making it to interview stage.

Do not include a photograph on your CV. Take the time to ensure the information is concise, follows a logical structure and highlights key achievements as well as daily responsibilities.

Do not fabricate information but make sure that you tailor your CV for each job. Focus on the skills mentioned in the advertisement so that people scanning your CV will make easy connections.

3. Choose the right recruitment firm

Avoid the temptation of registering with multiple recruitment firms.

Whatever your profession, there will typically be three or four well-established firms that represent the majority of roles with the leading employers. It pays to concentrate your efforts accordingly.

How do you work out which recruitment firms to choose?

Personal referrals are a good start — your peers will have used recruiters so ask for recommendations. Visit job boards and recruitment websites and search for the kind of roles you are interested in.

It will not take long to confirm which recruiters specialise in your areas of interest.

Also take the time to note the quality of employer brands being represented. If you find a recruiter with a healthy number of jobs going in your area with the types of companies you would like to work for, it makes sense to register with them.

As a final check, ask about the recruitment firm’s standard operating practices.

Will a recruitment consultant interview you in person as part of registration process?

Will he ask for your approval before submitting your CV to clients?

How regularly will he stay in contact during the job search?

The recruitment firm’s commitment to such service levels is important and should be taken into consideration.

4. Working with recruitment consultants

Be open and transparent with your recruiter because he needs to know the full story when representing you to potential employers.

If you have taken a career break for 12 months to travel, be honest about it.

You may think certain factors will count against you, but in the majority of circumstances, they will not affect the decision.

It will, however, count against you if inconsistencies emerge further into the recruitment process.

Proactivity is also important. The reality in a market like this is that you need to follow up and sell yourself.

After you have sent your job application, call the relevant consultant — who is generally listed on the job advertisement — to introduce yourself and get more information on the role.

A good consultant does not mind being chased by someone who is qualified for the role.

It is also important to discuss process-related questions.

For example, how long should you wait before following up on an application?

How often should you touch base? Is e-mail or phone the preferred option?

A mutual understanding of the preferred process will lead to a productive working relationship.