The job market is hot. It’s no secret. Individuals are realizing their power to leverage conditions for a better opportunity. Smart candidates know a job is only one step on their career path.

Understand your motivation.

Smart candidates are motivated by many things. For some, it’s more money. For others, it’s job title or level of influence or flexible scheduling. And, for others, it’s simply to find employment before outstanding bills go to collection. Understanding your motivation, recognizing the job climate, and knowing how to act are the keys to launching a successful job search.

The highly competitive market and an imbalance in talent – a mismatch of skills needed and candidates possessing that expertise – has led to chaotic hiring experiences. Companies rely on lengthy, multi-step processes and candidates are expected to feel honored if given the chance to participate. Companies try to protect themselves from making the wrong hire. They go to extremes (time and cost) to identify and justify the validity of their process of weening the candidate pool.

The problem for them is that strategy works when there is an abundance of talent available. When there isn’t, companies lose out on talented candidates because those candidates are being sought after by many companies. When more than one company is vying for a candidate, that candidate gains leverage. He/she has the option to explore and make a decision that is most beneficial [for him/her], rather than taking an only option. The leverage shifts because the person can potentially affect the speed of a hiring process, and ultimately, negotiate a better offer of employment.

Don’t be fooled by fluff.

We’ve seen examples of “creative” job search recently. It’s a resurgence of the past where candidates have attempted to seize attention in non-traditional ways. The Homeless Tech Guy and the Woman Who Transformed Herself into Fearless Girl are 2 recent examples that grabbed attention and have yielded results.

While those examples make great feel-good stories, they do not represent the reality of finding a new gig. They are one-offs, not the norm. Companies’ automated and integrated systems discard individuality in favor of a dystopian, well-oiled machine which can be easily managed and controlled. Spending more time targeting companies rather than hoping they see you is a better approach for long term career success.

Don’t do it alone.

Market conditions dictate job search strategy. Most people wrongly wait until they lose their job before they find a new one. When that happens, the person becomes a candidate at the mercy of the market. A better plan is to capitalize before the opportunity to do so fades. Instead of going at it alone, get some support. Talk with a mentor, tune into your networks, and find a good recruiter. Companies have teams of [corporate] recruiters working for them. Smart candidates should have a recruiter’s support too. A recruiter can provide insight into the market, company culture, and knowledge of the interviewing and hiring process.

Smart candidates don’t allow themselves to be lost in the job search. They take steps to build and engage relationships with recruiters so there is an understanding of the overall market at any given time. By doing so, smart candidates know when to watch, and when to pounce on a hot job market.

David Rose is a Partner and VP of Talent Acquisition with YELLOW DOG Recruiting. Follow David on Twitter @YELLOWDOG_01.

Types of Recruiters, aka Talent Acquisition Professionals: 

Corporate Recruiter – employee of a company tasked for managing the sourcing of talent for that company specifically.

Contingency Recruiter – agency recruiter, not an employee of a potential employer. This type of recruiter earns a fee if he/she identifies a candidate for a given job opportunity.  He/She likely works with multiple companies, but only earns a fee if a candidate they submit for consideration is hired.

Retained Recruiter – agency recruiter, not an employee of a potential employer. This type of recruiter likely works with multiple companies, and typically earns a fee monthly, not per placement.