Several months ago, I decided I wanted to move back to civilization (i.e. leave rural Southern Oregon). This meant I had to leave my job and find a new one. I had the luxury (especially in this economy) of being able to look while I was still working.
1. Work your network and if you don't have one, start building one. This includes utilizing industry organizations and popular tools like LinkedIn.com. It does not, however, include spamming everyone you know. Be strategic (and respectful) about who you contact and why.
In total, I applied for 30 positions. I got at least a phone interview with approx 70% of them, all ones that I found through either my network or recruiters. The other 30% were ones where I didn't have any connection to the company and was basically anonymous. For these, I either submitted my resume through a job board or emailed whatever address was on the posting. I didn't get a single response from these. Zero. Nada. And I have a very good resume that matched the job descriptions.
If you are expecting to get a job purely through resumes sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, get ready for a very long wait.
2. Do your homework. There is really no excuse for not being well-prepared for an interview. As someone who has hired many people over the years, there is nothing more annoying than interviewing candidates who didn't even have enough common sense to go to the company's website.
The more senior the position you're interviewing for, the more research you should do. Read annual reports and press releases and try connecting with current and prior employees and even other job candidates if they're no longer in the running. To prep for in-person interviews, I did a variety of things to make sure I had the background I needed, including creating sample marketing plans and doing SWOT analyses.
Because I'm in the online marketing and e-commerce industry, I wanted to understand what real customers thought of the websites I'd be managing, so I even paid for inexpensive online user testing (I used usertesting.com).
3. Don't post your resume on every job board. Not only does it make you look desperate, but you may undervalue yourself if potential employers and recruiters start seeing your resume everywhere they turn. If you're going to do it, I'd recommend sticking with niche job boards like TheLadders.com or ones for industry organizations like Shop.org or very specific categories within the uber-job sites, so at least if you're there, you don't get overexposed.
4. Speaking of recruiters, use one. There are no doubt hundreds of recruiters that specialize in whatever industry you're in. Their goal is to get the best possible match for the company and for the employee (kind of like a dating service for jobs), so they will have contacts and insights about the prospective opportunity (and about yourself and the other candidates vying for the job) that you most likely will not.
5. Get resume advice and edit, edit, edit. I still think my own resume is too long and I wish I'd spent the money to have it rewritten by a pro.
6. Do the basics. Remember back when you were looking for your first real job? You probably got one of those books on how to interview well and how to write a resume. Well, go back to those days and you'll stand out. Somewhere along the way, sending cover letters, Thank You notes (emails are OK), being on time for interviews (even phoners), and following up, went by the wayside. Don't let this be you. This is not merely politeness for politeness' sake. Every contact is another opportunity to market yourself and remind the employer why s/he should hire you.
7. Be prepared for anything. Not only is the market tough right now, but the companies that are hiring are more nervous than ever of selecting the wrong person. This means that you may have to jump through more hoops than you've had to in the past. You may experience this in the sheer number of internal stakeholders a company asks you to meet with or the number of times they speak with you. I had one hiring company send me to an all-day, private session with a psychiatrist (4-5 hours of tests!) and in total, I had three companies ask me to talk with their corporate psychiatrist and/or leadership evaluator.
8. Know what you want. If you don't know *specifically* what kind of opportunity you want, no one will be able to help you find a job and you won't know how to evaluate when a job is *not* right for you.
9. Ask yourself: Can I provide real value for this organization and how will I do it? If you can't answer this question with real enthusiasm, consider whether it's the right job for you. Getting the job is just the start. You have to live with the work and presumably you want to be excited about it and the mark you'll be able to leave there.
10. Google yourself. Presume that recruiters, potential employers, and others will look you up on Google to find out more about you. Make sure that you are managing your own online brand presence. If you can, start creating positive press that you control (e.g. start Tweeting or writing your own blog--these are good because they are SEO-friendly).
Hope this helps. :) Good luck, be patient, and stay positive!
N.B. My Top 10 Job Tips made it into U.S. News & World Report in the article The Hard Truth About Getting Hired.
Want more job tips? Check out my advice on What to Consider When Making a Job Switch.