According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the average job search in America now takes 28.5 weeks. But if you’ve been searching for a job for six months or longer, it’s time to switch tactics. We have found that the typical “Guerilla job hunter” who follows our strategies finds a job in 12 weeks. What to do…

TARGET YOUR TOP 20

While other job seekers are competing against one another for a limited number of advertised positions, you can create your own private job market. Start by making a list of 20 companies that you would like to work for. Ask friends, family members, colleagues and former classmates for suggestions. Also, use Google to find “best employers for women,” “best companies for minorities,” “best companies for disabled veterans,” “most admired companies” and so on. Refine your search by adding city and state names (“best companies to work for in Houston,” “best employers of women in Springfield, Illinois”). Refine it even further by adding the kind of job you want (“mechanical engineer,” “paralegal,” “medical records database supervisor,” “tax attorney”). If you don’t come up with 20 companies, expand your list by going to Hoovers.com. Enter the name of a specific company, then click the magnifying glass. After selecting the company you are looking for, click “Competition” for a few of the company’s competitors. (You need a subscription for the full list.)

Once you have zeroed in on your top 20, get each company’s full mailing address and phone number (from the organization’s Web site, BigBook.com or the Yellow Pages), and the name, title and contact information of a decision-maker who can offer you a job. At a small company, one with 50 or fewer employees, get the name of the president. At a larger company, find out who your boss would most likely be — then get the contact information for that person’s boss. Someone who is higher up will have a better overall picture of the organization and more hiring authority. Most likely, you’ll want to contact a divisional vice president or senior manager.

TALK TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE LEFT THE COMPANY

We all know that it’s important to learn as much as you can about each organization — through company Web sites, annual reports, industry newsletters and journals. I also recommend seeking out the “newly departed” — people who left a target company within the last year. People currently working at an organization may be less likely to talk with you — and describe the needs of that company — than those who have left. You can locate hundreds of résumés, with contact information, for the newly departed by conducting a quick search on Google.

Example: If you want to find out who recently left the mechanical engineering department at Boeing, type “Boeing résumé experience mechanical engineering —apply” into the Google search bar. The “—apply” will tell Google to exclude search results that have the text “apply” on the page, so you will get fewer pages about applying for jobs and more résumés.

Or you can use ZoomInfo.com’s new FreshContacts tool. Available as a Microsoft Outlook plug-in, this search tool can be downloaded by going to www.FreshContacts.com. (ZoomInfo is offering job hunters two months of free access to its database of 45 million people and 5 million companies.)

When you have found six to eight people you would like to talk with, call them. Say something like, “Hi, my name is David Perry, and I just pulled up your résumé on the Internet. I’m thinking of going to work for ABC Corporation. I wondered if you would be willing to answer a few quick questions.”

You will find that people generally are happy to talk about a past employer and fill you in on the problems or challenges that a department is facing. And that’s what you’re going after. You want to know about the problems because where there’s a problem, there’s a hidden job. Usually, that job is in the employer’s head. He/she just hasn’t had time to figure out what kind of person he needs to hire to solve the problem. That’s where you come in — you’re going to be the solution to the problem.

WRITE A STAND-OUT RÉSUMÉ

You’ll need a stand-out résumé that piques employers’ curiosity and compels them to call for more details. You can tweak it to fit each company you target. Here are the basics…

Include all your work experience — one line for each position in bullet format (title, company dates). Keep the résumé to one page.

Include the top three to five things you accomplished at your last job, specifically what you did to save the company time or money — or help it make money. Those are the top three things employers are looking for. They should be bulleted, taking only one line each.

Examples: “Saved XYZ Corporation $500,000 in the first quarter of 2009.” “Increased productivity by 30% between January and June 2008.”

Back up your claims with testimonials. If you saved XYZ Corporation $500,000, use the left-hand margin of your résumé to cement that with a quote from a former employer, “David dramatically cut our costs by increasing worker productivity and eliminating unnecessary overtime expenditures.” — John Adams, vice president, sales, XYZ Corporation. Try to include three to five testimonials in the left-hand margin of your résumé.

If possible, use recognizable company logos in your résumé (place them in the left-hand margin). You can piggyback on a company’s success by using its logo, and logos set your résumé apart. Download logos using a “Google Images” search.

Once you’ve written your master résumé, tailor it to meet an employer’s needs/problems. If you have found, from talking with XYZ Corporation’s newly departed, that the engineering department is having a hard time meeting deadlines, one of your “accomplishments” should focus on how you made or helped make a similar department operate more efficiently.

DELIVER THE GOODS

Make sure that your résumés and cover letters reach the right people by sending them via UPS, FedEx or two-day mail. Ask for the recipient’s signature — and also ask to be notified via e-mail when your letter has been signed for. Then wait a half-hour before you pick up the phone and call that person. If you can’t get him/her on the line, leave a voice-mail message saying, “Hi, this is David Perry. My number is 555-1212. I see that you just received my package. I’d like to meet with you for coffee to talk about how I can help your company achieve (fill in the blanks).”

CREATE AN ONLINE PRESENCE

While you’re doing all of this, create — or beef up — your online presence. The professional-networking site LinkedIn.com is important. Use this tool to post your contact information, résumé, key PowerPoint presentations and any articles that you’ve written (or that have been written about you).

Being on ZoomInfo.com also is critical. Both professional and in-house company recruiters go to ZoomInfo.com to access profiles of people with the experience they are looking for. You may already be on ZoomInfo.com and not know it. If so, update your profile. Or create a free profile. You don’t need to post your résumé. Just get yourself on the site with your correct title.

Important: Upload your photo onto both your LinkedIn.com and ZoomInfo.com pages. A photo tells recruiters that you want to be found and puts you at the top of their lists.

COVER LETTER P.S.

Instead of focusing on “you,” your cover letters should concentrate on prospective employers and their needs.

Example: Rather than starting off with, “I’ve had 20-plus years of experience… ,” say something like, “You will benefit from my 20 years of experience because I’ve helped companies like yours grow their people, sales and shareholder value.”

Always end with a “P.S.” A reader’s eye automatically goes to the P.S.

Examples: “P.S. I’d like to sit down with you to explain how I can increase your division’s productivity by at least 25%.”

Or “P.S. Call me at 555-1212 to learn why my last boss said, “Dave is a brilliant strategist.'” This last statement may seem cocky, but it isn’t if it is true.