Strategic hiring. That's the buzzword these days among hiring officers. And here's what the term means: "Strategic hiring refers to hiring...

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Strategic hiring.

That’s the buzzword these days among hiring officers.

And here’s what the term means: “Strategic hiring refers to hiring practices by companies that are extremely focused on specific characteristics and backgrounds of job candidates,” explained Susan Reyman, president of Reyman Associates, an executive-search firm based in Chicago.

Reyman works with Fortune 500 companies and privately held firms in all industries. The positions she does searches for have a minimum salary of $125,000 a year.

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And there is another intangible but vital aspect of strategic hiring:

“It also includes how candidates will fit into the corporate culture, their style, their personality,” the recruiter said. “And even though we don’t do searches for anything below the director level, I would imagine that today this strategic approach is going on at all levels of employment.”

Companies are able to be so demanding because there “is more of a choice of candidates than in the past — the labor market has heated up,” Reyman said. “There was a shortage of candidates in the 1990s and early 2000, and corporations made fewer demands regarding skills and experience.”

But today, even post-recession, that has changed “dramatically. Companies are extremely careful and will settle for nothing less than the best. Economic conditions, foreign competition for products and the bottom line are closely watched by all businesses.

“Companies know they can be more demanding and have to be.”

It seems to me that business organizations always have had “wish lists” of prospective hires, so I asked Reyman if anything has changed. The answer is yes.

“It’s easier today to find people with the exact criteria the companies want because not only are unemployed candidates available, but many people currently employed now are ready to leave their jobs — there’s been pent-up frustration in the past few years,” she said.

In other words, many executives and other job seekers who were afraid to make a move from safe jobs, even if they didn’t like them, no longer feel so cautious.

Among the strategic skills generally sought, according to the executive recruiter, are “people who can think big picture and can implement their ideas, enumerate their accomplishments and show job stability.”

The advantage of strategic hiring, Reyman says, is that the new hire “comes in and can hit the ground running.”

That’s why she advises job seekers at all levels to be aware of employers’ needs.

“If you see a posting that asks for specific experience, be sure it’s on your résumé — and be prepared to talk about your past accomplishments and failures, how you approached a problem, how you got by it and what you learned from it.”

Now that’s a good strategy.

E-mail questions to Carol Kleiman at Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.