About once a month, Gail Houston and Rex Saoit leave their desk jobs to stand before a classroom of adults who want to learn the secrets...

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DOUBLE OAK, Texas — About once a month, Gail Houston and Rex Saoit leave their desk jobs to stand before a classroom of adults who want to learn the secrets to impressing them and other corporate recruiters.

“Most people don’t know what recruiters do,” said Saoit, explaining the demand. “And certainly they haven’t had many positive experiences with them.”

Houston, whose employer, Electronic Data Systems in Plano, Texas, gives her time off to teach as “a community service,” calls it a win-win for recruiters and job seekers.

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“When they learn how recruiters work — what we see, how to communicate with us — we can help each other,” she said.

They invite colleagues to come answer questions or review résumés. On this day, the guest panel represents 80 years of recruiting experience, Saoit said.

Myron Bryant, who lost his job at a large information-technology company a few weeks earlier, signed up at the suggestion of an outplacement firm.

He’s well ahead of most participants, who typically wait five months after losing their jobs, Saoit said. Many hear about the workshop from friends, outplacement firms or from CareerConnection, a Dallas-based support and networking group for job seekers.

Although a relative newcomer to unemployment, Bryant, a deacon at his church, has observed the burdens families bear when a breadwinner is out of work. “I’ve learned from them, and I know you really have to take … [job hunting] seriously.”

At the morning session, he picked up useful information on how recruiters screen candidates from résumés and cover letters, and the speakers reinforced that “networking is essential,” Bryant said.

Job seekers should spend 60 percent to 70 percent of their efforts on networking, Saoit advised. Spend half those hours with “employed people wherever they are,” he told them.

Let everyone know you’re out of a job, Houston added. People like to help, but “they can’t help if they don’t know you’re looking.” She found jobs for two neighbors, she said, but only after someone else told her about their layoffs.

Houston estimates that EDS finds about a third of its hires from employee referrals and another third from replies to Internet postings. On average, though, 80 percent of job openings aren’t advertised at all — and networking, which she calls a “lifelong skill,” is the only way to hear about them.

Saoit told the group to spend no more than 30 percent of their job search on the Internet and to divide those hours equally among super job boards such as Monster.com, niche boards targeted to specific professions and Web sites of potential employers.

“Though a low percentage of job-search success comes from the Internet, you must play anyway,” he said. He found his job on a niche board.

Houston has seen every sin committed in résumés and cover letters, and mentions some examples: résumés with no names or suggestive e-mail addresses.

Get rid of the fluff, she said. “Focus on your hard skills and give examples of your soft skills.”

They discuss interviews, what to say and what to wear, and they “destroy some of the urban myths” about salary negotiation.

Be honest with recruiters about your salary history but acknowledge that the market has changed and that you’re willing to consider the going range. Check with sites such as Salaries.com to find out what the position is worth today, Houston said

Jobs are available, they insist, and success comes from smart searching and preparation. They counter every comment to the contrary raised in class.

“The problem with this economic downturn is it affected people who never knew how to job-hunt. The jobs always hunted them,” Saoit said outside the class.

He knows from experience. He was laid off after 14 years as a recruiting manager at a large IT company in Dallas before landing his current job.

“Baby boomers think they are at a disadvantage [in the job market], but they are agile communicators, and that’s the currency of networking,” he said.

Houston looks forward to the day when everyone is back to work and there’s no demand for these workshops.

“We would like recruiters to be the ones begging again,” she said.