After three years of economic aches and pains, the employment outlook by companies in the United States has improved to a 12-year high, according to a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics. If you are an executive or mid-level professional who is looking, or plans to look, for a new job in 2011, that can be pretty encouraging news. But are you really ready for a job search? From a seasoned suffer-no-fools executive recruiter, here are seven secrets to help fire up your search and fuel your success:

  1. Recruiters spend 10 seconds “reading” your résumé

Odds are, you can lose up to a third of the words on your resume without compromising the content. So put your résumé on a word diet and eliminate the bloat. Remove extraneous words and phrases and generic mom-and-apple-pie references (“strong team player”) to bring your experience to the forefront. Additionally, bring your résumé alive by branding yourself from beginning to end and by using active verbs to describe accomplishments relevant to your target job.

  1. Recruiters look for specialists, not generalists

Today, companies want specialists who have done the job before. Develop a personal brand, distinguish your skills and strengths, and design your job search around industries or functions targeted to your background. For inspiration, study real-life job specifications online. Recently, for instance, a well-known software company was seeking a seasoned marketer “skilled in developing online video for B2B marketing.” Translation: specialize!

  1. Recruiters search for candidates who know where they’re going

Have a long-term career strategy or, at the very least, a strong sense for where you’re headed. Ask yourself, “Where do I see myself in five to 10 to 15 years?” Then figure out what steps you need to take to get there. Having a clear, concise understanding of your career path can demonstrate your leadership maturity to potential employers.

  1. Recruiters care about how you present as much as what you present

Your communication skills can make — or break — your job search. For every situation, from interviews to networking events, know your key points in advance and be crisp and organized in communicating them. Practice your responses to common interview questions, determining the “just right” length to illustrate your strengths and experience, and using interesting, impactful examples as much as possible.

  1. Recruiters anticipate well-crafted exit statements

Be well-versed in discussing the movement on your résumé. If you’ve jumped around a lot, prepare your “exit statement” for every move. Also, if you have gaps between jobs, have an explanation for what you did during that time.

  1. Recruiters have finely tuned “BS” detectors

Be open, honest, and authentic. If you aren’t, you won’t fool recruiters or employers, at least not for long. They will sense something isn’t adding up and will get to the bottom of it. If you’ve had a bump or two along the road, personally or professionally, be upfront about them. Also, focus on the facts of any situation, not the emotions surrounding it.

  1. Recruiters “watch, look, and listen” on social media

Nearly all employers look at your profile online: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media Web sites. Leverage that opportunity and have your online presence tell a story. Sure, you watch the appropriateness of what you post online, but take it a step further: tell your story and tout your brand.