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More companies are hiring according to national unemployment data released today. At the same time, the number of people looking for work increased. It's a typical scenario whenever the economy starts to improve. But if you're looking for a job, the increased competition isn't really welcome. 

Here are some tips by Robin Ryan, author of '60 Seconds and You're Hired!' that could help you stand out from the pack. She has focused on MBAs, but much of the advice is good for any job hunter.

• The resume. You've got 15 seconds to get an employer's attention. Your degree is an impressive credential, so be sure to have it displayed on your resume and in your cover letters next to your name.

Outline past experience — paid and unpaid. Use action verbs to highlight your accomplishments and the results you achieved. Top skills employers seek from MBA grads include: management, research, organizational skills, communication, problem solving, and team collaboration. Be sure to demonstrate initiative.

Ryan's website provides a resume assessment quiz.

• Acing the interview. Many employers will want specific examples of positive and negative work situations to determine how you have performed in the past. These questions often start out with 'Give me an example,' 'Tell me about a time,' or 'Describe a situation.' The interviewer will rate each response to determine and predict your future performance with her company. Advance preparation is essential to not get tripped up with these tricky questions.

• Target MBA recruiters. Many larger companies have special recruiters in-house who handle MBA applicants. Finding them is not that easy. A good way to try to uncover who these people are is to try a sweep site such as and under the search function use the keyword MBA and restrict the search by city, state or industry to narrow your results.

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About the blogger

Mary Cornatzer has worked at The News & Observer for more than 25 years, covering the local music industry, state movie industry and travel. She has been the paper's Business editor since 2000. Contact Mary at 919-829-4755 or e-mail her.