RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Anastasia Pucci has some advice for you if you are looking for work.

“If you are prepared and you know why you are good and can identify 10 companies you want to work for — and you should really know where you want to work — then really get a handle on what value you bring to one of those companies,” says Pucci, the energetic president of Carlyle & Conlan, an executive search firm in RTP.

Job hunting in a tight market is “a two-way street,” she says, so successful candidates can’t wait for the phone to ring, send off resumes or make a phone call or two.

“I have people come up to me and say, ‘Help me find a job’,” she says. “I say, why, what makes you special? Why should someone hire you for a job?

“The folks that sit back and wait are the ones who fall off the radar screen.”

While Carlyle & Conlan is not a placement firm, Pucci and company know what companies are looking for — and it’s more than personality or talent.

“When you are interviewing for a job, you have to describe how you are going to impact the company’s bottom line positively,” she says. “It can be from any standpoint — efficiency, revenue, reducing overhead.

“You had better come in the door being able to explain your expertise and knowing what your value proposition is.

“It’s an extremely competitive job market,” Pucci acknowledges, “but there are plenty of opportunities for people who have achieved a lot in their career and can demonstrate how they can put their abilities to use for the benefit of the employer.

“That’s how to get hired.”

Recruiting the best

The days are past when tech workers were actively recruited and offered high salaries just by posting a resume online. What only recently was a seller’s market for talent has changed to a buyer’s market where hard-pressed tech firms are either trimming payroll or putting potential hires through a wringing review and interview process.

“When times are tough, that is when you are going to find the best people,” says Pucci, who founded the company two years ago and has grown it to seven employees. She’s been in the recruiting business for eight years. “Now, the opportunities are more limited and there is an immense amount of talent available.”

And despite the down economy, Carlyle & Conlan have been quite busy. Why is that?

“In order to be competitive, companies are making talent upgrades,” she says.

And she’s not just talking about line employees or sales people but the executive suite.

Many headlines have been written about the comings and goings of CEOs, CFOs, Chairman and so forth in the Triangle and elsewhere in recent months. Pucci is not surprised.

“Some companies have chosen to go after high-profile people and are conducting confidential searches in order to help the companies maintain or get a competitive edge,” she says. “We are getting inquiries and work from both companies and investors.”

While Pucci won’t name any clients, she says Carlyle & Conlan has worked with “a couple of VCs” in the Triangle.

It’s no secret that VCs and investors sitting as board members have been behind some of the executive suite coups that have taken place. For example, John Ryals was fired at Paradigm — and he founded the company.

Carlyle & Conlan focuses primarily on what Pucci calls “c-level” folks — CEOs, COOs, CFOs. “A lot of the searches we have done have been to help clients upgrade the talent on their teams,” Pucci points out.

Based on her own company’s experience and what she hears from the marketplace, Pucci doesn’t expect business to slow down, either.

“There are plenty of companies who have definitive plans for upgrading, replacing and growing talent in their organizations,” she says.

Carlyle and Conlan also has changed, Pucci adds.

“We’re definitely a search firm, not a placement firm. But given the unusual nature of the market, there have been a few notable exceptions where people were looking to make a career move and we were able to market them to a very specific area of our client base.

“But our M.O. remains the same — to be retained and to go out and find someone.”

Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.