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At a recent meeting of some wonderful people who manage job transition support groups, there was this job hunting consensus:

Some professionals who have successfully become re-employed in this lousy job market haven't applied for posted job openings. They created one. They cold-called a company or talked to a friend or acquaintance and made a convincing case that the target company needed them.

They approached their interviews with strong presentations about how their skills and experience would benefit the employer, not asking what the employer could do for them.

And, most effectively, the successful job hunters networked into the company through key employees, circumventing the formal application process.

Applicants who have advocates within the company, especially if the advocates are high up in the organization, will get more attention, even if they don't appear to be perfectly qualified for the company's needs, recruiters admit.

A subsequent discussion among a group of career counselors acknowledged that this is an effective avenue to re-employment. But, several warned, job hunters need to be careful.

There's a noted trend among employers in which applicants are not only put through multiple interviews but also are asked to produce significant work - oral presentations, reports, business plans, strategy suggestions and the like.

"Beware of doing substantial work for free," said career adviser Kathleen Boas.

So on one hand applicants are advised to share all their great ideas, while on the other hand they're advised to withhold at least some of them. How does an applicant know how much to "give away" in interviews?

It's a gut decision, based first on how much the applicant really wants the job. Someone pursuing a dream job should let out all the stops.

Someone just testing the waters should be careful about giving away too much for free. Your great ideas could be handed over to someone in the company without a job offer for you.

Diane Stafford is the workplace and careers columnist at the Kansas City Star.