(CNN) -- All signs point to a job market that is very slowly improving. The latest labor market figures show gains in health care, temporary work, leisure and hospitality. Headhunters say competition is heating up for talent in science, technology, engineering and math.
But progress is slow. There are still almost five people vying for each open job. You've waited this long. Don't blow it.
Once you land a job interview, every word and every move counts.
1) Present yourself as the solution to a problem, says Charles Purdy, senior editor of Monster+Hot Jobs.
"Employers create jobs and fill jobs because they have problems to solve. It's up to you to analyze what those problems are by analyzing the job ad or by just using what you know about the company or the industry and present yourself as someone who is ready and equipped to solve the problems that the open job indicates."
2) Don't say, "I really need this job." It goes without saying and quite frankly, there are millions of people who have likely been out of work longer than you. Jobs aren't filled based on need and you certainly don't want the hiring manager to think you've been passed over again and again by other companies. Downplay the gap on the resume by making sure it is filled with volunteer work, computer or continuing education classes or freelance work and focus on the skills you can bring to the job.
3) Be adaptable and be present, says Paul Sullivan, author of "Clutch; Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don't."
"Being present is important because it keeps you focused just on that job interview. You don't want to go in there and tell someone all the great things you've done in the past. You want to tell them what skills you have and how you can help that company."
4) Polish your pitch. You need a sound bite or a 30-second elevator pitch. What are you going to say if the hiring manager asks you "What is your biggest weakness?" Do not say "My biggest weakness is I am a perfectionist." Everyone says that and it sounds precious. Ask good questions and use the boss' answers to those questions as a trampoline to talk about your skills that match.
5) Don't dis your old boss or company. No one hires a complainer. Keep it positive and smile.
6) Don't have a stupid e-mail address. firstname.lastname@example.org and anything like it is unprofessional and tells too much about you. Think carefully about what your technology and your use of technology say about you. There's a stereotype out there that baby boomers have AOL accounts, mid- to late-thirties people have Hotmail accounts and younger people have Gmail accounts. When you walk into a job interview, assume you have been Googled.
Most importantly, don't take it personally. The jobs market is only now slowly warming up. There are millions of smart, employable, hardworking people who have been left behind. You've got plenty of good company.