Advice for Job Hunting During a Pandemic
Posted on 07-16-2020
So, how do you find a job during the Coronavirus pandemic? Our team of executive recruiters recently compiled their best job search tips for executives seeking a new job.
Obviously, this is an unprecedented time; many organizations are regrouping and determining how their hiring needs of six months ago align with the current reality of today’s marketplace. Job hunting during a pandemic requires candidates to adapt how they evaluate career moves and market their skills.
Here are our teams’ job search tips for the coronavirus era:
1. Take time to grieve and reflect if you’ve recently lost your job
Losing your job is a traumatic and life altering event, and it’s even tougher right now with all the uncertainty we’re facing due to the Coronavirus. We’ve found that most people experience intense feelings of shock, grief, and sadness after losing their jobs.
It’s completely natural to want to jump right into practical tasks like filing for unemployment and updating your resume when you’ve been laid off. However, you’ll be well served to pause and reflect on your experience before jumping into your job search. In fact, we encourage you to put pen to paper and journal about your experience.
Writing in a journal is an evidence-based strategy for processing difficult experiences, including job loss. A well-known study by psychologist, James Pennebaker, showed that job seekers who had been laid off and subsequently wrote in a journal about their feelings were significantly more likely to be employed three months later than peers who didn’t write about experience losing their job.
When we’re working with executive job seekers, we can easily identify job seekers who are still bitter about their job loss (even in a brief conversation). It makes it tougher for them to land a job until they work through it.
2. Know what you’re looking for before your start your job search
Before you start your search, start by carefully considering what is most important to you in your next opportunity. Aside from a paycheck, what specifically do you want from a new position that your last job didn’t offer?
Consider whether you’re willing to relocate and if so, to what parts of the country? Would you feel comfortable accepting a job that’s 100% remote?
Make sure you consider how your next position will help you achieve your long-terms goals. Develop a list of what’s most important to you in a new job so you can evaluate each opportunity against those criteria. The last thing you want to do is to accept a new opportunity that is misaligned with your personal, financial, and career goals.
That said, the current situation may mean you have to take a step backwards right now in order to move forward. If that’s the case, it‘s important that you’re clear about where you’re willing to make trade offs and where you won’t. It should go without saying, but don’t waste your time (and others’ time) pursuing opportunities that you have no intention of taking.
3. Have a plan for your job search
Using your time strategically is critical to job search success. It’s easy to get caught up in mindlessly applying for every job you see, but that’s not how you’ll get results. An effective job search plan includes time allocated to each of the following components:
- Networking – researching, contacting, and following up with people in your network
- Online research – developing and refining a list of target organizations and researching companies
- Searching for and responding to job postings – checking sites like Indeed, LinkedIn and executive search firms’ websites for job openings and applying
- Job search correspondence – updating your resume, drafting cover letters, sending timely follow-up and thank you emails
- Maintaining interview preparation – identifying common interview questions and practicing your responses; ensuring you are confident interviewing on video
- Managing the process – keeping clear records of where you’ve applied, staying organized, and self-care so you stay focused and motivated
Consider what percentage of your time you’ll dedicate to each of these items. What are you committing to doing daily to move your job search forward? Weekly? Set specific, measurable, result-oriented goals so you stay focused and can track your progress.
4. Update your resume for the times
A well-known study showed that the average hiring authority spends a mere seven seconds reviewing an individual resume. When you consider that only 25% of resumes even make it in front of a human, it’s even more disheartening.
You can set yourself apart by doing two things well:
- Understanding what information hiring authorities and recruiters use to make a decision whether or not to speak with you
- Making it easy for them to find that information on your resume
The ultimate goal of your resume is to convey to employers “if you hire me, you’ll get these specific, direct benefits.” Aside from poor resume design, not showcasing and quantifying accomplishments is the number one mistake we see executives making on their resumes.
Right now, it’s important to showcase how your experiences have taught you resiliency and agility. Make sure you highlight your technical abilities and other relevant skills that make you more marketable right now. Be specific, and avoid using over-played terms like “team player” or “value-adding.”
5. Clean up your personal social media before starting your job search
Potential employers will look you up on LinkedIn. Ensure the information on your profile is up to date and consistent with the information on your resume. Employers will notice inconsistencies like a different job title shown on your LinkedIn versus what’s on your resume. Any inconsistencies (even seemingly minor ones) can raise red flags for employers.
Right or wrong, most employers won’t stop with reviewing your LinkedIn page. We’re increasingly seeing employers reviewing job seekers’ Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts prior to extending an offer. (A study by Career Builder in 2017 revealed that 70% of employers used social media to screen candidates and based on what we’re seeing that number has increased.)
We highly recommend that you take steps to make your personal accounts more secure. You never know what your potential employers’ views are and what might cause offense. Take some time to review what information strangers, as well as friends of friends, can see by accessing your accounts.
While we don’t condone this, we’ve seen job seekers not get an offer because someone on the search committee saw a “red flag” on a spouse’s or child’s Facebook page. (Yes, this really happens.)
Take control by Googling yourself, reviewing your privacy settings, and considering ways to make your online presence an asset, not a liability during your job search.
6. Put LinkedIn to work for you
Simply having a LinkedIn profile isn’t enough in this highly competitive market. You need to appear at the top of search results when recruiters are searching for potential job candidates on LinkedIn and have a compelling profile that makes people want to learn more. (Ninety percent of recruiters regularly use LinkedIn, so mastering the platform is critical to your job search success.)
How do you appear higher up in LinkedIn search results? Have a fully-completed, keyword optimized profile and stay active (post regularly, participate in groups, add more connections).
Make sure you’re following all the best practices for writing an engaging, mobile friendly profile and increasing your visibility to give yourself a leg up in your job search.
7. Ensure you’re prepared for video interviews
As executive recruiters, we conduct dozens of video interviews each week, and we’ve found that few job candidates excel at video interviewing. The reality is, if you’re not comfortable interviewing on video, it could cost you the job.
If you can learn to interview well on camera, you can differentiate yourself versus most other candidates. Set yourself apart by learning your best camera angles, optimizing your lighting, and ensuring your technology performs flawlessly.
Make a practice video answering common interview questions so you can see what the camera sees. Ask trusted friends to practice with you or enlist a career coach to do a mock interview so you can get comfortable while the stakes are low.
The number one problem we see on video interviews is technical issues that could have been prevented through proper equipment set-up and testing ahead of time. Get familiar with common video meeting platforms and ensure you have a professional video set-up.
If you haven’t interviewed in a while, you may want to update your interview wardrobe. We’ve said it before, but always wear a suit for your interviews. While it may be more comfortable to wear shorts or sweats for your off-camera side, always make sure you’re dressed professionally head to toe. (Several interviewers have told us that dressing professionally is a sign of respect and we’ve heard of an interviewer asking job seekers to stand up just to see how they react if they’re casually dressed outside of the camera’s view.)
8. Tap your network for help in your job search
There is more competition than ever for positions so be ready to take massive action to go after openings. Leverage your network to uncover opportunities that don’t make it to the job-boards. Make sure you are on the radar of appropriate search firms for your industry as well.
Proactively reach out to your references to update them on your search and ensure they’re ready to provide feedback on your candidacy when needed. Social proof is the most effective tool to securing a new position, so consider ways you can incorporate that into your job search strategy.
Final thoughts on how to find a job during these challenging times
The jobs of today are going to be vastly different from the jobs of the past. Be prepared to shift your focus to stay relevant.
Pay attention to signals you’re getting from the marketplace; you may need to change your career plans significantly.
The etiquette of in-person interviews has changed dramatically as well.
Expect delays in hiring timelines and for hiring authorities to be somewhat unclear about their hiring process moving forward. With many companies, it’s changing every day.
Remember companies aren’t interested in you because “you’ve always wanted to relocate to Tampa where they’re located” or “you’ve always wanted to work in healthcare.”
Employers are interested in how you can solve their problems. Identify what these problems are and communicate your solutions during your interviews.
What it comes down to is digging down deep to determine how badly you want the position and the lengths you are willing to go to get the job.
Execute on the basics. Do your homework, be prepared, communicate your interest. Send follow-up thank you notes. The little things matter more than ever right now.
Organizations are hiring right now and with time, energy, and focus, finding a new job is possible.