The coronavirus pandemic rocked the job market seemingly overnight, with businesses laying off workers and instituting hiring freezes. For just the week ending April 4, about 6.6 million people filed for unemployment, according to the Department of Labor, and the unemployment rate was nearly 8% in September. Since then, it’s gone down, but workers in certain industries are still having a hard time finding gainful employment.
So what does this mean for job seekers? Those who had been actively looking before the crisis might wonder if they should put their job search on hold, while others have no choice but to look for work after being let go from their jobs. Although it’s certainly a tough job market right now, it’s not impossible to land a new gig.
Take the Time To Review Your Resume and Online Profiles
“Make sure your resume, LinkedIn profile and Indeed profile are updated and all match,” said Matthew Warzel, president of the resume-writing firm MJW Careers, LLC. “You want to ensure you have consistent messaging about who you are as a candidate.”
Make Sure Your LinkedIn Highlights Your Accomplishments
“If you’re looking to register on a headhunter’s radar, you need to revamp your LinkedIn presence so it spotlights your value proposition to potential employers,” said Jagoda Wieczorek, HR manager at ResumeLab. “LinkedIn is the weapon of choice for most recruiters who are trying to find great talent from the competition.”
In addition to ensuring that your profile includes relevant keywords and that your work history is up-to-date, Wieczorek said that it’s important to make sure that your LinkedIn clearly states your achievements.
“The most important thing is to provide a clear and concise snapshot of your tangible accomplishments,” she said. “Otherwise, you can’t realistically expect to be reached out to because poachers aren’t looking for mid-performers — they are after A+ performers who can do the job in their sleep.”
Create a Master Resume and ‘Trim the Fat’ When You Apply For a Specific Job
“Most applicants create a general resume and shotgun it at whatever comes their way in hopes to get the callback. The only problem is that most companies today use applicant tracking systems to weed out candidates on autopilot,” Wieczorek said. “These systems rip through resumes, keyword-compare them against the job description and score them for relevance. As a result, the human eye will never see your application if you send out a generic resume.”
Instead of sending the same resume with every job application, Wieczorek said to create an extensive master resume that includes all the skills, certifications and work experiences you have. Don’t actually send this resume out, however.
“Trim the fat and tailor it for every job,” she said. “Skim through the job ad and see what the employer wants (look for keywords). Go back to your master resume and keep the things (e.g., skills, certifications) the job is looking for.”
Update Your Resume and Cover Letter To Reflect the Current Climate
“Pay attention to industry trends and update your resume and cover letter based on things that are happening in the industries whose jobs you’re applying to,” said Jason Patel, founder of Transizion, a college and career prep company. “For example, are you an education professional? Then discuss how you’re experienced at e-learning and remote classes. Are you a startup generalist? Then point out how you’re able to help frugal startups survive brutal economic environments.”
Highlight Your Remote Work Skills
If you already have experience working remotely, make sure to include this in your job application.
“Consider adapting your resume to highlight any previous remote work experience, as well as including any achievements gathered while working from home,” Sherice Sargent, human resources specialist at Insperity, told Fortune.
Create a Video Resume
Stacy Caprio of Her.CEO recommends creating a short video resume to help you stand out from the competition.
“The video should be short — a minute or less — and feature you looking happy, radiating energy and professionalism, and highlight the major accomplishments and talking points of your resume,” she said. “Having a video resume will help you stand out during a time when no one is interviewing in-person, but people still want to see the energy of applicants and get to know people as more than just a sheet of paper.”
Become Proficient in Using Virtual Work Platforms
Carole Stizza, business life and leadership coach and founder of Relevant Insight, LLC, said that you must become knowledgeable about virtual work technology if you want to thrive in today’s job search environment.
“Learn how others are doing virtual work — what platforms they use, i.e. Zoom, free conference calling, Webx, Google Hangouts, etc.,” she said. “Get proficient, because this is how your interviews are going to take place.”
Take an Online Course
With so many people in the job market, it’s even more challenging than usual to land a job. Taking online courses can help give you an edge over the competition.
“For those with extra time on their hands, it’s a perfect opportunity to sharpen their skills or to reskill for a career change,” said Dhawal Shah, CEO of Class Central.
You can even take online courses on how to be a better job candidate, from how to succeed at interviews to how to write a winning resume.
Apply For Jobs That Are in High Demand
“Get strategic,” said Caitlin Proctor, career expert at the resume writing company Zipjob. “Choose your industries and job functions carefully.”
According to a Zipjob analysis, there is a huge demand for delivery and healthcare workers, and grocery store and warehouses are also hiring. Industries to avoid during the current job climate include oil drilling, transportation, hospitality, education, travel, manufacturing, retail and construction.
Only Apply To Companies That Are Actively Hiring
Your dream company might be in the middle of a hiring freeze — or even downsizing — so stick to applying to active job postings for the time being.
“I would advise job seekers to look through online lists of companies that are hiring right now,” said Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation.com. “These may include companies that are hiring remote employees specifically or businesses hiring for essential worker roles. Hopefully, by applying to jobs that are hiring now, you’ll hear from their HR soon, be able to interview and receive a job offer faster.”
Apply For Jobs That Closely Match Your Current Skill Set and Experience
“When the market is tight and competition is fierce, it’s important that candidates are realistic about both their experience and skill level,” said Sarah Doughty, director of recruitment at TalentLab, an IT recruitment company. “It will be crucial for candidates to focus on applying to roles that are closely aligned to their most recent role, using similar tools or performing the same function. During a crisis, employers tend to be risk-averse, and moving forward with a candidate that will require additional training will be harder to justify.”
Apply To 10 Jobs Every Day
“Carve out time to scout and apply for jobs,” Patel said. “Just because everyone’s at home doesn’t mean you should take your foot off the gas pedal. Be sure to send 10 job applications each day.”
Apply Directly Through the Company Website
“Companies track where applications and resumes come from,” said Brandon Hayes, president of the consulting and recruiting firm Kalos Consulting Inc. “Whenever possible, attempt to apply directly through the company website over job boards.”
Keep an Open Mind
“Be open-minded about opportunities right now — the best one for you might look strange at first, but it could be the chance of a lifetime,” said John Roccia, director of career services at Ama La Vida.
Create a Pitch Deck and Send It Along With Your Resume
Roccia said that it’s important to share with recruiters what you can do for their company upfront.
“To stand out from other candidates, always focus your efforts on the value you add in the future — not your reasons for looking for a new job,” he said. “Don’t focus on the past. Focus on creating value immediately. Create a ‘pitch-deck’ for yourself — that’s a quick three- to four-slide presentation that outlines what you can accomplish in the first 30 days. Send it along with a resume to really set yourself apart.”
Continue To Network
You might not be able to meet with people face-to-face, but that doesn’t mean you should stop actively networking.
“Remember that there is no pause,” Patel said. “Although we’re all at home, you can still message people on LinkedIn, set up 15-minute calls, arrange future coffee dates (once social distancing is over), and, in general, build relationships with people. This is the time to plant seeds.”
Engage With Your Goal Company’s Leaders on Social Media
Once you’ve zeroed in on the type of job you want — that currently has open positions — do some research to find the leaders in that field.
“Research the top 20 or 30 companies in the field and then research who their director and VP-level managers are — then research their social media,” said Joe Mullings, founder of The Mullings Group, a medtech talent acquisition firm. “The objective is to begin to establish a rapport by following them on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.”
With everyone working from home, these leaders might be more active on social media than usual.
“Your strategy is to become a member of the inner circle of their social media tribe,” Mullings said. “You start by liking something they say or that they like. Next, you’re adding an occasional clever comment and eventually — because by this time you’ve already researched who they are and the company they work for — you’re on a first-name basis discussing the ins and outs of their industry. This is a tried-and-true technique in career development. The only difference is that these extraordinary times allow for the process to be greatly accelerated.”
Practice Doing Video Interviews
If you land a job interview, it will likely be done by video. This is likely a new skill for you, so it may require some practice.
“Practice how to answer questions that you normally receive during an interview using video,” Stizza said. “Get familiar with how you appear on camera and how you sound. If you don’t practice, it will throw you off your game when the opportunity comes along. Remember, from the very first time they see you and ask the first question, the interview has started — be ready, comfortable and smile.”
If You’ve Been Laid Off, Don’t Lead With That as the Reason You’re Applying To the Job
You might be applying to new positions because you lost your job, but your negative circumstance shouldn’t be the focus when a recruiter asks you why you are applying.
“To potential hiring partners, it makes you look like you wouldn’t normally be interested in pursuing a role with them,” Roccia said. “Think about which line sounds better: ‘I’d like to take you on a date because my last girlfriend dumped me,’ or ‘I’d like to take you on a date because you’re charming and funny.’ That’s the difference between telling a company you want to work for them because you got laid off and telling them you want to work for them because you’re excited about the opportunity.”
Don’t Get Greedy When It Comes to Salary Negotiations
Even companies that are actively hiring are likely on a tight budget, so it’s important to be realistic when it comes to salary negotiations.
“Candidates attempting to aggressively negotiate or use this crisis to job jump for financial gain only will likely find that employers’ patience will be very thin, and they will ultimately end up burning a bridge,” Doughty said. “Address your compensation needs — not wants — early in the process and accept the offer if it’s within the range you have given. Every company in the world is carefully watching their bottom line right now, and that will mean less flexibility to offer candidates above-market (pay).”
Be Prepared for a Delay in Correspondence
Recruiters might not get back to you right away in the current hiring climate, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep actively applying to jobs.
“Continue to submit to jobs regardless of the timeline for returned correspondence,” Warzel said. “People will need to go to work once this outbreak is done, and you want to ensure you’re already engaged with the recruiter and ready to interview when you and they are ready. Submit your credentials into your targeted company’s job portal too — that way you are now in their applicant tracking system and ready for the internal recruiter’s review.”
Be Patient and Stay Positive
Even if you follow all of this advice to a T, you should still be prepared for setbacks and disappointment.
“In uncertain times, a job search can take longer than expected,” said Luke Stratmann, metro market manager for Robert Half, a recruitment and staffing firm. “Go easy on yourself and look at setbacks as an opportunity to learn and grow.”
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