You were deep into your job search — shining up your resume, building up your skills, networking, finding your preferred targets and making inroads, interviewing (informational or job-related), and hopefully following our proven 5-Step Method.
Then the pandemic hit. In the blink of an eye, everything changed. In the few months since the economy first shut down, massive changes have rocked the workplace. And by extension, the job market and searching.
We don’t know if the business landscape is ever going to return to the post-Covid norm. Is that such a bad thing? Relying on the digital revolution to get us through this crisis has enabled working from home, remote collaboration, less face time in the office if it’s not essential you’re there, and less business travel, among other things that could potentially increase the quality of life for employees. But that’s a blog for another day. Right now, you need to know how best to proceed in your job search.
We’ve noticed some key differences in the current job search market. What worked before for you might not work now. Basically, it’s all about pivoting, changing your strategies, and adapting to what’s happening right now in the employment marketplace. But you’re not the only one. Employers have had to pivot quickly, too. Having the mindset that we’re all in the same new world is useful as you look for your next chapter.
Key Differences in a Covid-Era Job Search
Your job targets may need to change
If you have targeted several companies, or even positions in those companies, pre-Covid, take a careful look at that list now. Do a quick search on LinkedIn, Google, Glassdoor, or the company website to get the lay of the land. Or better yet, if you have contacts within those companies, reach out and ask them what’s changed. What’s going on at the company right now? Is hiring on hold? Have layoffs or furloughs happened? Most importantly, try to discern what their hiring situation might be in the future. If those once-promising prospects have ground to a halt, it’s time to expand your search. Information is your best tool here, but remember: hiring will resume. Jobs will be filled. If you’ve created inroads, it’s important to keep them fresh.
Informational interviews may increase in importance
Informational interviews have always been a powerful tool for job seekers, but in this era, even more so. Reaching out to a hiring manager in a company you’ve targeted and asking for a virtual informational interview is a great way to get you on their radar (or back on their radar). It might be an easier “get” now, because many people are longing to get back to business. If the HR pro or hiring manager hasn’t been doing much hiring in 2020, he or she might welcome the chance to grease the wheels in their hiring pipeline. Learn more about the basics of information interviewing in our Guide to Effective Informational Interviewing.
Networking is a whole new (virtual) world
Gone are the days when you could meet people at a conference or networking event, meet up for coffee or lunch, or do much of anything in person. But, that doesn’t mean you need to wait in isolation until the crisis passes. Networking is possible at this time. You just need to adjust your strategy. Some tips:
- Utilize technology. By this time, the majority of people are using Zoom, Teams, Google Meet or other video chat applications to meet and collaborate with co-workers. You can use it, too. Instead of asking for a coffee to reconnect, ask for a Zoom meeting. Video calls are so much more personal and effective than voice calls, and you can reestablish your connection right away. Email first to set an appointment, of course.
- Check for virtual meetings. Many businesses are getting more into webinars than ever to highlight their chosen industry. Check them out! Attend!
- It’s about the relationship, not you. We get it, the whole point is, you’re looking for a job. But relationships go both ways or they ultimately won’t work. Don’t lead with what your connection can do for you. Instead, ask what you can do for them. Maybe you can pass on a connection of yours, or forward a timely article that is pertinent to his or her field. By doing this now, you’ll be strengthening your network for when your industry starts hiring again.
- Don’t begin with too sunny of an email greeting. You don’t have to be the networking Eeyore, but you can finesse your greeting so that it’s sensitive to the times. After all, you don’t know what your contact has been going through for the past four months. Nobody is fine. You might start off with: “I hope you’re navigating all of this Covid craziness,” or “I saw this article today and thought of you. Hope you and yours are happy and healthy during this uncertain time.”
- Wait it out. In the old days, you might get an email response within days, if not hours. Everyone’s lives are in turmoil right now, and we just have to face it, you’re not their top priority. Hence the tip about leading with what you can do for them. They might not get back to you right away, or at all, but they’ll have taken notice.
How to stay visible … using social media.
This isn’t about becoming a social media influencer. Anything but. Here are some keys to using social media right at this time.
- Follow everyone in your network (you’re already doing that, right?), plus other power players and important people in your field. Spend an afternoon focusing on industry associations and other groups that would add more robustness to your social media feed.
- Use hashtags that pertain to your industry. You may find yourself with many new followers and contacts by doing so.
- It’s not about casting as wide a net as possible. Focus on key contacts who you can develop relationships with over time. Engage with them, but be aware of how and if they respond to you. Don’t be a stalker.
- Post thought-provoking articles and blogs. Be of use to people during this time.
- For goodness sake, stay away from politics and don’t respond to people who try to engage you in that debate. No matter which side of the political aisle you’re on, it’s a no-win to get in a political squabble.
Hone your virtual interviewing skills
Whether you’re doing informational or job interviews, you need to be a pro at the art of the virtual interview. Now is the time to polish it to perfection. Here are a few tips:
- Choose an appropriate background. Your interviewer isn’t just seeing you. He or she is also seeing what’s behind you. Yesterday’s laundry waiting to be folded, a messy room, or other distractions won’t do you any favors. Try several spots until you get a compelling, neutral background. Another tip: face a window, don’t have it as your backdrop. The light will wash you out.
- Practice with the technology. Whether you’re using Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or another video chat platform, your important job interview should not be your first time using it. Get with a friend and make sure you know the ins and outs of the application.
- Reboot your PC, make sure your devices are charged and your internet is working. Do this an hour prior to your interview so you can course correct if necessary.
- Look into the camera. When you are meeting in person, you want to look at the person you are meeting with and make a fair amount of eye contact. But, when video interviewing, looking at the person and making eye contact are two different things. The best way to address this is to arrange the video display as a small box as close to your monitor’s camera lens as possible — typically the top middle of your display. This makes it easier and more natural to oscillate between looking at the person and looking into the camera. If you are using mobile technology, this is less of a challenge, but you still want to try to arrange the interviewer’s image to be near the camera, and to be sure to glance directly into the camera’s lens with some frequency.
- Minimize the distractions. We’ve all laughed at pets interrupting important interviews or young children sliding into the room.
- Hone your video storytelling skills. You’ll need to talk about yourself through compelling stories. The better you are at doing this, the more memorable you’ll be. GetFive executive job coach Tom Rice’s advice: Practice on your smartphone. It’s a devilishly simple trick to hone your storytelling skills.
Rice asks his clients to use their smartphones to record themselves answering questions as though they were in a job interview. People have very little idea of how they come across to others, he says, and seeing it in the palm of your hand is a powerful way to develop the impression you’re making. The first step is to come up with a list of possible interview questions (think outside the box here) and craft a story for each answer. Practice those answers over and over and over so you don’t even have to think about them. They need to roll off your tongue.
The next step is to grab your phone and record yourself answering those questions. When you’re finished, view the recording in three ways.
- Audio off. Just look at the visuals of how you’re coming across. What is your body language? How is your posture? Is your head bobbing around while you talk? Are you twitching? Doing weird things with your hands? Does your facial expression look like you’re at a funeral or are you smiling?
- Audio only. Listen to your voice, your inflections, the speed at which you’re talking. Does your voice sound monotone? Are you stammering? Using “um” or “like” too much? Are you stumbling over words or does your answer sound concise, to the point, and convincing?
- Audio and video. Look at the whole package of sight and sound.
“You’ll be horrified,” Rice laughs. But that’s OK. Because it’s only you seeing it, not your prospective employer. Now you’ve got a baseline and can see where you need to improve. “Do it 25 times if you have to, to get it right,” he says.
At GetFive, we understand that it’s a new world out there for both job seekers and hirers. We’re committed to getting you through it both now and in the future.