Job Searching in a Pandemic: A Brave New World

Job Searching During a Pandemic

There has been a significant shift in hiring and job searching since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, nearly 22 million Americans filed for unemployment, and it quickly became commonplace to see numerous candidates who we’ve worked with over the years posting on LinkedIn that they were available for new opportunities or sending us updated resumes in hopes of quickly getting back to work.

It’s difficult to comprehend that merely days before the pandemic shut the business world down, I posted a blog noting how tight the labor market was and advising how to build a CRE team in such challenging circumstances. For those who regularly follow me, you likely noticed how the focus of my blogs immediately shifted to topics related to job searching, like how to update your resume, tips for creating a deal sheet and how to job search in place.

Job Searching Success Amidst Hiring Shift

Eight months in, it’s time to consider how COVID has altered the hiring landscape and how job seekers can be successful amidst that change. One Forbes article claims the hiring process has been transformed as companies are no longer responding to all applicants and all interviews are now virtual.

Under these new circumstances, the article posits that (i) focusing on networking, (ii) improving your resume, (iii) preparing more thoroughly for interviews, and (iv) utilizing LinkedIn effectively have each become essential for job search success.

Networking: Get It Done

What’s the #1 best way to land a new job? Networking. According to Forbes, 70% of all jobs are never advertised. It’s also true that “referrals have a 50% chance of getting an interview, whereas others with no connections have only a 3% [chance].”

One unexpected consequence of the work-from-home movement is that it actually has helped in some ways to facilitate networking. Professionals are more willing to meet because they do not have to commit (or commute) to a face-to-face meeting after working a full day in the office.

According to PBS, other perks to networking during a pandemic include:

  • Built-in ice breakers: our experiences about how we are faring in the pandemic are often universal
  • More people can easily use Zoom or other online meeting platforms
  • Professional associations shifted to online offerings so connectivity continues
  • You can continue to promote yourself and connect with others via social media
  • Online classes or informational interviews allow you to still “meet” people with similar skill sets

The Los Angeles Times goes as far as suggesting that you can significantly increase your success if you “spend 80% of your time networking, 10% of your time calling recruiters and 10% of your time peeking at online postings.” Creating networking to-do lists also helps you stay on track. For example, setting goals for how many people you call per day or how many companies you research per week can greatly expand your reach.

Resumes: Keep It Targeted

Resumes still remain critical in a job search but it’s important to realize that many larger companies use an online Application Tracking System (ATS) to help them handle a large volume of job seekers. These websites parse resumes and seek out key words which match up to components of a job description.

To ensure that your resume is processed effectively by an ATS, avoid using an overly creative style or format. Be sure to highlight the specific skills identified in the job ad within your resume. Companies are also looking for results, so create a “very targeted resume that emphasizes the results you have achieved in your past jobs.”

Poline Associates partners with Resume Pilots to help our candidates improve their resume. We’ve also posted the following blogs on this topic: “Five Resume Formatting Pitfalls to Avoid” and “How to Improve Your Resume Bullet Points.”

Virtual Interviews: Preparation Required

Virtual interviews make it more difficult for companies to make hiring decisions because it can be more difficult to get to know somebody through a video camera. To improve your chances of being hired, be prepared for how the interview might go and try to anticipate topics for discussion.

Like in the pre-pandemic world, you need to prepare responses for typical interview questions. At a minimum, write out answers to the following questions: What are your top five selling points? Why should this company hire you?

In addition to this traditional preparation, you must also ensure that you are “camera ready.” In any interview you need to look the part, but now, you also need to prepare to be seen virtually. Ensure your background is neutral, test your technology, and practice speaking on screen, keeping eye contact with the camera and not the person speaking.

LinkedIn: Your New Best Friend

A detailed LinkedIn profile is now essential for your job search. Ninety-eight percent of recruiters use LinkedIn, reports Forbes, and they say you need: “an up-to-date profile, current photograph, SEO-effective headline, and the right information under experience.” The article also claims you need 300 – 500 contacts for LinkedIn to really impact your job search.

LinkedIn provides many guides to help you utilize the platform for job searching. Here are a few:

Job Search Fundamentals

While some aspects of a job search remain universal, it is clear that hiring and job search practices have shifted due to the pandemic. Active networking, informative resumes, strong interview preparation and LinkedIn engagement have grown to be essential practices in any job search during these changing times.