Landing a job is tough as is. Landing a job during a global pandemic — while many people are out of or low on work and some companies are scaling back — can be tougher.
While many companies do need your help now more than ever, many others are indeed focusing their priorities elsewhere — like on simply how to navigate these tough times. That's why it's important that you treat your job search a little differently in order to appeal to hiring managers at this time.
We asked hiring managers about the changes you should be making to your job search in order to land the job you want during the COVID-19 crisis. Here's what they had to say.
1. Look for work you can do remotely.
"Job hunting during the Coronavirus can be quite tricky, so it really helps to study markets and businesses that won’t be largely affected by the outbreak," says Mike Richards, founder of Golf Einstein. "For one, job hunters can look for remote or digital work instead of in-office jobs. Going remote minimizes the risks of catching the virus as it minimizes social interaction. Not to mention that remote workers are freer to work on strengthening their immune system and work on their overall health. Simply put, remote work is the best way to stay safe and healthy and earn at the same time."
Other hiring managers agree.
"Job hunters should be looking for remote work right now because of the virus," adds Becky Beach, hiring manager and business blogger at MomBeach.com. Beach herself is currently hiring remote designers but having difficulty finding candidates amidst the mayhem. "I advise people looking for a new job to reach out to hiring managers over LinkedIn directly by upgrading to premium. This gives you a chance to connect with them directly instead of falling into the HR black hole. You can search for the hiring manager by going to the company page on LinkedIn and searching the employees. Some hiring managers even post the job themselves."
2. Apply for recession-proof jobs.
"When selecting where to apply, you should look in industries that are more recession-proof, like healthcare and grocery stores vs. restaurants," says workplace and careers analyst, Charlette Beasley of FitSmallBusiness.com. "Although even amid the COVID-19 crisis, some grocery stores are feeling the impact (many are closing early and it's tough to keep up with the demand), the need for their products still exists. Applying to a company that is less likely to fare well during a recession could result in a layoff in the near future."
3. Rise above the challenges.
"In times of challenge, true leaders present themselves," says Mike Smith, founder of SalesCoaching1. "In a search to find employment, one needs a way to separate themselves from the crowd... Be proactive. There will always be challenges, you want to be remembered as the one who succeeded."
One way you can do this is by expressing your readiness to work remotely.
"Amid COVID-19 and social distancing, our work continues, just in new ways," says Anton Smith, director of outreach and engagement at Do Good Work Consulting Group. "We will get through this epidemic, and candidates should avoid [panicing] and realize that newly hired staff may just have to start their ‘first day on the job’ now from home (wow). That’s a very new experience for all of us. So job seekers should share their readiness to work remotely, their capacity to work remotely from home (in terms of technology) and exercise empathy during this crisis that impacts us all."
But don't just talk about how you're willing to work remotely. Demonstrate how you have and can.
"To land a good job during the COVID-19 crisis, you need to ensure the hiring team knows you are flexible (the way you work, where you perform your work, your ideas and solutions, etc.)," says Beasely. "It's a good idea to describe specific situations in which your flexibility led to results in past positions. This will give them the assurance they need to know you're resilient and adaptable during uncertain times; it will also position you as much more than just someone who can do the job. You'll be seen as a valuable asset who can help navigate the company's decisions during this time versus just an employee who can just do the job."
4. Focus in on the jobs you really want (but apply to more of them).
"Rather than send out mass applications, job seekers really need to focus on how to stand out during this period of tighter hiring," says Alex Azoury, founder and CEO of Home Grounds. "Send genuine connection requests on LinkedIn. Engage in Facebook groups. Send out direct mail (but don't stop by the office!). In short, find ways to connect with your target hiring manager beyond the admin inbox provided in a job description."
That said, also be conscious that you might not hear back from all the jobs you want. So you have a better chance of landing one if you apply to more of them.
"Job seekers should be prepared to see lower response rates than normal," says Patrick Algrim, CEO at Algrim.co. "On average, 10% to 20% of job applicants that submit a qualified resume with sufficient experience receive an interview. During these times, we should expect HR teams to be slower to respond. Meaning, if you are in the job hunt right now, you should expect a 5% to 10% interview acceptance rate. Thus, if you are in the market for a job at the moment, you should be applying to more jobs than normal."
5. Be patient.
"Job seekers should continue their job searches during COVID-19; in fact, I would argue that they should (and can) be even more vigilant," says Anton Smith. "We will get through this epidemic and we must avoid the nihilistic threat of end-of-world thoughts. Our lives have changed dramatically and so too have our companies. My HR work has changed as we replace face-to-face interviews with phone calls, Zoom meetings, and now face hiring our very first non-short-term contract employee who was recruited and interviewed entirely online. That’s a new frontier for us, but crisis requires change."
Because of these changing times, Smith says to be patient in hearing back from companies as they devise new ways to engage and communicate with candidates.
Patience is key, hiring managers tend to agree.
"The current public health scare has left many organizations across the globe trying to come to terms with an extraordinary set of circumstances; the world has not come to a complete halt, but it is certainly taking a moment to decide how best to navigate the current turbulence," says Simon Royston, managing director of The Recruitment Lab. "As a job hunter, the one thing you need to be prepared to change is your patience level."
While recruitment teams and key decision-makers navigate these tough times, Royston says that your application does not lack any importance; it's just that they're working in an air of ambiguity.
"Try to resist the urge to chase your application or become negative if you are not hearing back from hiring managers or recruiters," he says.
6. Spend even more time proofreading.
"Proofread your applications!" Anton Smith says. "Physical distancing keeps us from ‘seeing’ each other as we would in the past so one’s application (letter, form, materials) are more than a ‘first impression’ — nowadays, they’re almost the only impression — so there’s no room for errors and typos."
Sure, tidying up your resume and cover letter is always important. But it's especially important right now.
"While it's always great to draft highly tailored resumes whenever possible, now more than ever, job seekers should be tailoring their resume and cover letter to every position they apply to," says Daniel E. Santos, hiring manager and CEO of Prepor. "With so many individuals working from home and the many people who may become unemployed due the pandemic, job seekers will have plenty of time to draft highly tailored resumes for each job they're interested in. During this time, businesses are not in the position to take chances on new employees and may not have the manpower or time to effectively train new employees. Presenting your experience and skillset in a way that specifically addresses the requirements and responsibilities of each position you're applying to will greatly amplify your likeliness of moving forward in the interview process."
7. Be optimistic.
"Applicants should understand that hiring managers and businesses are going to be slow-moving over the next few weeks, and it will likely take longer than usual to hear back regarding jobs they've applied to (or they may notice jobs that were posted a few weeks ago may have been taken down)," says Santos. "However, job seekers should try their best to stay calm amidst the uncertainty. Many businesses will likely be forced to launch new products or modify their operations in order to serve a quarantined population, and many may use this as an opportunity to grow their business. These changes will likely lead to positions opening and can be an opportunity for job seekers, too."
8. Practice virtual interviewing.
"Job seekers should practice interviewing using a webcam, tape themselves and watch it back before interviewing during the COVID-19 time period," says Stacy Caprio, founder of Growth Marketing. "This is because most people aren't used to remote or video interviews, and when watching themselves on video, they can identify areas where they can improve their video interview skills in a way that will give them a real advantage when applying for jobs during this time."
In fact, you might even want to send a virtual introduction of yourself!
"Learning how to live and work differently amid an invasive and little-known viral pandemic can be challenging; however, job candidates can still stand out by showing insights into employer needs and leveraging the concept of social distancing to share their self-promotional portfolio of accomplishments," says Dr. Wanda Gravett, academic program coordinator for Walden University’s MS in Human Resource Management program. "While employers are working with limited onsite staff to support reviewing job applicants, candidates are still needed to meet demands. So, create a distilled resume that clearly hits your capabilities, experience and accomplishments best matched to the company’s needs. Pin this electronically to two things: a short, professional and engaging video introduction of yourself and a brief compelling promo-format letter with key content that shows you’re knowledgeable of the company and have the best experience to support their needs.
Dr. Gravett also recommends updating your computer software and apps so you make sure that you have the technical capability to meet with potential employers via common online meetings forums, including Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Skype for Business.
9. Take online courses to brush up on skills.
"My advice, especially for job hunters that are quarantined from home, is to enroll in online courses that can help enhance your skill sets for the desired job you're applying for," says Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation.com. "If there is a skill you don't yet possess, but the job listing is seeking out candidates that are skilled in this area, now is the perfect time to enroll in an online course and train for that certification. You'll be thankful you did it for your career — and it's a much better use of your time than sitting around watching Netflix!"
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.