It’s a fraught time to be job searching.
Job prospects may seem bleak, but there are still a lot of good reasons to continue job searching right now, even before our new normal has shifted back to a simpler normal. In order to job search effectively in this current environment, though, you may need to make a few adjustments to your approach.
We heard from recruiters about the biggest mistakes they’re seeing job seekers make during the course of this pandemic, so that you can be sure not to repeat them.
It’s totally valid and understandable that the stakes of your job search will feel high. But executive recruiter Ineke McMahon urges job seekers to not overly show their hand because of it.
“I’m currently recruiting several senior government roles, and the No. 1 mistake that candidates are making at the moment is coming across as too desperate,” he said. “They will ring and email continuously, saying things like ‘I’m prepared to take a huge salary drop to get this role’ really early in the conversation. This is a huge turnoff for hiring managers because they want people who are really interested in the job opportunity. "
McMahon advises focusing your conversation on the job opportunity and leaving personal details out, same as you would ordinarily: “Try to keep your comments and questions specifically related to the job that you are applying for.”
Even outside the circumstances of a pandemic, this is a mistake that recruiting experts like Jagoda Wieczorek, HR Manager at ResumeLab, see job seekers make often.
“The trend we’re seeing is that some prospective candidates who are desperate to land a job are going for quantity over quality when applying for positions,” she said. “Specifically, they create a general resume and shotgun it at whatever comes their way in hopes of getting the callback. The only problem is that most businesses today continue to use applicant tracking systems to weed out candidates on autopilot…. The result is that the human eye will never see your application if you send out a generic resume.”
“Create an extensive master resume and include all the skills, certifications, work experiences you have,” Wieczorek said. “Then just trim the fat and tailor it for every job. Go through the job posting and see what the company wants (i.e. look for keywords). Go back to your master resume and keep the things (e.g., skills, certifications) the job is looking for.”
This is another example of quantity over quality. It’s possible there may be multiple roles within the same organization that you’re genuinely interested in, but it’s best to apply for one role at a time, advised Joe Wilson, a SeniorCareer Advisor at MintResume.
“People are understandably worried about the future, but my advice would be: do not shoot your resume to every vacancy,” he said. “Make considered applications against vacancies you are suitable for. If the same recruiter receives your resume against eight vacancies you are unsuitable for, they will not consider you when you apply for the one that is.”
Start with applying to one position. If you believe you aren’t being considered for that role — either because you’ve been eliminated following a round of interviews, or your application never received a response — then it’s safe to start expressing your interest in one of the other openings.
Speaking on behalf of his recruiting team at Hatch It, Chris Mills said that during and after the COVID-19 lockdown, more companies will outsource their recruiting efforts.
“It looks like many startups have put hiring internal recruiters on hold and are using recruiting firms/staffing agencies instead,” he said. “In other words, one of the biggest mistakes you can make right now as a job seeker is to ignore recruiters. A good recruiter can help you get the job and negotiate the best salary.”
Craft your social media presence in a way that attracts recruiters. LinkedIn is an obvious place to start, but you can also build profiles and stay active on more niche platforms where recruiters are looking for talent. (Including by making a free Professional Profile on FGB!)
Maybe you have good reason to think that job lead you have through a friend is going to pay off. Maybe you have an aversion to cold outreach from people you don’t know. Or maybe you’re forgetting that on the other end of that cold message is, y’know, an actual person. Whatever the reason, don’t forget to respond to recruiters who’ve made a point of reaching out to you.
“Right now many of my searches are on hold, but I continue to do informational interviews so that I can place people in future,” Ann Willets, a recruiter at Generating Buzz LLC, said. “Several candidates can’t be bothered, even though they have time on their hands. Believe me, I take notes and will remember those that ignored me.”
Even if you’re somehow certain the recruiter won’t have anything of interest for you, respond and thank them for getting in touch. It’s the polite thing to do.
The tactics that worked for your job search before may not be sufficient for this new normal. It’s time to get inventive, Pete Sosnowski, VP People and Co-Founder at Zety, said.
“Looking for a job in these trying times calls for less standard solutions,” he said. “Job ads that appear out there will immediately get snowed under applications from other candidates. And yes, ATS-approved resumes will be key here, but it still may land on a huge pile of other applications.”
“Research all the companies that you would consider working for, or that you know are hiring. Check their career sites and social media profiles. Then, send in a spontaneous application,” Sosnowski recommended. “Many companies do not advertise in a standard way but look for employees through word-of-mouth, recommendations, social media platforms or job boards specific to the industry. Others might be on a temporary standby but still building their candidate database.”
Life is changing, a lot. Liam Flynn, a Hiring Specialist at MusicGrotto.com, advises not staying too married to rigid ideas of where you saw your career going prior to the pandemic. It may be time to mix things up, at least for a little while.
“Right now, the important thing is focusing on what you can do today,” he said. “It's okay if you cannot find a job in your field or career path for now. This pandemic will not last forever. This is also an opportunity to add more experience to your resume.”
Thinking about your immediate career prospects in terms of your skills and not hyper-specific job titles may be helpful.
“Focus on your top skills and get creative,”Flynn said. “Think about how you can channel those skills in different ways that you didn't consider before, but that are still relevant to job openings at this time. Also, seek jobs where you can aid and add value to others. This is a great intention to set when looking for work while under quarantine.”
Time doesn’t hold the same function in our lives today as it once did. And that’s true for hiring managers, too. When waiting to hear back about an application, Brittney Wolff, the leader of ASML’s recruiting team, encourages job seekers not to throw in the towel too quickly.
“If you haven’t heard back from a recruiter, don’t assume the job is closed or they aren’t interested. Recruiters are rapidly evaluating and adopting new processes, moving everything from the initial interview to onboarding a new hire to virtual. This takes time,” she said. “It is also a dynamic situation and recruiters might still not have all the new information needed to complete their new processes, like job status priority or setting up a work-from-home infrastructure.”
Although patience in the face of uncertainty can be challenging, in today’s world, it’s crucial to the way we approach “ourselves, our families and friends, and our job search,” Wolff says. Build in the expectation that timelines at most organizations are going to be extended, and when submitting an application, go ahead and add follow-up reminders to your calendar with that extended timeline in mind. Reaching back out after a week and a half is most likely safe.
Uncertainty is scary, and you’re ready to have a new job (and some income) lined up. That’s totally understandable. But still, try not to let anxiety drive your job search, Jenna Richardson, a recruiter at Career Cooperative, says.
“There is a lot to manage during this time; we are living with the anxiety of the unknown day-in and day-out, and when you compound that with all of the feelings that a layoff or sudden job loss can cause, it can be paralyzing,” she said. “Something like putting together a resume, updating a LinkedIn profile or even reaching out to your community can feel difficult to do.”
Breaking down the bigger items of your job search into smaller, bite-size chunks can help keep things from feeling too daunting. And if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed — take a break.
“Focus on setting small, achievable goals each day, lean on your community for support, act quickly, and be flexible with where your search takes you,” Richardson says.
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