9 Job Search Habits That Will Hurt You During a Recession, According to Hiring Experts

9 Job Search Habits That Will Hurt You During a Recession, According to Hiring Experts


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As the world is adapting to what is now the “new normal,” Fairygodboss wants to be there for you every step of the way. Keep reading for timely advice and join our Navigating the New Normal group for continued support.

As of the end of April, a staggering 30 million people have filed for unemployment, as the pandemic stretches on without a clear end in sight. If you, too, are out of work in this moment, it’s understandable that the stakes of your job search will feel high. But there are a few things you can do — and specifically, some things you shouldn’t do, according to hiring experts we spoke to — that will better your odds of job search success during this COVID recession. 

Here are the nine job search habits they recommend avoiding if you’re looking for work right now.

1. Focusing on a specific industry instead of on your skills.

When looking for new roles or sources of income, think about how your skills could apply outside of the industry you’ve been in.

“People should genuinely consider how prior experience can benefit them in secondary related roles,” Ahmed Mir, Founder of Nature and Bloom, said. “For example, a barista could use their knowledge about coffee to write freelance articles about coffee for an affiliate blog… By pivoting their focus from a specific industry to evaluating what critical skills they have, many people will be able to freelance on topics in which they are natural experts.”

2. Letting your online presence go unchecked.

How we present ourselves online has always played a part in how our professional image is perceived. But today, with so many of our opportunities for connection relegated exclusively to the internet, that’s even truer. 

“This has always mattered, but now it is absolutely essential that individuals are more aware of what their online presence communicates about who they are as a prospective candidate,” Anthony Naglieri, Senior Director of External Affairs at Cultural Vistas, said. “If it’s out there, it will be seen and, fair or not, it will be a data point that hiring managers consider in their decisions… now’s the time to review your privacy settings and see what is out there when someone does a search for your name and experience.”

3. Failing to catch the fine print in a job posting.

You’re three cups of coffee into your morning and hoping to apply to as many jobs as possible before calling it a day. But be careful not to fall into autopilot when sending out apps. If you do, it can be easy to skim over simple instructions, and hiring managers will absolutely notice. In fact, a lot of hiring managers will throw a few small instructions into the bottom of a job post specifically to see if you’re paying attention. 

“They don't realize they are already being evaluated by recruiters the moment they apply,” Emily LaRusch, Founder & CEO of Back Office Betties, said. “Before we even schedule an interview, we are looking at a candidate's level of detail orientation. We have a few instructions to measure this. The first instruction is to apply via our website. When a job seeker emails a resume, it goes straight to the trash can.”

4. Relying on a standardized resume and cover letter.

It’s advice you’ve heard a million times before. And yet, it’s incredible how frequently people still think they can get away with a “one-size-fits-all” resume and cover letter. And maybe a standardized resume did work, for at least a handful of people, before. But we’re no longer in a candidate’s market.

“The No. 1 mistake folks are making is not taking the time to tailor their resume and approach for the job they have applied for,” Chase Tinkham, Associate of Business Development Technology at Vaco, said. “Recruiters are looking to fill very specific roles with very specific requirements from the client… Tailor your resume, plain and simple. As a bonus, you can still take your more ‘generic’ resume and post it on job boards.”

5. Believing cover letters are optional — even if the job posting didn’t specifically ask for one.

Even if the job posting doesn’t explicitly ask for a cover letter, it’s always still a good idea to send one, and to make it customized to the role at hand.

“The biggest mistake I see people make is still forgetting to include the cover letter,” Peter Bryla, Community Manager at My Perfect Resume, said. “On the one hand, we get it. In these scary times, there will be a lot of spraying and praying, as people will be applying en masse. However, precisely because of this, it’s key to stand out from the sea of applicants. Cover letters are often optional, but according to this recen study, it behooves you to always include one, as 80% of recruiters consider them important.”

6. Sending out a ton of apps at once, instead of keeping a steady pace.

It makes sense that you’re eager to get the ball rolling, and when you’re stuck inside all day anyway, why not really pour your time into job searching? Rather than unleashing a flash flood of applications that, due to burnout, may soon become a trickle, it’s better to stick to a steady cadence that leaves room for rest.

"Looking for a job during COVID-19 is a full-time job and job seekers should be carefully pacing themselves. Do not mass apply for tons of jobs all in one day and taper off afterwards,” Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation, said. “Create a schedule each day where you are able to set aside some time to research open job listings and edit your resume and cover letter for submission. Track the information about the jobs you apply to in a separate spreadsheet. Note the date the application was submitted, the name of the company, the job title/role, HR contact information, and location. This will help you to stay organized and avoid accidentally applying for the same job twice if the listing resurfaces again."

7. Falling prey to employment scams.

As the national unemployment number rises and work-from-home positions become increasingly coveted, it’s important to keep aware of the potential for remote work scams. According to Samantha Griffith, CEO of Loveys Baby Media Inc., she’s already seen evidence that “a surge of remote work opportunities also entails an uptick in employment scams due to COVID-19 outbreak.”

“Not being cautious enough is the most common mistake employees are making when applying online,” she said. “Remote employees should not grab an opportunity right away. You have to note that not all job postings are legitimate. Do some research and be wary of possible red flags.” 

The most common giveaway of an employment scam? Needing to pay to work.

“Whether it’s for certification or training, a legitimate employer would not ask candidates for fees for onboarding,” Griffith added. “If it’s not a scam, it is usually a pyramiding scheme wherein you pay a fee to get onboarded and are required to recruit other hopefuls to earn anything. If you find that the job you’re applying for has this structure and that you need to shell out money before employment, find another prospect.”

8. Applying for jobs from a place of desperation. 

To be searching for a new job in this current climate means the stakes will feel high. That’s totally understandable. But while it’s certainly easier said than done — and many of us won’t have the privilege or luxury of waiting — Kat Courtney advises trying not to rush into accepting the first opportunity to come your way by default.  

“The biggest mistake I see job seekers making in this new climate is that they’re often coming from a place of fear and desperation and therefore are willing to take jobs they don't actually want,” Kat Courtney, founder of AfterLife Coaching, said. “I know from past experience how intense the fear of financial instability is, but when we take a job just because we think we can't get anything better, it sets up a chain of negativity for everyone — the job applicant, the hiring manager and the teams. If you don't want the job, you likely won't give it your all, and that is felt eventually — sometimes immediately.”

Rather than spreading out your energy across a high number of postings when you’re only interested in a handful, Courtney advises zeroing in on the ones you care about.

 “I highly advise the people I counsel to go full throttle after the jobs they are truly interested in and not to waste precious energy on things that do not appeal to them in any way,” she said. “A short-term discipline can save a lot of grief for a lot of people in the long term.” 

9. Thinking that now isn’t the time to network.

 With in-person opportunities for engaging your network off limits, and the belief that most people are too occupied to want to network right now besides, it’s easy to convince yourself that cold applications are your only bet. But failing to devote time to networking, even in this current climate, can hold your job search back. 

“Job seekers are scaling back their networking since no one can meet face-to-face and instead are sticking to applying for jobs that are cold leads. This means they're letting their networking efforts become stagnant,” Jason Patel, Founder of Transizion, said.  “What they should be doing differently is hopping on phone and Zoom calls with people in their network for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. Use this period to cold message people via email or LinkedIn and, literally, ask for their time. State that you want to ask questions about industry trends, upskilling, and the intermediate prospects of their respective market segment. People will say ‘yes,’ trust me.”