If you’ve found yourself unemployed in this COVID-19 world, you are not alone.
The current job market rollercoaster had unemployment rising higher in three months than it did during two years of the Great Recession (2007 – 2009). This has left 16.3 million Americans looking for work, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs report. This pendulum swing has left recruiters overwhelmed with applicants and even the best candidates facing more competition than ever before. On top of all that, the ability to connect and differentiate yourself with a prospective employer during a 100% virtual interview process has even the most seasoned interviewees looking for guidance.
So, how do you stand out?
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, our Talent Acquisition team is here to help. Based on our experience interviewing candidates during the last five months, here are three considerations for anyone tackling a job search during the pandemic.
LinkedIn has always been an important component of your professional brand. But with canceled networking events and conferences, it’s more critical than ever to make sure you are easy to find in relevant searches. Even with an increase of inbound applications, we’re still proactively sourcing candidates.
Start by updating the basics of your profile, including your photo, contact information, and current location to improve accuracy when recruiters are searching. Make your profile public, mark yourself as “open to work,” and add details that recruiters want to know such as ideal job titles, preferred locations, and availability to start in a new role.
Be sure to also provide context and details for the work you do. Do not rely on your company and title to sell your candidacy. You want recruiters to easily understand the value you can bring to their organization. To show up in relevant searches, highlight your key strengths and collect endorsements and recommendations. You are going up against more competition than usual, meaning an endorsement, recommendation, or reference could be what sets you apart.
You’re now ready to engage your network. Comment on posts, share your own content, and make sure your network knows you are searching for new opportunities. LinkedIn’s search function rewards those who are active on their platform by pushing them higher in search results.
Most of us have never interviewed virtually…until now. Though it may be tempting to view the process more casually, treat it the same way you would an in-person interview: convey professionalism and dress for success. We recommend leaning toward business professional dress unless your recruiter tells you otherwise.
As part of your preparation, research the company in advance (don’t count on being able to Google search during the interview, even though you’ll be in front of a computer). Set up news alerts for the company and look at what they have posted online most recently. You should also connect with your interviewers on LinkedIn—besides getting to know them, you’ll see company news they are posting. Finally, take some time in advance to make sure your interview space is set up beforehand with adequate lighting and a good internet connection. Alert family members or roommates to stay off streaming services and to remain quiet during your interview.
During the interview, be conscious of your eye contact and body language and display a blend of enthusiasm and professionalism. Companies want to hire people who are excited about the opportunity, and it can be more difficult to convey this when you are in a virtual setting.
Following up after the interview is critical. Surprisingly, not all candidates take this step, so this can help you further stand out among other interviewees. Be sure to confirm your interviewers’ contact information while you reiterate your interest in the role and ask about next steps—this will reaffirm your excitement for the opportunity.
Send thank you emails later that day or the next morning at the latest, and personalize them for each person you met. Alert your references that you are interviewing so they have time to think about what they want to say if they receive an email or phone call.
If you haven’t heard back, feel free to follow up a week after the interview—while recruiters do our best to follow up in a timely manner, plans are ever-shifting in this environment. Keep searching while you wait to hear any updates, too. Nothing is guaranteed, especially now. And if you don’t get the job, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your recruiter so you know where you can improve for next time.
We hope these tips help you feel more confident as you approach your job search in these unprecedented times—and keep in mind, many of these practices apply for any type of interview process. For more on interviewing at West Monroe, check out our Career Resources.