How to job hunt during the coronavirus pandemic
During the coronavirus pandemic, moving forward in any way careerwise seems complicated at best. But while the economic and social implications of COVID-19 have caused employment numbers to take a hit (in just a week, 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment), there’s still a wide variety of companies that are hiring.
“Sellers of food and other essentials like Walmart and Amazon say they are looking to hire thousands of people,” says Rebecca Binder, senior managing director at RF|Binder, a strategic communications and consulting firm. “Additionally, medical supply manufacturers are seeing demand for their products soar and are recruiting workers.” And as the shift toward digital accelerates now that millions are working from home, technology and services companies that cater to them, as well as online businesses that don’t rely on brick-and-mortar locations, are likely to continue hiring.
Depending on what you want to do and where your skills lie, there is still a job out there for you—even if it may not feel that way. “When job hunting during this difficult time, remember that this is a very unique situation that no one could have ever anticipated,” says Kim Hoffman, Intuit’s director of talent acquisition. The key thing is to be respectful as everyone figures out how to move forward during this trying time, “especially as you reach out to HR representatives who may be overwhelmed helping their employees cope with the change,” says Hoffman.
From needing a lot of patience to a good Wi-Fi connection, here’s how to job hunt right now.
Be patient and acknowledge the situation
The name of the game here is patience. As frustrating as it is to wait for an answer when it comes to getting a job, things are most likely not moving as normal right now. “Many companies are still trying to figure out what the coronavirus means for their business,” says Binder. “While some companies may have hiring freezes, many are still interviewing for open positions—they just may not be moving as fast as originally planned. Show understanding and do not interpret delayed responses as lack of interest.”
Keep this patience in mind when communicating with hiring managers. “You don’t know what companies or employees are dealing with, so it is best to lead with empathy.” If you recently interviewed with a company and have not heard back, it’s okay to reach out to the recruiter. However, says Hoffman, you should consider waiting at least two weeks before following up. “You should preface the email by acknowledging the situation as well as checking to see if there’s anything further they need from you. Then, give them breathing room to respond at their own pace,” she says.
Network and update your resources
While a lot of things may be harder from home, updating your recruiter-facing resources is one that is actually easier. “This is a perfect opportunity to work on your personal branding, like updating your résumé and LinkedIn profile, or building new skills,” says Hoffman. Virtual workshops and online classes can add to your skill level, making you more marketable.
Once you’ve updated all your assets, it’s time to network. There’s plenty of ways to keep doing so while social distancing, but Hoffman recommends reaching out to people for virtual coffee meetings and informal interviews to learn more about opportunities at their company. Just test your Wi-Fi connection first.
Highlight any remote work experience and skills
For anyone who has worked from home before, now is your chance to emphasize this major asset. “Consider adapting your résumé to highlight any previous remote work experience, as well as including any achievements gathered while working from home,” says Sherice Sargent, human resources specialist at Insperity, a provider of human resources and business performance solutions. Did you solve a big crisis or put on a huge presentation from home? Tell recruiters all about it.
After seeing the potential of remote work, it may be incorporated further by companies even after this crisis is over. So while many people are quickly having to adapt to working remotely, it does require a different set of skills that you should highlight if you have them already. “Companies may look for candidates that exhibit soft skills, such as adaptability, creativity, and productivity,” says Sargent. “Additionally, applicants should consider emphasizing their technical aptitude, as a remote setup can demand frequent conference calls or video meetings.”
Graduating seniors should use their university’s online resources
EducationData.org estimates about 3.9 million people will graduate from college this year, many of whom expect to apply for and start jobs shortly thereafter. Yet, without traditional resources like job fairs and in-person internships, this can feel all the more daunting.
Fortunately, “many career service centers have moved online as campuses close, offering students access to a number of resources while remote.” says Christine Cruzvergara, vice president of higher education and student success at Handshake. Resources like this job site and college databases allow students to communicate directly with employers. Cruzvergara explains the importance of checking your account regularly, keeping your profile updated, and reaching out to employers to optimize your chances of being hired.
If a company isn’t hiring right now, ask it to keep you in mind
Maybe you’re interested in working at a company that has implemented a hiring freeze or simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to bring on anyone new soon. “If there are no open positions at the moment, ask if it would be possible to have an informational interview in the coming weeks to learn more,” says Binder. “Companies will still want to build their talent pipeline, so be proactive, persistent, and respectful.” When job hunting, even just getting your name in the door can make a big difference during this challenging time.
More must-read careers coverage from Fortune:
—4 ways to keep networking while social distancing
—17 companies that are hiring during the coronavirus crisis
—Why it’s important to know your communication style at work
—What is a 401(k)? And why do you need one?
—Listen to Leadership Next, a Fortune podcast examining the evolving role of CEO
—WATCH: Can you be a leader and an introvert?
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