The new rules of job-hunting during COVID19

“I didn’t know Steve liked pink!” you think in surprise, the first time you see him at home.

“Wow, Natalie sure is messy!”

For many first-time remote workers, video-chat is a sneak-peek into the homes and private lives of people you used to only see at the office. Our Zoom and Slack business calls add a new dimension to the impressions we have of our bosses and coworkers.

Don’t think hiring managers don’t notice, too.

Coronavirus lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders have changed the way we interview and search for jobs. Competition for positions is fierce, because many people are out of work, while few businesses are hiring. At the same time, rules about networking are changing.

 

Job-seekers need a “home office” during COVID.

If you’ve never worked from home before, you might not have a designated office-space. Even if you worked remotely before coronavirus, you might now be vying for space with a partner, or stuck working from a laptop on your kitchen table. But a survey of our technical recruiters shows that might not be a good idea for job hunters.

If you’re job hunting during the pandemic, a dedicated home-office setup will help in several ways. It can make you more productive in your job search; it may help you focus, avoid distraction and stay on task. But, most importantly, it will provide the space you need for when you land a video interview.

Video interviews are now more important than ever to hiring managers. Without the ability to meet in person, hiring teams are trying to get a sense of who a person is through a computer screen. During a video interview, your interviewer will make a lot of assumptions about you based on what they see beyond your shoulders. If they see pillows and a headboard behind you, it won’t matter that you may be wearing your best suit jacket. Your interviewer will assume you’re not taking the interview process seriously.

In this case, a home office doesn’t have to be a dedicated room with a nice desk and office chair. It just needs to be a clean, private space. Most importantly, it needs to have a good background. A clean, professional background tells your interviewer that you are serious about the job and that you won’t let other things distract you while working from home. Additionally, having a clean or neutral space is now important for video interviewing etiquette. You may be answering every question correctly and seem like a perfect fit but hiring managers may be distracted from your seemingly great interview if you have dirty laundry or  trash in the background. You want to make sure the attention stays on you – not your space.

 

A remote interview is not a license to slack off.

A remote interview might not feel as real or intimidating as an in-person interview, but that does not mean that you can be any less prepared. Sure, you don’t have to put on a nice outfit, grab a nice portfolio for your resume, and head to an office building. But you still need to do your homework.

If you’re not prepared for interview questions, tech assessments, and everything else you’d encounter in person, you won’t do well in your online interview. Remember, the post-COVID job market will be competitive. You can’t afford to miss good opportunities because you didn’t prepare.

No one wants to hire someone who can’t follow instructions – especially online. During and after the coronavirus lockdown, employers will be extra sensitive to red flags. If there’s a possibility that you’ll be working remotely, employers will want to know that you’ll be able to figure things out on your own. An employee who can’t follow directions is even more of a problem when they’re remote.

So if a job application asks you to submit a writing sample as a PDF, or an interviewer asks you to join a Zoom meeting from your computer, don’t send a Word doc or join from your phone. (Both of those recently happened.)

 

How do you network when you’re quarantined?

In one of the most influential business books of the decade, best-selling author Keith Ferrazzi inspired a generation to “never eat lunch alone.” Getting a good job, he advised, was about the personal relationships you built by spending time with people.

“Identify the people in your industries who always seem to be out in front, and use all the relationship skills you’ve acquired to connect with them. Take them to lunch.” – Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone

This may have worked in a pre-Covid 19 world but the idea of “never eat alone” doesn’t match our new normal.  Networking is more necessary than ever for job hunters, but it’s no longer as simple to attend networking events or schedule coffee chats.

So how do you “take them out to lunch” online?

My advice? Check out webinars and online Meetup groups. Many business leaders have moved events online, started to host webinars, or started live-streaming. You can find upcoming events on Meetup.com, Eventbrite, and business’ social media channels.

Attend those events. Comment in the chat boxes when prompted. Ask questions during Q&As. Some platforms will even let you send private messages to the moderators or other attendees. Like an in-person event, if you’ve participated and asked thoughtful questions during a webinar, it’ll be easier to reach out afterwards.

 

COVID-19 hasn’t stopped some industries from hiring.

COVID has forced many businesses to put hiring on hold. But many industries can’t stop hiring. If you’re job hunting during COVID-19, you’ll need to know which fields are still hiring, and be willing to look at industries and locations you might not normally consider.

From what we’ve seen, there are several areas that are still hiring. Some of these include: government jobs, government contractors, transportation and delivery, healthcare, cybersecurity, and startups.

Many tech companies and software startups were insulated from the worst effects of COVID-19. They already had remote teams before the lockdown. Software products don’t need an office or retail location, and companies can’t afford to turn their cybersecurity platforms off.

 

Remote work and economic uncertainty have changed where businesses post jobs.

In a competitive job market, you can’t afford to get too attached to a particular field, location, or role. Many jobs are remote right now, and it’s reasonable to assume that a lot of jobs will stay that way for a while. So if you can, don’t limit your search to jobs in your immediate neighborhood. Even before the COVID lockdown, many tech companies posted remote jobs, since remote postings increased the total candidate pool they had access to.

At the same time, many companies and recruiters increasingly use “creative sourcing” to find candidates. They’re posting jobs in subreddits, chat channels like Slack, Gitter, and Discord, and local, specialized platforms. By using creative sourcing, companies can increase the quality and culture-fit of the applications they receive, while reducing the cost to post jobs.

 

For remote job-hunters, LinkedIn is key.

Your online presence and social media image have been important for years. But now, they’re even more important. Until lockdowns are lifted, you might not have a chance to compensate for a bad LinkedIn profile with a good in-person interview. If you’re job-hunting during Coronavirus, your social media presence (especially LinkedIn) should be up-to-date.

Use your LinkedIn profile and other social media to show professionalism, personality, and engagement. If you’ve got extra time in your schedule right now, you can use that time to learn a new skill and showcase what you’re learning on social media.

Take it up a notch by engaging with the comments and posts of companies you want to work for. Especially at early-stage startups and small businesses, I can promise you – we notice when someone takes the time to comment on our posts or share with their network.

Finally, expect a lot of outreach from staffing agencies and recruiting firms. As we wrote previously, we expect many companies to start hiring more like startups, and that includes outsourcing key hires to recruiting firms. In other words, you should pay attention if a recruiter reaches out to you. They can help you land a job, negotiate a better salary, and more.

 

Be prepared for a different job-hunting landscape.

We’ve written a lot about tech trends recently. Benefits increasingly include quirky perks like pet-healthcare discounts. Trends like salary-history question bans are giving job-seekers a more even playing field. Until recently, tech salaries were way up (for some positions more than others) but still largely kept pace with the cost of living in a tech hub like DC.

But the novel coronavirus may change everything. We don’t yet know what the long-term impact of the pandemic will be on compensation and benefits, or indeed on the economy as a whole. But if you take the time to prepare now, to network and learn new skills, you can be sure it will pay dividends down the road.