With the onset of COVID-19, we have seen an unprecedented number of U.S. Americans lose their jobs. As we create our new normal, one of the things that we have to do is get back to work. That may look different than it did in January 2020, but it must happen. Job hunting is stressful during "normal" times. When you add the layer of a pandemic, it can seem extremely daunting.
As more and more people flood the market looking for jobs, employers will have their pick of the litter. You will need persistence, hopefulness, and patience to find another job, whether you are changing your career or reapplying to your previous position. While there’s nothing that can eliminate 100% of the stress in this process, here are a few ideas that will certainly help to decrease the stress.
Update your Resumé
Your resumé speaks for you when you aren't in the room. It answers a myriad of questions about you, and they aren't always necessarily related to your specific job skills, education, and training. Some employers look at resumés to find specific personality traits of the applicant. For example, a resumé with multiple spelling and grammatical errors tells an employer that you don't attend to details well. A resume that is disorganized tells an employer that you may have trouble organizing your workspace or mental space. Having a work history that reflects a new job every 1-2 years may communicate that you have commitment issues in your professional life.
It would be best if you paid a professional to review your resumé. Asking your mom to do it may not yield the results that you desire, as well-intentioned as she may be. Also, if you have gaps in your work history, explain them in your cover letter. Many employers will consider those explanations in their hiring process if you provide them.
Corresponding with Employers
Avoid engaging with employers the way that you text or email friends and family. Let's say an employer emails you and says,
"Hi Mr. Smith,
Thank you for your resume. We would like to offer you an opportunity to interview with our Director of HR. Are you available on Tuesday or Wednesday between 4-5pm?"
You may lose points in the eyes of an employer if your response is,
"Yes, I can do Tuesday. Is this a video or in-person interview?"
This response doesn't mirror the formality that you received from the prospective employer. It would be best for you to respond,
"Hi Ms. Tyler,
Thank you for the offer to interview. I would be happy to meet with the Director of HR on Tuesday at 4pm. Will this be a video or in-person interview?"
Also, proofread your emails and make sure that you sign your name. Many applicants correspond with employers from their phones, and they don't always have a signature set up.
The best rule of thumb when you are in the job market is to assume that your interview started from the moment your prospective employer read your resumé. This means that you are being assessed on your resumé, email, and phone correspondence, and interview, not just the interview alone.
Request Substantive Letters of Recommendation
All too often applicants request letters of recommendation from people who obviously don't know them very well. Your letters should speak to your transferrable skills. It's highly likely that your prospective employer wants to know about things like work ethic, professionalism, persistence, problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and more.
Don't ask for a recommendation from someone who can say you earned an "A" in a Principles of Marketing class or that you were the salesperson of the year. Your resumé can brag about your major awards and honors. Only a recommender can speak to your ability to work on a team, bedside manner, willingness to go beyond the task requested, etc. Along those lines, request that your recommender provide specific examples of your qualities. Saying, "Lee is persistent in is job duties" is vague. How has the recommender seen you be persistent?
There is nothing wrong with asking your recommender to make specific points about you (as long as those points are true). For example, you could request that your recommender talk about your problem-solving skills and ask that they specifically mention that time when you resolved a difficult customer situation.
Take Advantage of the Web
In 2021, most companies have a web presence. Use this to your advantage. Don't walk into an interview without being able to communicate why you are interested in working at that specific company. Once you get an interview offer, check out the company's website and social media pages. Do not blindly go into an interview with no knowledge of the company. If you send the message that you applied to 25 companies and yours is just one of them, you won't get the offer.
Make sure you have some questions prepared for the interview. Imagine going on a first date with Sarai. She asks you questions, and you answer them, but you never ask her questions. This may leave Sarai feeling disconnected from you. She may even question why you asked her on a date if you don't want to ask her questions and get to know her. This same idea applies to job interviews.
When the employer asks you if you have any questions, you should have some to ask. One of those questions should NOT be, "what do you do here?" If you are asking this question, it implies that you have no idea why you applied for the job. This is a question that can be answered by reading the job description and the company's website.
Be Mature About Salary Negotiations
If you get to the part where you are negotiating pay, you've almost landed the job. Employers don't talk about money until they think that you are a good fit. With that being said, be mature about the negotiations. Consider this...during pay talks you and the employer have opposite goals. You want to get hired for the job for as much pay as possible. The employer, on the other hand, wants to hire you for as cheaply as possible. It's nothing against you...it's capitalism. A business stays in business when it makes a profit. Employees’ pay cuts into a business’ profits. It's just simple math.
If the offer is too low, make a request for more and explain why. By the way, your explanation shouldn't be "because my last job paid me $21/hour." What happened at your last job has no bearing on the employer in front of you. What skills and talents are you bringing to the company that demand a higher pay?
Hopefully, you can come to an agreement. However, if you can't agree, then respectfully decline. You never know what will happen in the future. There have been employers who have passed on a candidate simply because they couldn't agree on pay; however, they later returned to that same candidate because their other interviews were fruitless. There have also been times when an employer has come back to a candidate and offered a different job with higher pay. When you end immaturely, you close the door on another opportunity. When you end maturely, you leave that door cracked.
Prioritize Your Well-Being
While you are going through this process, make sure that you take care of yourself. Actively engage in self-care so you don't seem burnt out in your interviews. Interviewing and job hunting can take a toll on you, so keep a positive attitude.