It may not feel like the most ideal time to be job searching, but in the middle of all of the international turmoil with COVID-19, there’s still an unemployed or under-employed workforce looking for work, and plenty of companies looking for great talent.

The most recent jobs report from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics showed an all-time record-breaking number of applications for unemployment last week — over 3 million in the U.S. alone, with likely millions more to come. Not only did looking for a job become more of an immediate imperative for some seekers, but it became just that much more competitive for those looking to change jobs in the near future.

So how do you stand out in a complex and shifting employment environment and get that job? Here are some tips for job seekers looking to find a job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Step 1: Finding a Job

You might feel that companies are putting hiring on hold, but that’s simply not the case. Whether you’re looking at front-line workers filling in shifts at a local grocery store or a nearby Amazon.com warehouse, there are also dozens if not hundreds of jobs still open behind the scenes at those same companies at their headquarters.

Amazon, who famously is looking to hire 100,000 workers to meet increasing demand for their extensive digital marketplace, is also still hiring for jobs at their Washington State offices, as well as their other corporate locations around the country, and their remote staff as well.

Tech companies like Google and Microsoft have sent workers home to continue remotely, but that doesn’t mean their hiring has ended. Some of the most sought-after workplaces in the country are still trying to be just as innovative this spring as they were last year (and as they hope to be in 2021 and beyond).

Step 2: Improve and then Show Off Your Skills

If you have nothing but time on your hands, or a real willingness to make a big career change, look at what skills you have that are in-demand right now.

Some examples:

  • Workforces are moving remote to stay healthy and to comply with quarantine orders. Highlight your skills such as remote working and software proficiency and soft skills like communication and reliability.
  • Companies are looking for new hires to hit the ground running once hired and need little onboarding or supervision. Show your education and expertise in their field with keywords on your resume and talking points in your interview to emphasize your good fit.
  • Need more training? Take time now to learn remotely. There are tons of resources online for professional development, including coding, IT skills, marketing, and more. One place to turn is Cognixia, their online skills courses allow workers and employers to promote digital training and educational opportunities across many different industries.

Step 3: Putting Your Best Application Forward

While paper resumes may be a thing of the past, having a good resume as well as great application answers are still your ticket to the next step of the hiring process. Look at your current resume with a critical eye and make sure it’s saying everything you want to say about yourself and your work experience. Have a friend review it with an “outsider” perspective to see if you have any confusing sentences or could use some copy editing or revisions. Keywords are your friend when it comes to application tracking software and you’ll want to review the job listing and make sure you’re using some of the same keywords for the most important aspects of the job you’re applying for. A few extra hits could mean you get to advance to the next step: the interview.

Step 4: Acing the Interview

Interviewing will likely need to quickly change to meet our “new normal” across the country, that is, it will need to go remote or one-way to fit everyone’s schedule in order to comply with “stay home” orders.

Remote interviewing might include something like a Facetime or Zoom video meeting with one or more hiring managers or even your potential new boss.  A one-way interview might mean you either respond to written questions in advance and then record a video of yourself answering questions from the company as well. These answers will be reviewed and hopefully you’ll move on to the next steps.

To ace either kind of interview, you’ll want to do a bit of preparation:

  • Practice your “elevator pitch” and your interview questions in advance, even if you’re doing an in-person interview. You can even record yourself speaking and check your body language and demeanor to put your best foot forward. Many of us would love a job interview do-over — and now’s your chance to rehearse!
  • Get dressed as if you were in the room with your interviewer. Don’t just dress from the waist up — remember business pants! The last thing you want is to lean over for a dropped pen and for the video to record your pajama bottoms.
  • Be as professional as possible. Avoid twiddling your hands or playing with your swivel chair. Little distractions like a barking dog or a wild car alarm outside could set the wrong mood for your interview. You’ll want the company to imagine you working from the same seat, so don’t let your background be dirty laundry and a bunch of takeout containers.

Step 5: Mastering Remote Work

Congratulations! You’re hired! If you’re being onboarded during the outbreak, you may in fact see computers, materials, and even a work badge mailed to your home while you start off your first day from the comfort of your home office. While not ideal, you’ll still want to make a great first impression and try to get to know your new (virtual) coworkers.

  • Use communication channels like Slack or Skype Chat to keep up with coworkers. Feel free to introduce yourself and ask questions. Nobody will expect a remote first day to be any easier than an in-person one.
  • If you lose track of who is in charge of what part of your workplan, have someone you can turn to and ask for clarification. It can be hard to remember names and an organization chart when you don’t have a live human to meet with. Before you get too far into your first day, ask your boss or supervisor for a chance to go over the basic structure of your department so you know who you can turn to when you have a problem. You don’t want to burden one person with all of your needs from IT issues to payroll. Ask who the right “helpers” are to stay on track.
  • When it comes time to finally get into the office, don’t feel shy coming in from the remote cold. Remember that everyone will be finding their “new new normal” at that point.

If anything, your remote job search and onboarding experience will be a memorable one — just not one that we’d like to repeat.

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