I was speaking with a friend recently, and she shared that in late January, her husband had taken a leap of faith and quit his long-term job in the finance industry to take stock of his career and try his hand at something new. He had been applying to computer programming boot camps, she said, when the pandemic hit. Oof. The timing couldn’t have been worse.
While my friend’s husband was able to enroll in one of the programs, which he completed in August, he has now been faced with the difficult task of applying to, and interviewing for, jobs during a global health crisis that has ravaged individuals, families, cities, businesses and the economy as a whole. “How do you create an impression when you can’t actually set foot in the office?” my friend said. “How do you get a foot in the door when there isn’t a door to begin with?”
Whether they’ve voluntarily left their positions or been victims of Covid-related layoffs, millions of Americans are in the same position as my friend’s husband. Luckily, as remote-work experts here at WAHVE, we know there are some ways to improve your chances of getting that proverbial foot in the door and make a great first impression—even if it’s virtual. For example:
1. Ace your remote interview. Let’s face it: Most job interviews—at least the first few rounds—are going to happen online. Whether they’re conducted by Zoom, Skype or another video-conferencing service, these interviews pose unique challenges for job seekers. There are ways to help yourself stand out, however. For example, you’ll want to set up your interview space nicely: It should be uncluttered, the light source should be in front of you rather than behind you, and the background should be neutral (if you choose a virtual one, make it a solid, light color). Dress professionally from head to toe, in case you need to stand up. Consider selecting a bold color for your clothing, but keep your look simple and avoid patterns. If you normally wear makeup, consider highlighting your main features (eyes, eyebrows, and mouth) so they frame your face, and go for a bolder lip color, which helps draw attention to what you’re saying. Look directly into the webcam so you make eye contact with your interviewers. Also, it’s important to note that so much of our usual communication is non-verbal, but it can be nearly impossible to pick up on body language over a screen; therefore, you may want to nod and smile more than you usually do, and use your hands to establish more of a connection. And don’t forget to practice your interviewing skills with a friend or mentor. (See our article “Dress for (Video) Success” in our November newsletter for more tips?
2. Network. It’s time to get comfortable with online networking. One expert told The Muse that it’s helpful to seek out like-minded professionals online via groups like LinkedIn and Facebook. Make yourself visible by joining the conversation, posting and commenting (professionally, of course). Consider also signing up for virtual events, which can expose you to more industry professionals you can connect with. You may want to follow up with new connections by inviting these contacts to meet for a virtual “coffee.”
3. Don’t get too caught up in titles. Look past the title of the job you’re interested in and think about the organization and desired skillset. To qualify, you don’t need to fit the job description exactly. Chances are, no one will: It’s a dream-applicant scenario and usually a proverbial unicorn. “The titles don’t mean much anymore,” recruiter Mark Boeder told The Enterprisers Project. Just make sure you tailor your application materials and interview talking points to the skills required for the position and the outcomes desired by the organization.
4. Research which companies are hiring. Some websites are gathering data on which organizations have job openings—check them out! For example, The Muse put together this extensive list of 100 businesses that are hiring. Scan for organizations in your industry and investigate the openings.
Do you have more tips for how to apply and interview for jobs during the coronavirus pandemic? We’d love to hear them.