By Lauren Schwahn
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, millions of Americans are shifting to remote jobs or conducting their employment searches entirely from home.
Job hunting has always been a little stressful. OK, a lot stressful. A global pandemic certainly hasn’t remedied that.
Rather, it’s changing the landscape.
For one, it’s heating up the competition. Millions of newly out-of-work Americans are chasing employment simultaneously. Applicant pools are also expanding geographically as remote work becomes widespread.
Plus, navigating the entire hiring process from home presents its own obstacles. If you’re in a community that hasn’t fully reopened or are seeking a permanent work-from-home job, it’s likely the new reality.
Here are four ways to fine-tune your at-home job hunt.
Build Your Skills
These uncertain times boast at least one advantage for job seekers: Many resources for online learning are now free or more affordable in response to impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. So make yourself more marketable by learning or developing a skill, or getting a certification (think mastering Excel or dipping a toe into project management). You can find courses for just about any topic on platforms like Coursera and Udemy.
“Then, put that bullet point on your resume. Even if they don’t have a formal certification process, that’s still a big deal to say you invested that amount of time in yourself,” says Julie Kratz, founder of Next Pivot Point, a leadership training organization.
This step can be even more impactful if you’ve had a gap in work experience during the pandemic.
Give Yourself Credit
Maybe you don’t meet 100 percent of the listed requirements for a position, or you’re considering a new career path. Don’t let that stop you from applying.
Be confident and try not to apologize for or otherwise call attention to anything you’re lacking, says Jeannie Kim, vice president of content at career site The Muse.
“What you should do instead is really play up the things that you do have. Play up the skills you have that are in the job description. Play up the background that you have, and make sure that you’re telling the story of how you’re qualified to do the actual responsibilities of the job.”
Highlight Your Adaptability
Businesses across the country are settling into new normals. That might involve reconfiguring workspaces or learning to operate remotely. You’ll make a good impression by demonstrating you can roll with changes. How do you do that? Showcase personality traits and attitudes like flexibility, empathy and creativity, known as soft skills.
“With people not able to be in the same place as their coworkers, being able to show that you have strong communication and collaboration skills are really important right now,” Kim says.
Resumes and application forms often revolve around hard skills: the technical, measurable skills like proficiency in a particular software or programming language. But your cover letter and interview can be suitable places to insert soft skills.
Transferable skills are also crucial to mention, especially if you’re looking to change roles or industries. Those are skills that apply to a wide variety of roles and can include both soft and hard skills, such as sales, writing or leadership.
Previous telecommuting experience can give you a leg up, too.
“Experience managing a remote team would be huge right now because very few managers have managed like this,” Kratz says. “But even having successfully contributed to a virtual team, especially if you can lead with the accomplishments you achieved on that team, would go really well.”
Prepare For Virtual Interviews
The interview process could be mostly, or entirely, virtual — even if the job itself isn’t slated to be. Standard interview advice still applies: Dress professionally, ask smart questions and so on. But you should also adopt a few new best practices.
If you’re granted an interview, ask the company what the process will look like. How long will it take? Who will you meet? Will it be over Zoom, Google, Skype or something else?
Then, do a dry run. Test the audio, video and internet connection on your device. Make sure there’s nothing distracting or inappropriate in the visible background (a ceiling-high stack of dirty dishes isn’t a good look). Get familiar with the software, so you’ll know where the controls are located.
“You don’t want to have your first experience with that software or that platform be struggling to log onto it while you know that a recruiter is waiting,” Kim says.
For good measure, set up a mock interview with a friend who can let you know how everything looks and sounds on the other end. Finally, tell the people you live with when you need access to shared equipment and quiet, uninterrupted time.