The coronavirus crisis has the world economy in upheaval. If you’re not already hurting, you surely know someone who is. Layoffs, shutdowns, cutbacks, and salary cuts are happening across industries, both blue collar and white. The nation is in a state of emergency, and we’re all but certainly heading toward, if not already in, a recession.
The temptation to set aside our focus on work is understandable, especially when the primary concern should be for our health and the health of our friends and family. But the truth is, especially with all the upheaval underway, you may want to take advantage of this time to strategize on how best to sell yourself, going forward.
Here are tips to maximize your hiring chances, based on our research at ResumeGo:
Network in digital spaces
With work rapidly shifting to online spaces, active networking through social media has become increasingly important. Joining and staying active on LinkedIn and even Facebook can lead to unforeseen job opportunities you’d never find in a job listing. A strong presence on LinkedIn can be a boon to securing new employment. At ResumeGo, we conducted a study to understand how having an impressive LinkedIn profile can affect the interview chances of job applicants. Using a sample size of 24,570 fictitious job applications, we found that résumés that included a link to a comprehensive LinkedIn profile received far more interview callbacks than résumés that included only a bare bones LinkedIn profile or no profile at all—a 71% higher chance, in fact.
Building a comprehensive LinkedIn profile takes a little work, but it’s well worth the effort. According to our study, the most successful profiles contained summaries of more than a hundred words, provided highly detailed descriptions of past work experiences, and had more than 300 connections in their network.
Hiring managers want to see job applicants who are active in professional circles and willing to invest the time to build a dynamic profile page. In particular, this level of activity speaks to an applicant’s commitment to maintaining their career during this turbulent time.
Tailor unique cover letters to different job descriptions
There’s more competition for each job opening during this crisis, and applicants will need to do more to stand out. One way is through a well-constructed cover letter.
Our research found that applications with cover letters carefully tailored to individual job descriptions yielded over 50% more interviews than job applications submitted without a letter. Furthermore, our survey of hiring professionals revealed that they give cover letters considerable weight in their hiring decisions, contrary to popular belief. The overwhelming majority of these hiring professionals said they read cover letters and value the ones that are specifically tailored to the job position. On top of that, well over half of them said cover letters materially influence their decisions on who to interview.
Address work gaps in your résumé
Employment gaps on a résumé potentially hamper an applicant’s chances of getting an interview. Our study found that applicants with work gaps have a 45% lower chance of receiving job interviews. With many workers getting laid off now, job seekers may worry about how a prolonged period of unemployment will look on their résumé.
Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the potential damage that a work gap can do to a job seeker. Our study compared job applicants who disclosed a reason for their work gap to those who did not. It found that applicants who provided a reason for their work gap on their résumé and cover letter received nearly 60% more interviews than those who did not give a reason at all.
It’s important to note that the reason given for your work gap does matter here. The study used reasons such as supporting loved ones, attending to health issues, raising a family, and receiving additional training. If you simply write on your cover letter that you took a year off to travel the world or get your life straightened out, you’re more likely to hurt your chances.
Retool your résumé
Conventional wisdom mandates that the résumé be kept strictly to one page. However, we studied this question and found that a two-page résumé can actually help a job seeker’s chances. Our research revealed that recruiters spend nearly twice as much time reading two-page résumés and are 2.3 times as likely to prefer them over one-page résumé. Two-page résumé can also give job applicants the additional space they need to address work gaps, explain relevant experience and skills in greater detail, and stand out from other applicants.
While the weeks or months ahead will be challenging, this just means we need to be as diligent and flexible as ever with how we handle our job search going forward. Also, if you’ve recently been laid off, be sure to stay on good terms and keep in touch with your past employer—you never know when they might want to take you back.
Peter Yang is the CEO of ResumeGo, a national résumé writing service.