If you’re looking for a job and watching the coming COVID-19 holiday season loom, don’t despair: It could be your lucky break.
“My advice around the holiday season is to keep the search active,” says Sharon Patterson, chief human resources officer for LHH, the talent development and career transition division of recruitment firm, The Adecco Group. Companies have budgets for 2021 and often want to have new team members in January. That makes the holidays one of the busiest times of the year for some HR teams, she says.
Of course, this year, the job-hunting is complicated. COVID-19 risks, social distancing measures, a challenging job market, and recession have made finding a job, especially in hard-hit sectors, more of a challenge than in recent years. But as you keep pursing your next opportunity, keep these tips in mind to stand out:
Keep your good habits—especially the last step
Searching for a job now requires all of the same job-hunting etiquette as any other time of year. So, keep up your good habits, says career coach ErinBlythe “EB” Sanders, who specializes in career shifts. Research the company. Study the job description or ad. Check out the interviewer to see if there are some common interest points you can chat about. Be ready to talk about yourself.
But where some candidates are slipping is in the follow-up, she says. Because most interviews are videoconferences, it may feel less formal than a meeting and handshake. Be sure to follow up. Send a heartfelt and authentic thank you. Address any questions that came up in the interview. And reiterate your interest and enthusiasm. “It’s your chance to really prove that you’re the right candidate for the job,” she says. “The follow up can really change the candidate that’s chosen.”
Spruce up your virtual presence
Patterson says that, because many HR professionals are relying on video interviews, they’re also looking for ways to get a better feel for who the candidates are. As a result, many are turning to social media profiles and looking for evidence of the candidate’s work online. So, spend some time polishing your LinkedIn profile, ensuring it reflects your most recent accomplishments and any skills you wish to highlight.
Sanders says it’s a good idea to create some sort of digital portfolio where you can put samples of your work, if appropriate, as well as additional background or testimonials. “Having a personal portfolio that can showcase what you do, how you do it, who you are, can really give you a leg up,” she says.
Highlight transferrable skills
Some industries have been particularly hard-hit during the pandemic, such as hospitality, airlines, and some retail businesses, while others are “growing like crazy,” Patterson says. Think about how the skills you’ve developed in your previous roles can be applicable to new opportunities in thriving sectors. Highlight those skills in your online presence, résumé, and in interviews and you might find new opportunities, she says.
Let’s say you have worked at an airline and your job related to logistics. Perhaps you have the skills to work in an e-commerce distribution center that’s growing. “I think the real focus that people may want to have, if they’ve come from one of those industries, is how do they reframe that experience to another industry that is in growth mode?” she says.
Get past the ATS
Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to store and sort résumés. You need to do some work to be sure the ATS is serving up your résumé for appropriate jobs, says Candace Nicolls, senior vice president of People and Workplace at Snagajob, a job search platform for hourly workers. Be sure that your résumé mirrors words and phrases in the job description. However, if you are trying to move into a new field, be sure you also focus on the transferrable skills you identified and use keywords that are relevant to jobs the company has.
Up your video interview game
We’re well into the videoconferencing era and hiring managers and HR reps expect you to be able to handle the basics, Sanders says. “It’s about finding that corner that face or you can present yourself in the very best light possible without technological glitches, distractions, problems. It’s along the lines of showing up late for an interview if you can’t get into your video call at the right time,” she says.
But that’s also an advantage of videoconferencing—you can practice it any time, Nicolls says. Spend some time working with the technology, getting a friend to do a practice run with you if you can. Find a quiet spot with decent lighting and try out some of the features of the platform you’ll be using, such as sharing your screen, if you plan to show some of your work during the interview.
And keep at it. In addition to the number of openings because of budgets, you may find you’re facing less competition because people assume nothing happens around the holidays, Patterson says. She’s speaking from experience: A few years ago, her husband was job-searching at year-end and got three job offers between December 24 and January 2. “This is a time of year when you can actually get a little bit ahead of the curve.”