COVID-19 is certainly throwing curveballs — and a whole lot of anxiety — into every aspect of life.
For those in job search mode – all is not lost. Below are 5 steps you can take to build momentum if you’re just starting out or to maintain it if you have gotten the ball rolling:
#1 Sharpen Your Interview Skills
Practice phone and video interviewing using recording software platforms like Zoom, Skype, FreeConferenceCall.com or even Apple’s Facetime to record and see first-hand how you sound and look.
A few tips:
- CAMERA ANGLE: Put a box under your laptop or prop your monitor on an ironing board (tip from a colleague!) so the camera is at eye-level. Otherwise, you might look like you have a double chin.
- CLOTHING: Check how the colors of your clothing appear on camera. Just like TV news anchors avoid some colors — and most small patterns. Jewel tones or pastel colors work best. Do not wear white or black and avoid big prints.
- LIGHTING: If the light source is behind you, you may appear as a dark silhouette on the screen. Position a lamp or other natural light source in front of you.
#2 Do A Deep Dive
Now’s a great time to do your homework and some research. This means narrowing down the companies you want to target and making a list of the people you know or want/need to know.
Below are four sources to help you uncover details about private, public, and nonprofit organizations ranging from general information like history and financial stats to HR perks and benefits:
Sometimes, the source is the best place to start. Locate the company-in-question online to see everything from press releases and news appearances, and to gain an overview about the company’s benefits.
It’s important to note that oftentimes, a website’s layout, style of writing, and willingness to share more information versus less is often indicative of the company’s culture and vibe.
Best Of Lists
When looking to create a target list of companies that are potentially well-suited to your personality and aspirations, take advantage of “Best Of” where others have already done some of the leg work for you!
Lists include everything from “Best Companies to Work For” to “Best Companies for Women” and even “Best Companies to Work in HR.” Major cities often create “Best of Lists” for local companies.
Public Company Overviews
When it comes to public companies, two great sites to dig some surface dirt and gain insight are Bloomberg and Hoovers. While you have to pay to get a full report at Hoovers, it is free of charge to uncover who is on the board, how the stock has fared, and who are the company’s major competitors.
Private Company Overviews
It’s a little tougher to gather information on private companies, but not insurmountable. Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies is a great place to start, as is 24/7 WallStreet’s list of The 20 Largest Privately Held Companies in America, and Inc.com’s list of Fastest-Growing Privately Held Companies.
Industry overviews are helpful to understand a company’s challenges and can provide you with a great foundation by which to formulate discerning interview questions. While market research companies will charge for reports, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) notes that “Uncle Sam” offers access to free data that can help you understand your market and analyze consumer trends and demographics.
Get Your Career Marketing Collateral In Shape
This is a great time to make sure your LinkedIn and resume are current in content, fresh in format, and keyword optimized.
#3 Shape Up Your Resume
Hopefully, like minds will appreciate my quick-fix list that includes common resume DON’Ts I often come across and some easy tips to turn them around:
There’s a lot out there about the ideal resume length. My anecdotal experience tells me that in most cases, three pages is just too long and will be perceived as such. One page is great – but unless you’re new to the workforce or have been in the same role your whole career, it’s just too hard to fit in 5+ years of experience.
THE QUICK FIX: Widen your margins to no more than .5 inches all around, choose a small sans serif font (love Calibri!) and set your point size to 10. You will be amazed at how much less room this new version takes up on the page.
TOO MUCH TEXT:
Heavy blocks of text, and by that I mean text that is greater than three lines in length, are easy to read in print but tough to read online. A skim reader who comes across a heavy block of text is apt to skip it altogether.
THE QUICK FIX: Whittle down your sentences to the ideal one- to two-line length, and use a bullet to distinguish it from the next thought. Make sure to have at least .5 point between your bullets to facilitate skimming and online reading.
Those who have read resumes for ages can easily tell if you are out of the loop where resume trends are concerned – thanks to telltale signs.
THE QUICK FIX: Show you are up-to-speed by:
1) removing an objective
2) removing “references available upon request
3) including just your cell and not both home and cell
4) including your LinkedIn URL in the contact info along with your email.
TOO HARD TO FIND THE GOOD STUFF:
Don’t bury your achievements below your list of responsibilities. It makes it hard for the skim reader to find it.
THE QUICK FIX: Refer to your performance reports or ask yourself what you are proudest of. Use the response together with some context so the reader can understand your challenges, actions, and results.
How to Shape-Up Your LinkedIn
Below are five elements your LinkedIn needs to differentiate you from others and give your profile it’s best chance of bubbling up to the top of LinkedIn recruiter searches:
- A Keyword-Rich Headline
- Skipped or Lackluster Summary Section
- A Headshot
- A Customized Banner
- Engagement that Aligns with Your Target Audience
Why? Job titles and company names don’t always explain what you do, and oftentimes, hiring managers and recruiters will enter in specific keywords to come up with a list of potential candidates.
LinkedIn gives you 120 characters to craft a keyword-rich headline. This means you should use this section to include the kinds of keywords a recruiter or hiring manager would use to search for talent like you.
Here’s an example:
Keyword Rich Headline:
Sr. Oncology Biopharma Sales & Account Management | President’s Club Strategies that Catapult Bottom-Ranked to the Top
The profile with the most keywords wins because the more keywords you have, the greater your chances of bubbling to the top during the search!
Taking a page from journalism, I liken your LinkedIn About section to the first paragraph in a news story that gives the reader a sense of what the story will be about. Can you imagine a news article that skips this critical section?
When you bypass this section in your LinkedIn profile, you are missing an opportunity to tell the reader what your story is going to be about, and you’re missing the chance to weave in keywords.
On the desktop, the first two lines (approximately the first 40 words) are what show up (the mobile app is even less!). If you are intrigued, you have to click for more. Make them count by including keyword-rich language that shows why people tend to hire someone like you.
Here’s an example that uses 281 characters:
As a Biopharma Sales leader specializing in Hematology/Oncology, I elevate bottom-ranked territories to the top with President’s Award-winning strategies and overcome access challenges by identifying solutions to unique account-specific pain points.
Other components I recommend including in the summary are a skills section (an opportunity to insert keywords) and your contact info (providing an interested party with an easy way to reach out to you without having to do extra clicking to find your contact info on your profile).
Humans being what they are, snap judgments come part and parcel with looking at your LinkedIn pic and banner. I recommend increasing the likelihood of a positive impression by including a headshot that conveys the image you are trying to portray.
When it comes to the picture, use a full-face headshot that does not include others, doesn’t appear like others are cropped out, and doesn’t look blurry. Professionally-taken is best but in a pinch, it works to use a mobile device with some decent photo editing software.
A CUSTOMIZED BANNER
A customized banner can help elevate your brand and presence. I recommend using a super user-friendly and free site like Visme or Canva. You don’t need to be a graphic design whiz to create a right-sized banner that aligns with your target role and industry.
ENGAGEMENT THAT ALIGNS WITH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
Every time you engage on LinkedIn, whether linking, commenting, sharing or posting, contributes to how those who read your profile perceive you. Conversely, when you don’t engage, the public is left to their own devices.
While you don’t have to be a social media stalker, I recommend spending 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening participating on LinkedIn to shape and nurture the brand you’d like to convey.
Consider sharing articles of interest to those in your industry, including your thoughts on a hot topic, or even comment on what others have said. Stuck for where to start?
Consider following industry-leading companies and thought leaders in your field. See what they have to say, comment on it and/or share it with your connections, and add your thoughts!
#4 Connect With Others
During a crisis lock-down, people are online more than ever, and are likely more open to connecting by phone.
➡️ Who you know – Include former employers, vendors, peers, colleagues, customers, competitors, etc. Send them a connection request or engage with them through social media (I’ve seen a huge uptick in activity level on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook).
➡️ Who do you need to know – Reverse engineer the process by making a list of potential companies you’d like to work for, and then a list of people who might be in the room making the hiring decisions for the role you want.
➡️ Reach out to alums – Tap into alumni groups from your alma mater on social media, through social media groups, or your university’s website.
Here’s a sample outreach scripts to get you started:
Email Outreach to Potential Referral – Template #2
My name is xxx and I am an xxx at xxx company. Your name came up as I was scrolling through LinkedIn/searching the University alumni site – I hope you don’t mind me connecting!
Recognizing that this is an uncertain time and you likely have a lot to deal on the home and work front, I completely understand it might be tough to respond at this moment.
I saw you have extensive experience in XXX and I’m very interested in learning more about that space. I’d be grateful for the chance to run some questions by you and hear your advice for career success in the xxx industry.
If you have even 5 minutes to chat, I’d appreciate it. If not – no worries and stay safe!
#5 Apply Online
Those companies that need to hire and hire fast as a result of a crisis situation are more deliberate than ever about their job postings. This means your chances of getting a response have grown exponentially.
If you see a post and think you’re a good fit – apply as fast as you can – ideally within 48 hours.
Tools like JobScan can review your resume to ensure you have the maximum number of keywords included to help you give your resume its best shot at doing well when Applicant Tracking Software systems are at play reading your resume before it gets in the hands of a recruiter.
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
This new life under the pressure of heightened-uncertainty is stressful no matter how you look at it.
My advice? Control what you can control and find new opportunities where they didn’t exist before.
I’m going to try and live by that mantra while cutting myself some slack when moments of overwhelm enter the picture.
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– By Virginia Franco, NCRW, CPRW