There is no doubt that the global pandemic has disrupted the world and changed everything. If you were looking for a job before the coronavirus hit, things have gotten much tighter as the number of unemployed has soared.

But, given this, has anything changed in the job search process? Must your attitude and approach to the task change in any way? Is identifying the right job, developing your unique professional brand, submitting a resume that addresses the job criteria with a compelling covering letter, and then performing to your potential in the interview still the formula to maximise your opportunity to land the role?

Your network is ‘gold’

Experts agree that your network i.e. who you know, is now more important than ever especially for more senior roles. Faced with a greater number of applications, hiring managers are seeking a way through the pile and familiarity will help them identify the candidates to be short listed. To be one of them, you will need to reach out to your network.

Doing this can be a daunting task because you do not have good news to share, but most people will understand where you are at and will want to help. You can contact former colleagues directly, or via LinkedIn or by email outlining your situation and ask them to assist. Do not be daunted or intimidated or afraid to be candid – your experience and situation is perfectly reasonable and understandable.

Polish up your resume

Keeping your resume updated is always important but more so now in the current uncertain environment. You want to be ready to respond quickly to a job advertisement. When writing your covering letter, if it is at all possible, find someone that the hiring manager will know and mention them; this is the familiarity they are looking for.

In their hiring practices in the current crisis, most companies will be focussed on weathering the storm and the recruiter will be further encouraged if you can confidently mention that you are comfortable working in high-pressure environments.

Nailing a virtual interview

If you get an interview, there is a strong possibility that you will be doing it remotely. Preparation, practice, and performance are still the keys to doing as well as you possibly can, but virtual interviews have introduced a few more elements you’ll need to consider.

Technology: you will need to find out what platform is going to be used. It is essential to familiarise yourself with it and test it before time especially if you will need to share screens or show slides/videos. It is recommended to have a way to reach the interviewer outside of the virtual interview as the technology could fail.

By showing you have thought through the possibility, the interviewer will be impressed. Ensuring that your internet connection is the best possible, the risk of failure will be minimised.

Appearance: The aim is to be neat and professional, not over- or under-dressed. Choose a neat, neutral background for the interview, one that humanises you, but sufficiently serious to allow the interviewer to judge you as being thoughtful and committed.

Be conscious that the camera is set to be face-on and not angled upwards – you may want to consider kneeling or standing as this will improve your posture and introduce a dynamic element to your body. Be sure that your face is well-lit and avoid a background that is too bright.

Rehearsal: Ideally, this should be done in the space where the remote interview will be held. This way you will see yourself as the interviewer will, and after a while, you will not be distracted or self-conscious. It is important that you make and hold eye contact with the interviewer and not answer to your own image. You may want to close the window with your image if you can’t stop looking at yourself.

Attitude: Because you will not be in the same room as the interviewer, you will not have as much non-verbal feedback. Without it, there is a tendency for a negative bias to emerge and so, while you practice, focus on staying bright and positive to overcome any self-doubt that may creep in while the interview is in progress.

In the virtual setting, your attitude will be more obvious to the interviewer because he/she will also be working with less visual information and thus fewer instinctual cues.

Emotions: In a virtual/remote interview because the sound is unlike being there in person, emotions can be artificially suppressed. To overcome this, you need to over-emphasise a bit, even exaggerate your tone. Thus, a good idea is to practice with a friend who will provide feedback on whether your emotions come across appropriately and authentically.

Further, the pandemic crisis has made people keener to connect on an emotional level and this applies as much to yourself as the interviewer. The right strategy is to follow the interviewer’s lead on the small talk but to prepare questions of your own to ask of them, for example, how they and their family are coping with the stress of the restrictions imposed by the virus crisis. Home schooling is a hot topic. The rule of thumb is to be brief without being short and to avoid saying too much or being too personal or inquisitive.

It is highly recommended that you record yourself and self-assess your appearance, how you sound, how you come across and whether your answers make the right impact. But, in doing so, concentrate on remaining focussed on the positives so that your performance will be as good as it possibly can be when it counts.

Questions: You will get an opportunity to ask questions during the interview or as it concludes. You should ask the usual questions such as what their expectations of the role are, how success is to be measured, what additional information they’d like you to have about the role but also now, in the new world of virtual and work from home, how their onboarding process works and how new hires are familiarised with the organisation.

In summary, looking for a job is always going to be a stressful experience, however, in the current environment it has just become more challenging. It is important that you recognise that this is not your doing and to be easy on yourself, knowing that you are doing the very best you can and that all jobseekers are confronting the same issues.

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