COVID + Credit: Job Hunting During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Reading time: 5 minutes
If you’ve recently lost your job, you probably want to reenter the workforce as quickly as possible. Your emergency fund won’t last forever, and losing income without warning can be difficult, especially during the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March when drastic efforts began to contain the virus. More than two months later, it is unclear how quickly the economy will recover from this unprecedented level of disruption across all industries.
Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, losing your steady cash flow can add additional stress to an already challenging situation. However, focusing on finding positions you are qualified for and interested in can help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
Here are some suggestions for jump-starting your job hunt:
1. Clean up your résumé. A job loss can be a great time to evaluate your performance in your last role and identify your strengths, as well as areas you hope to improve. Unemployment could also be the perfect opportunity to reevaluate the direction your career is going.
Unfortunately, if you’re in an industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic such as food service and hospitality; sports, live music and other types of entertainment; or another career that isn’t conducive to working from home, you may not be able to return to your chosen field for months. Instead, it may be necessary to consider how your skill set can translate to another industry that may have more positions available.
A common mistake when putting together a résumé is offering only a broad description of past positions, rather than focusing on what made you great at those jobs. The real question is: What makes you special and sets you apart from other candidates?
Instead of focusing on day-to-day duties, highlight specific accomplishments at each position, such as promotions that brought additional responsibility, ways you saved the company money, projects completed on time and under budget or any other achievements that can be quantified. Do this for each of your previous employers from the past 10 to 15 years.
Long, unexplained gaps in employment can raise red flags for recruiters, so account for as much of your time as possible. If you were unemployed for a few years because you stayed home to raise children, it's okay to include that in your résumé and share the skills you developed to effectively run your household. Also include any relevant volunteer experience you have gained throughout the years, as well as any higher education you completed or additional training you received.
A résumé should be neat, easy to read, formatted consistently and no longer than two pages. Double-check the finished copy for spelling and grammatical errors, as typos may indicate to recruiters that you’re not careful in your work.
2. Know how to craft a cover letter. Although they are an important part of any job application, cover letters are often the most difficult aspect for many people. Here are a few points to keep in mind when writing yours:
- It’s okay to use a template, but each letter you send out should be tailored to the position for which you’re applying. Use phrases from the job listing and describe how you fit the profile of the company’s ideal candidate.
- Don’t just repeat what’s already in your résumé. Use your cover letter as an opportunity to showcase your personality and highlight skills that aren’t apparent on your résumé.
- Keep it short. Cover letters should be limited to one page with no more than three or four paragraphs.
- Avoid addressing your letter generically to “Dear Sir or Madam.” Take the time to find the name of the person who will be evaluating your application (if you can).
When applying online, you may not be able to attach or include a cover letter, so use as much of your cover letter language as possible in any open fields that invite you to explain why you’re interested in or qualified for the position.
3. Commit to the job hunt. Once you’ve started the process, treat your search as though it were a full-time job itself. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are opportunities available in certain industries, and do your best to continue as you would in any other job market.
If you parted amicably with your former employer, don’t be shy about asking for a reference. You can also contact former coworkers or managers for help via email or through networking sites such as LinkedIn.
Much job hunting these days is done online. LinkedIn, Indeed.com and Glassdoor can be great places to look for work, but there are dozens more employment sites out there. Read each job posting carefully and make sure to include all the materials it asks for, as some require more than just a résumé and cover letter. You can also research employers in your chosen field online and visit their websites to check for open positions.
4. Make sure you’re interview-ready. Research each company before your interview: Is it a healthy company, or has it reported losses for the past few years? Is the industry healthy and growing? Does the corporate culture value diversity? Some of this existing information may be rapidly changing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so search for recent news about the company, the industry and its current health.
It’s possible that your interview and onboarding process will commence remotely, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Take time to familiarize yourself with any video conferencing software needed for your interview well in advance of your scheduled meeting time.
The recruiter will guide the majority of the interview, but be prepared to ask questions if offered the opportunity. Some of the most important things to ask include:
- What is the starting salary?
- What are the benefits, including health insurance, paid time off and retirement options?
- Does the position offer opportunities for advancement? You don't want to get stuck in a dead-end job where you don’t have a chance to move up the ladder into positions with greater responsibility or increased pay.
- What will your roles and responsibilities be? You may get to an interview and find that the position advertised in the job listing is not the only role you’ll need to fill.
- Is it possible to perform your work remotely? This is especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic, where working from home is strongly encouraged.
At some point you may be asked why you left your former job. Even if you are still upset that you were laid off, keep your cool while answering honestly. If your layoff was related to the pandemic, indicate that in your interview.
After every interview, send a quick thank-you note to each person who interviewed you to thank them for their time and consideration. While email is usually acceptable, consider mailing handwritten notes for greater impact. You can highlight one or two of the items you discussed during the interview and express again how excited you are about the position. This is a small touch that can leave a big impression on interviewers.
5. Take some time for yourself. If at any point you begin to feel overwhelmed by the whole process, it’s okay to take a step back and reevaluate your strategy. Searching for a job (especially during a pandemic) is no easy task, and be proud of yourself for committing time and energy that goes into finding a new job.