Even outside of COVID-19 times, applying and interviewing for a new or first-time position can be challenging. As a result of the pandemic, job hunting is different. To add to it, there are an increased number of people going after the same spot. You may be thinking: “How can I stand out from the crowd?” and “What can I do to impress the recruiter/hiring manager via video conference?”
With the absence of traditional recruiting events like in-person job fairs, on-campus mixers and face-to-face interviews, we need to be more creative and hone those virtual skills that lead to successful job hunting.
Here are some pointers to help you put your best foot forward:
Add your profile and work experience to LinkedIn
Recruiters rely on this tool a lot when searching for the right candidate, even more so now in our virtual environment. Keep your profile up to date and be sure to convey as much about your capabilities as possible, including testimonials from co-workers, employers and professors.
Treat virtual interviews as if you are in the same room
Even though it may seem informal, virtual business meetings require professional attire (at least from the waist up) and eye contact to genuinely connect. Appearing relaxed and focused is key, even amid at-home distractions. That means no fidgeting or glancing around the room. Be mindful of your background, as well. A busy background makes it hard for the audience to focus, so if you are not able to find a calm background, try a virtual background.
Create a meaningful presence
First rule: don’t hide your camera (no one enjoys talking to a blank screen). It is awkward whenever you say “hello” to a black screen and receive no response. Go out of your way to be interactive and participate fully in group sessions. Give a thumbs up when the presenter says something you agree with (if you’re muted), and if you’re able to speak – add your two cents. Establishing rapport on a video conference call can be tricky, but you can master this form of collaboration with practice.
Stay on top of communications
Always follow up! Even before we went virtual, this was my #1 point. Email is more important now than ever before. Submit your resume by email, then send a confirmation email to make sure it was received. Follow up after an interview to say thank you and express interest in the job. Following up will make you stand out amongst other applicants that did not do so. And if you really enjoyed an online event that you attended, reach out to someone from the firm and see if they have time for a “virtual coffee.” This is an advantage of being remote; instead of having to go to the potential employer’s office, now you can “have coffee” with someone two hours away. These quick “touches” with the firm let them know that you are seriously interested.
Ask relevant questions
In addition to general questions about the firm and work style, do not hesitate to inquire specifically about COVID-19 related issues. For example, you can directly ask: “How does your firm support work/life balance?” or “What is your office doing to ensure a safe work environment?” or “How do you embrace remote work?”
We are all in this together, so do not worry about feeling awkward. Chances are the recruiter is also still working out the kinks in this new virtual world and everyone is leaning towards giving each other the benefit of the doubt. With each virtual interview, you will improve!
Weinstein Spira has embraced virtual recruiting, having recently hired and onboarded new accountants and interns. While it is challenging to hire, train and mentor from a distance, it is possible! Interviewing and finding the right person for a position can be accomplished just as easily in a video conferencing session as in the conference room. And what we have discovered is that we can hire people from all over the country, since we are all working remotely!
Good luck landing your dream job, even in the middle of a pandemic!