With the COVID-19 pandemic, job seekers don’t have the option of attending in-person networking events, job clubs, buddy groups, or coffee meetings; at least for the time being. A time will come when they can engage in face-to-face networking. When this will happen is not certain, but it will happen.
Similarly, face-to-face interviews are canceled at most companies. Job candidates look forward to interviewing at companies, as it promises the hope of landing positions at their desired companies. Again, a time will come when job seekers will return to face-to-face interviews.
This is the problem. What’s the solution? Virtual meetings via Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, Facetime, GoogleHangout, and other video platforms are the solution. The good ole telephone can’t be dismissed, but it doesn’t offer the intimacy that video conferences do.
1. What’s missing
Being in the moment is the most obvious missing piece in networking and interviews. Eye contact, a clear view of people’s facial expressions, body language overall are sorely missing. I, for one, feel more alive when in the moment of having human contact. I’m an introvert, so this is not an introvert/extravert thing.
Also missing is physical contact such as shaking hands, handing a networking partner your business card, or even a tap on the shoulder. The same goes for in an interview scenario where the handshake is considered one of the most important components of body language.
What about eye language? This is also key in both scenarios. Eyes speak. They can show sincerity, intelligence, interest, concern, or on the flipside dishonesty. Companies that use AI in their pre-recorded video interviews believe that eye contact counts for a lot.
We are human. We enjoy being present. There’s comfort in standing or sitting across from someone. Shaking hands, making eye contact, and the rest. Even getting in our cars to drive to networking events and interviews are part of the job-search process. There’s comfort in this.
2. What can job seekers do?
This will take a little practice for job seekers. It will require them to get into their stretch zone. They’ll have to make use of whatever resources they have. Maybe they’ll need to spend money they don’t necessarily have. It will require them to readjust their thinking.
If you’re looking for work, this is a time when you’ll have to rise to the challenge of the impersonal job search. At least for the time being. It will require a different mindset. For example, you might be using a laptop which rests on your lap or sits on a table. This is your contact with a person or people miles away.
Getting used to looking at that little bright dot at the top of your laptop will seem weird at first or forever. But it’s something you need to do in order to make eye contact with whomever you’re communicating. I do webinars on a regular basis and believe me, it will never be natural.
Smiling at someone or ones on the other end of the line might also seem weird but it’s something you’ll have to do. People will judge your enthusiasm based on your smile. Smiling will show you’re friendly, approachable, likable, et cetera.
Finding the proper space to conduct your video interview might be a challenge, as well. Find a place in your home or apartment that is well lit. I find bright overhead lighting as well as lighting directed at my face on both sides to be the best. There’s nothing less appealing than dark lighting.
Note: Arlene Pierret, a recruiter at Facebook, recently said during a panel discussion for Hope Summit that recruiters will most likely give you a break on your space, but it’s best to handle it professionally.
Your background is also important. It should be devoid of embarrassing clutter in the background. I’ve seen people with laundry piled up in the background. Not good. What’s acceptable are nice prints, books, plants, et cetera. A room with items in it also reduces echo.
Background noise is also a negative. I’ve spoken with people who’ve had to conduct their virtual meetings from inside a closet, which in return causes an echo. Try to find a room that has items in the room and, most importantly, a door you can close.
3. Why this can be a good thing
The good news is that this impersonal job search is prepping you for remote work. You might be learning how to use Zoom or other video platforms. You have to practice better time management skills. No one is looking over your shoulder telling you what to do.
You’re learning to adapt to less than ideal circumstances. Like me, you’re realizing that there aren’t enough rooms in the house and that you can’t escape to a quieter place outside the house, but you’re adapting and this is a good thing.
You might be spending more time with loved ones; time you didn’t have in the past. You’re having family meals that might have been seriously curtailed by your former work schedule. I know these seem like small things now, but you will look back on them with fondness.
Employers are still hiring
If you think employers aren’t hiring, think again. Employers are hiring, albeit slowly. A few of my clients have been offered jobs during the pandemic. Some of them are being delayed with onboarding, others started immediately with a little difficulty in terms of logistics.
Employers continue to prepare for a time when they will open their doors. This means that you might be offered a job that begins in a few months, which is a long time. So be smart and consider looking for other positions. From a SHRM.com article:
Says, Joseph Puglise, senior director of executive search and recruiting at JMJ Phillip, a global executive search firm, “We’re seeing a mixed bag around how companies respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have many clients that are pushing the interview process forward for critical openings, with slight modifications.”
Employee referral makes you stand out among the vast crowd of people who apply anonymously. So, leverage your network (LinkedIn is helpful for this). Find people who work at one of these employers IF you want to work for that employer.
Nonetheless, take a look at the list of open positions Susan publishes. It might give you ideas of other similar companies to include on your target list.
You have more time to do what you should, research employers of interest. Many job seekers spend the majority of their time on their computer applying for jobs. They blast off tens of resumes a week and wait for a response from employers.
Instead use this time developing a company list and researching them extensively, thus setting you up to write tailored resumes and being prepared for interviews.
Your work future might be different
Adaptability will be required if you want to jump out of the gate to land your next gig. For example, you might have to change your career if you were in industries like retail or food. This isn’t to say you can’t get back to what you love. But “transferrable skills” will become a familiar term.
Things will be different when you land your next gig. In other words, you might not return to an office, or if you do the employees could be staggard, as The Washington Post suggests. Working from home could be a thing for quite a while.
Or working at home might become the new reality. It costs some companies less to have their employees work from home. They can reduce office space and overhead costs.
Hopefully you’ve have become more proficient with video interviewing platforms. You held buddy networking groups and job clubs online. You learned better time management skills. Don’t take these skills lightly.
There are organizations that weren’t up to speed with this simple technology before COVID-19 hit. They’re playing catch-up. You could be a savior that teaches them more about the technology you’ve been learning.
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world on its head. Things have changed dramatically. Now is the time when we can embrace the change or buckle under it. I opt for embracing it and adapting to the way things are and the way things will be.