I can’t even begin to express how much my heart hurts for the millions of individuals who have found themselves without employment during the current coronavirus crisis. Being out of work during normal economic conditions is bad enough. When those conditions plummet during a world-wide pandemic, being unemployed can be nothing short of scary.
The national unemployment rate went from 3.7 percent in 2019 to its current high of 14.7 percent. This goes to say that number of jobs available is severely limited, and competition for them is fierce.
However, finding work is still possible. It definitely won’t be easy, but there is hope. There is always hope.
But hope needs help.
And help is what I want to do.
Since I can’t snap my fingers or click my heels three times to open up more jobs, I have to rely on the one superpower that I do have… my keen HR insight.
I have been an expert in human resources management for many years. I started in the mid-1990’s as a Recruiter and am currently the Director of HR for a large non-profit organization. During my tenure, I have seen everything. Everything!
I’ve interacted with a countless number of job seekers throughout my career. I have reviewed thousands of resumes and hired hundreds of candidates. All of this has shown me some successful job searching practices and those that should never be repeated. I know what works from an HR and hiring manager perspective.
Basically, the HR perspective boils down to two fundamental concepts.
Now I’d like to share some success strategies with you.
1. Manage how you think, feel and behave.
The loss of a job may have crushed your self-esteem and left you feeling pretty worthless. You must overcome that. Building your confidence is probably one of the most critical steps you can take because your mission is to convince others that you are a winner. You need to believe that you have what it takes so that others will believe it too. Your actions must also demonstrate confidence. Dress appropriately, speak clearly, make eye contact, smile, etc. You really are being assessed on these behaviors.
HR Perspective: A candidate who is confident, engaged, relatable and a good fit with the company’s culture during the selection process is more appealing than those who just possesses the technical skills.
2. Develop a network that provides support and quality references.
I know that everyone is now telling you to network, network, network. They say go to more meetings and ask everyone out to coffee. Networking is important, but it’s better to have a smaller core of solid connections than a huge collection of business cards.
Your network should include four types of people: cheerleaders, agents, matchmakers and promoters. The cheerleaders will pump up your spirits and keep you motivated. Agents know a lot about the job market and point you towards posted and unposted openings that would be perfect for you. Matchmakers make it their personal mission to get you in front of key people. Promoters write letters of recommendations and are fantastic references. All of them offer feedback that helps improve your job search.
HR Perspective: As HR pros do more and more networking to find qualified candidates, they will cross paths more often with job seekers who also have a well cultivated network. HR also favors candidates with strong networks because references are easier to obtain.
3. Create high quality application materials.
It goes without saying that you must have a resume, customizable cover letter and even a LinkedIn profile ready when you begin your job search. These items and your electronic applications should be free from grammatical errors and typos. These materials do not have to be professionally prepared, but they must be very clear, concise and consistently formatted. The content needs to be easy to read and paint a perfect picture of your accomplishments.
HR Perspective: You would be surprised at how many resumes are submitted with errors and/or are excessively wordy, contain unexplained gaps in employment or a number of other red flags. These applications get passed over by HR because they show the quality of work that could be delivered if you were employed.
4. Demonstrate how you can add value to organizations.
Throughout the entire selection process, you’ll need to go way beyond describing your experience and education. Go even further beyond describing your knowledge, skills and abilities. In order to shine and set yourself apart, you will need to prove to the hiring personnel that you can add value to their organization. Tell them what you can bring to the table that will help your potential employer get closer to its mission. This may be your initiative, leadership during change, continuous process improvement, team building or strategic approach to problem solving. Whatever it is, be sure to include previous, successful examples in your application materials and during the interview.
HR Perspective: Now more than ever, HR pros are concerned with the contribution that employees are making to the organization’s overall success. Candidates who have a track record for being a strong contributor that understands the impact they have in advancing an organization’s mission are given preference.
5. Be ready to use a lot of technology.
The use of talent acquisition technology will continue to expand and be more prevalent in the future. As HR adapts to become more efficient, you should be ready for less personal touch and more automation. Always leave your email and cell number for texts as part of your contact information because you will receive fewer calls and more automated messages. You will see more interviews being scheduled with online scheduling systems. Phone and video interviews are going to replace in-person interviews. Are you prepared for that? You’ll also need to have properly functioning devices, the necessary software and know how to use them. Test your equipment and practice being on camera prior to the interview. In addition, take time to prepare for being on camera by making sure you have a clean and quiet location.
HR Perspective: Fortunately, or unfortunately, it’s either get with the times or get left behind. Think of the ability to master technology as another qualification that may or may not be listed in the job description. And as all qualifications go, you must be able to show that you can meet acceptable standards.
6. Follow up timely and effectively.
There are other things that you can do to help tip the scales in your favor. First, you have to be set up to be very responsive during the selection process. If the recruiter calls to schedule an appointment or ask questions, please respond quickly. So, answer your phone and check your email often when you are in a job search. The other thing that you need to do when you are in a job search is send a thank you letter after each and every interview. I am talking about phone screens, in person interviews and/or virtual interviews. Everyone that you meet with should receive an expression of your gratitude for their time and consideration. It is also a good idea to remind them about your qualifications and how you can add value to their team. These letters should be emailed to them within 24 hours of the appointment.
HR Perspective: What was once a very standard practice is becoming a lost tradition. Thank you (or follow up) letters are still greatly appreciated because they also show your writing skills, highlight your qualifications and demonstrate your interest in the position. It gives you another point of positive contact with the recruiter and selection committee.