Job-hunting during the pandemic

Labor Day is Monday, Sept. 7, a day to pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. This year’s holiday, however, is much different than in the past, as the country grapples with an economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The overall U.S. unemployment rate, which was 3.8% before the pandemic, stood at 10.3% in July, as the unemployment rate gap between whites (9.2%) and Blacks (14.6%) widened.

The good news is there are still jobs available, and to gain insight, the Defender turned to two local experts. Carla Lane is president & CEO Lane Staffing, which offers contract, temporary, direct hire and specialized recruiting staffing support. Ken Kral is executive director of the Corporate College at Lone Star College, which partners with global corporations to provide customized training, open enrollment courses and professional seminars.

Here are their suggestions for looking for work during the pandemic:

TREAT JOB-HUNTING LIKE A JOB

Kral offered advice for recent college graduates that can also be used by anyone searching for employment.

“There are jobs out there,” he said. “One just has to be persistent and treat their job search like a job. Show up every day until you find employment. That means searching for jobs on the web, networking to get leads on job openings, submitting resumes to new job openings, following up on previous leads you received or calls or emails from the employer.

‘You have to be able to use the virtual platform that’s available today. This is a time of transition for the country economically and globally as well so the better the skill set you have that increases your chance of employment.’

DETERMINE TRANSFERRABLE SKILLS

If you lost your job in an industry hit hard by the pandemic, consider which skills might be transferrable to another job.

“Career fulfillment is important, but so is having stability in times as unprecedented as these,” said Lane. “Instead of looking for something brand new, look at how existing skills can be transferrable to other industries. Employers are looking for fresh talent with new perspectives but with relevant measurable success and job skills.

“Also, remember the thing about firms like mine is that one can test the waters in varying industries while attempting to find their ‘next.’ The more time that goes by, searching for a job becomes more difficult emotionally and employers will have questions about employment gaps, not to mention the financial toll it can take.

“If you worked in hotels, restaurants and retail, your customer service skills and ability to communicate are probably exemplary. If you were a hostess at a restaurant or worked at a hotel front desk, you are probably really organized and know how to multi-task. Make a list of what skills you used in those environments and then check out the job boards to see where there is overlap.”

BE SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY

Many recruiters use social media networks like LinkedIn to publicize job openings. Kral noted that potential employers also use social media to gain greater insight into applicants’ backgrounds and character.

“Employers are checking out an applicant’s online behavior with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook before bringing that person in for an interview,” he said. “Candidates should seriously think about how their social media presence presents themselves to others.”

One CareerBuilder survey found that 70% of employers use social networking sites to research candidates and nearly half said that if they can’t find a job candidate online, they are less likely to contact that person for an interview.

In addition, 57% found content that caused them not to hire candidates. Content employers most objected to included provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information, posts about candidates drinking or using drugs, and discriminatory comments related to race, gender or religion.

PREPARE FOR VIRTUAL INTERVIEWS

Because of social distancing and remote working, more companies are conducting virtual job interviews with apps such as Zoom or GoToMeeting. Lane offers the following tips:

  • Test the connection using the designated software.
  • Arrive early for the video call.
  • Dress professionally (at least from the waist up).
  • Interview at a location with no background noise, interruptions, clutter or distracting décor. Lane suggested virtual backgrounds.
  • Smile during the interview.
  • Look up, not down at the camera (no one wants to look up your nose).
  • Position yourself so that you are seen from the shoulders up (no talking heads).
  • Check the lighting (no direct sunlight, no overhead light).
  • Look into the camera, not at yourself and not at the screen.
  • Have questions about the role on real paper so you can jot them down (don’t take notes on your computer).
  • Listen carefully and don’t interrupt the interviewer.