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5/10/2020 - Trying to get hired amid the pandemic? Here are some tips

by Annie Nova 

Were you looking for a new job when the pandemic hit? Or are you out of work because of the coronavirus?
CNBC spoke with hiring experts about how to still land a job during this trying time.

Whether you were looking for a new job before the coronavirus pandemic hit or have lost your job because of it, one thing is clear: Getting hired now isn’t going to be so easy.

“We’re seeing a lot of interviews rescheduled or canceled,” said Emily Slocum, global head of client services at GQR, an employment agency. “A lot of our candidates are frustrated.”

Yet there are still new positions opening up every day, Slocum said.

CNBC spoke with hiring experts about how to land a job even as the global health crisis shuts down businesses and forces employees to stay home.

Take advantage of downtime
Most of us have a little more downtime these days: Use some of it to update your resume and LinkedIn profile, said Vinay Nayak, vice president of strategic sales and operations at recruiting agency Aerotek.

While you’re at it, clean up your social media pages, said Debra Thorpe, senior vice president at Kelly Services, a staffing agency. “Scrub any content you don’t want a potential employer to see — or, if that’s too much work, make your profiles private,” Thorpe said.

You also want to gather references, Slocum said. “The best reference would be someone who is personally connected to the firm you are applying to, either works there themselves or knows the hiring manager directly,” Slocum said.

Research any company you apply to, Nayak said. Become familiar with its work, priorities and style.

Your first interaction with the company should be a personalized message to its hiring manager, said Lee Hills, head of cyber-security recruiting at GQR.

“Many hiring managers are working from home and will be more likely to respond to a direct reach out,” Hills said.

Focus on industries that are hiring
Some industries haven’t been hit as hard by the pandemic as others. Customer service and warehouse workers, package handlers, accountants and health care-workers, for example, are still in demand, Nayak said.

“We are also seeing an uptick in government-related positions to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

Search the internet for companies in these sectors and look for open positions that fit with your experience, said Josh Fitzgerald, head of technology recruiting at GQR.

“A role as a marketing associate at an airline probably won’t be available at present, but the same role at a pharmaceutical company might be,” Fitzgerald said.

If you land an interview
“Physical distancing guidelines shouldn’t slow down the interview process,” Nayak said, adding that, “a well-executed video interview presents an excellent alternative to meeting the employer in person.”

Before the interview, practice your responses to anticipated questions.

At the same time, think about the questions you have for the potential employer, as well as what you want to express about your experience and yourself.

Most jobs are currently remote, Nayak said, so be prepared to discuss your best work from home practices.

Keep in mind that we’re all living in trying times right now, said Risa M. Mish, a professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.

“Open by asking how they are doing before jumping into what you want,” Mish said.

Make sure to dress appropriately and find a quiet setting to conduct the conversation, Nayak said.

Follow up, but not too much
Amid the pandemic, human resources staff at a prospective employer may either be swamped with tasks other than hiring or simply not have many answers to provide right now, Fitzgerald said.

Normally, you don’t want to follow up after an interview more than once or twice a week.

“If they have specifically cited a pause or delay in the recruitment process, I would check in once every two weeks,” Fitzgerald said.

Think outside the box
“Business as usual isn’t anymore,” said Jana Seijts, a lecturer in management communication at the Ivey Business School. “Those who can adapt and seek out possibilities will thrive.”

Consider learning new skills or even enrolling in an online certificate or degree program. “Invest in yourself,” Nayak said.

Maybe you haven’t considered a temporary job but, “contingent labor is essential in uncertain economic times because it allows companies to take a paced approach to their recovery,” Nayak said.

To find such work, you might think about what issues your community is facing because of the pandemic, said Marc-David L. Seidel, a professor at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.

“Do you have the necessary technical skills to help people setup video conferencing to stay both professionally and socially connected?” Seidel said. “Do you have the ability to help people stay healthy with new forms of diet or exercise?

“These are just some broad examples, but the key underlying aspect is identifying needs and matching your hidden skill set with them creatively,” he added.