Job Hunting During a Pandemic

Bet you never thought you would have to search for a job during a global pandemic?!  I still have a hard time believing we are living through this.  We are all in this together right now – recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates alike.  We are all human and we are in territory none of us have experienced.  If you have, you should retire immediately – 1918 was a long time ago. 

I mention that we are all in this together because this is uncharted territory for all of us.  We are all experiencing the stress of working from home with kids, pets, husbands, wives and laundry staring us down.  We are all hoarding food, growing gardens, jamming desks in all parts of the house, and buying masks by the boatload.  None of us feel ok.  We all have anxiety about the future of our lives and our jobs.   

As a recruiter, life changed almost immediately.  Hiring dried up in April.  I don’t blame companies at all.  Cost cutting, layoffs, furloughs and freezes on hiring were needed.  Save as many jobs as they could so they could stay in business.  Smart.  So, as a recruiter, we stepped back and had to be patient.  We had to foster those client relationships, we had to continue to keep our candidates in the know, and we had to ensure our personal financial situation was taken care of.  It was a scary couple of months.  

Good News:  we are starting to see job postings.  Clients are calling again.  Needs are resurfacing.  We are going to be ok.   

Now let’s discuss how you navigate this new world and the competition.  If you worked through 2000 or 2008 when the busts and economic collapse happened – you are stronger than most in your tactics. You have been down this road before. 

To use a recruiter or not. 

Let’s talk about recruiters for one second.  We are not all made the same.   There are staffing company recruiters, corporate recruiters, headhunters and freelance recruiters.  They are all different.   

If you are working with a staffing organization (Robert Half, Ajilon, Kelly Services) you are working with recruiters that are trying to fill positions sent to them by clients.  They range from direct hire, temp and temp to hire.  Recruiters in these roles usually have phone call quotas and commissions to meet each month.  These recruiters are hunters and hustlers – and I mean that in the best way. They are hungry to pipeline, talk to as many candidates as they can and close quickly.  If you are interested in temp/temp to hire – they are your best bet.  They work fast.  They normally have consistent clients. There are divisions of these agencies that will have senior level roles but most postings are volume-based fills. 

If you are working with a corporate recruiter, you are working with a recruiter that recruits for one specific organization.  For instance, in my previous life I was the Corporate Recruiter for Xerox.  I only recruited and filled senior level Xerox roles.  Working with corporate recruiters is a networking game. If you have interest in specific companies for your next career move – it would be smart for you to network with the recruiters at that specific company.  Create relationships.  Don’t just email them and say “I applied, now what”.  Show them why you want to work for that company – what value do you bring. Be yourself!   Corporate recruiters rarely have commissions or quotas to meet – but they are highly motivated to sell their organization and find best fit – especially culturally. 

If you are working with a headhunter you are probably retaining someone financially to help you find a job.  This is where candidates get a little confused. Not all recruiters are headhunters. I would guess 8 out of 10 recruiters staff positions given to them by clients/companies.  Most recruiters do not do the reverse and work for one candidate to find them a job.  Headhunters are experts at what they do.  They have strong relationships on the client side.  They will normally do career counseling, resume updates and help you through the entire interview process.  They charge a fee to work with them.  If you are a senior level/executive you should highly consider working with a headhunter.  Especially if you are open to relocation.  Skies the limit. 

If you are working with a freelance/self-employed recruiter you are working with essentially a staffing recruiter without quotas.   We have built an organization and work for ourselves.  (This is me, if you can’t already tell).  Many recruiters, after years of experience in staffing/corporate recruitment, decide to go out on our own.  We build a client base and source candidates based on those openings. There is no candidate fee to work with a freelance recruiter.  We get paid when we place you at the client – normally a percentage of your first year negotiated salary.  We will also coach you through the interview and offer process.  Some even have a la carte options for resume writing (that requires a fee).   Freelance recruiters are seasoned and have great relationships.   

Now that we have defined that recruiters are not all alike – let’s talk about how you find a job in a pandemic.   

Most Important:  Build your network.  Gone are the days that you can throw a resume against a job posting and get a job.  The last several positions on my resume I obtained from networking.  I have not applied to a job in over 18 years. You have to become comfortable becoming an open networker on Linkedin.  The number one question I get when I speak to candidates is, “should I connect to someone I don’t know”?  YES!  The one thing I look for when connecting is location.  I recruit for national positions.  I used to recruit globally, but no longer.  So, if someone from the US/Canada wants to connect, its 99% that I will say yes. Depending on their background, I may connect to global candidates but not as often as US/Canada.  I want my network to be strong for what I do.  I want my newsfeed to be applicable to my candidates and myself. 

Once you connect to someone start to foster a relationship.  Don’t go right in and say you need a job or try to sell them something – best way to get me to remove you from a connection is an immediate sales pitch when we connect!  Read what they have published.  Read what they have shared with their networks.  Comment, like, engage them.  Start a Linkedin friendship.  Once you feel comfortable that they are engaged as your connection, then talk to them about what you may need.  Maybe an introduction to someone in their network, or a name inside a company to reach out to.  It’s ok to ask – just try to create the relationship first.  

How many resumes do you need?  I hate this part.  Recruiters and “influencers” will tell you that you need a resume for every type of job you are going for.  I am going to say that it depends. If you are an electrical engineer then your resume should be for an electrical engineer.  If you are a teacher, it had better be an academic CV.  Where resumes get tricky is if you are in a more generalized business role – or have been a jack of all trades in your career – then you have to cater based on what you are applying for.  You can’t submit a Project Manager resume to a Business Transformation position. They both have different deliverables and expectations.  Don’t overthink the resume part, though.  All of us do not need 5 different resumes and cover letters.  If you have a consistent theme of your career – you need one.  Case closed.   

How long should the resume be?  Ask a recruiter from 1995 or before and they will say no more than one page.  Ask a recruiter from the economic downturns of 2000 and 2008 and they will say no more than two pages.  Ask an executive recruiter and they will say no more than 4.  Ask Generation Z and they will say, “why do I even need a resume anymore?”  My advice, keep your resume abbreviated. Give the recruiters and hiring managers enough to want more. Think of it as a dating profile.  Make sure all the important information is in there.  Keywords galore.  But don’t over sell yourself.  Don’t put jobs on your resume that are over 15 years old.  Just list them at the bottom.  No one wants to see your first job at Wegmans as a cashier.   I have 20 years of experience and my resume is 3 pages – and I could probably make it even more concise!   

Job boards.  I have my favorites and the ones I used to see the strongest candidates from.  Linkedin usually has the strongest applicants.   Professional and complete profiles help the recruiter really learn about the candidate.  We can see what you care about – what you share, what you like, what groups you belong to.  It is the best gauge for culture fit.    

Indeed, Monster, and Career Builder are middle of the road. I find that applicants apply to as many positions as they can using these tools.  Mass applying – which does no one any service.  Recruiters will decline you faster if they see you applied to 15 positions in 10 minutes – we can see it.  It looks desperate.  Find what is your fit and apply for that. Quality not Quantity. 

Post your resume somewhere on the internet.  Recruiters are trained to x-ray search google and find you. If you have a public blog, maybe you have an account on reddit, involved in groups on Slack… think of ways to get your resume out on the net so we can find you.  It’s a more passive way to be found but we will find you! 

Ok now onto the important stuff – WHAT NOT TO DO.   

I live in a mid-size city – everyone knows everyone.  I would say Rochester is about three degrees of separation from just about anyone. So, get off on the right foot in your search.  I will give you some secrets for not getting on a recruiter bad side (yes it matters, we are the gatekeeper). 

  1. Phone Stalking:  We love follow up calls, but not 10 times in a week.  We know the process can be cumbersome and ridiculously long.  We want the job to close just as much as you do.  But we normally do not have the control over the hiring timeline or speed of decisions. We will influence where we can but calling us 10x in a week won’t get anyone there faster.  If anything, it will make us question fit with our client.  We have every right to remove a submission if we feel that it won’t be a good fit for our client and the relationship we are creating with them.  So just breathe.  We get it.   
  1. Going around us:  If you are working with a recruiter and we have submitted you to a role – do not go all over linkedin and find people that work at that client and message them about your candidacy.  Clients hire us to consolidate the process and remove that aspect.  Once you begin a relationship with the recruiter, you work with them unless otherwise noted to you.  This goes back to the overzealous feeling – people may be turned off inside the company that you go around process.  So just breathe.  We get it. 
  1. Applying to the job:  If you are working with a staffing or freelance recruiter on a specific job – wait to apply to the job until you are formally submitted.  We won’t be able to represent you if you are already in the client’s database.  You are on your own if that happens.  Follow the lead of your recruiter for when to formally apply to the role online. 
  1. Be honest.  In your initial call with a recruiter you will discuss your background, the role, your goals, and compensation requirements. BE HONEST when we get to the money.  A recruiter is there to represent you – and get you as much money as we can – so just be honest with what you would consider in a new role and what you would LOVE in a new role.  You will always be a part of the negotiation but if we give the client a number from our initial call and you change it two months later at time of offer… client not happy!  Now if during the interview process you realize that the role requires more and you want more for it – that is different.  We can go to the table for you.  Open communication with your recruiter is vital. 
  1. Sending unsolicited resumes.   We receive so many resumes.  Whether it’s through applications or referrals or just unsolicited.  None of us mind receiving a resume or hearing your story.  BUT sending us a resume does not immediately mean we can help. Back to the top where it explains what we each do.  I will save a resume and reach out if I have a position that fits. I don’t have time to interview every candidate who sends me a resume.  It is a waste of both of our time.  Don’t assume because you send a resume to a recruiter that we have a list of jobs for you.  Again, create the relationship.  We love to place candidates, that is why we do what we do! 

And please don’t yell at us.  I hate that I even have to say this but since January the stress of the nation has landed on some of our shoulders. I have been yelled at by candidates more in the last 5 months than in my entire career.  I know its stress but goodness!  I would love to place everyone.   And the second I have something that fits your background – you are my first call.  But until then, let’s get to know each other and send funny memes.  I also encourage puppy pictures.  

Hang in there.  We are all in this together.  Here is to 2021!