In 2020, the U.S. market lost many jobs, resulting in fierce job market competition. Glassdoor data reveals that there are drastically fewer positions available in personal services, education, sales, administration, and discretionary health services. However, the economy is rebounding, and March marks the first optimistic jobs report since the start of COVID-19.
This means it’s time for job seekers (like you) to develop valuable skills and sell themselves as potential hires. Long periods of unemployment aren’t an option. When I recently talked to a general manager at a nine-figure company in the Pacific Northwest, he said, “From now on, we will be looking at gaps in employment, and we will not look at them kindly if they were during the stimulus period.”
When the pandemic hit, our organization scrambled to develop an internal corporate video software (like Zoom) to alleviate security concerns. Our team helped train hundreds of recruiting managers across the nation on the art of virtual interviewing. These managers have collectively interviewed thousands of applicants for our entry-level summer sales force. I’ve sat in dozens of one-on-one video sessions, and some were far more successful than others. I’ve extended opportunities to nervous professionals. I’ve dismissed people. I know what it takes for you to stand a chance against other candidates.
When interviewing young professionals, I usually ask, “Why should I hire you?” The best answer I’ve ever received was, “I might not be the most impressive on paper, but you’ll never have to tell me the same thing twice.” A passion for learning is the ultimate competitive advantage. If you can develop a learning mindset and practice these four tactics, you’ll turn yourself into a valuable potential candidate.
1. Actively build relationships via remote channels.
References and connections are critical to your job search, even if you need to make them online. After all, 85% of positions are filled through networking. Whenever possible, attend online networking functions, including alumni events, conferences, and workshops.
However, the best way to engage with other professionals is to reach beyond the screen. A handwritten letter is more powerful than an invite hyperlink. If you meet someone at a virtual networking function, consider writing her a LinkedIn recommendation. If you’re catching up with a mentor, send him a thoughtful and strategic gift. Do all you can to stay top of mind professionally.
2. Embrace the new era of digital communication.
Leading organizations are implementing virtual tools and adopting digital workplaces, so you must accept that the job application process will look different than before. Show employers that you have become agile and can thrive in this new environment.
Demonstrate your familiarity with technology by crafting content that showcases your skills: a digital portfolio or website, a Medium account, a video with your elevator pitch, some form of written content, photography of the work you’ve done, and statistical data or testimonials that can back up your claims. Any content under your personal brand can be used to supplement your résumé and interviews.
3. Present online like a pro.
The future is digital, which is why video will become our new normal. Research shows that 58% of employers will still conduct virtual interviews after the pandemic. You may never meet some interviewers in person, so you have to pitch yourself and present online like you were born for the screen.
Treat every video meeting as your only chance to wow whoever’s on the other side. Set up your camera, figure out good lighting, test your audio and video, and be early. Once you get on your call, look at the camera and be persuasive, captivating, and authoritative. This isn’t the time to wrestle with notes — you should have practiced your interview answers so that you can think on your feet.
4. Learn from your rejections.
Here’s something I would want to hear if I were in your shoes: Anyone who demonstrates determination right now isn’t a failure. You will likely hear “no” far more than you hear “yes,” especially if you’re competing for coveted entry-level positions. But rejections aren’t failures — they’re opportunities to improve your interview skills for next time.
Did you not research the company and its mission? Were you blindsided by unanticipated questions? Practice a mock interview with a friend or family member. Whatever the reason for your rejection, use it as a chance to make your next interview experience better.
Today’s entry-level job market has shifted the power to employers. It’s up to you to persuade interviewers that you’re the best hire, regardless of your experience. By implementing these four tactics, you’ll improve your chances of hearing “You’re hired!” in the coming months.