Your pandemic job search — start with a reality check
Whatever the motivation is behind your job search, there are some key points about the process that you’ll want to be aware of as you make your way back into the fray.
If the financial impact of the pandemic hit your family hard, your retirement fund has been depleted, or even if you are just tired of being cooped up, you might be looking for work for the first time in more than a year. Whatever the motivation is behind your job search, there are some key points about the process that you’ll want to be aware of as you make your way back into the fray.
“The job search process requires much more time and effort than many job sites would lead you to believe.”
Many job seekers believe that all they need is an updated resume and they are good to go. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Your resume is not the answer. It is only part of the process. Yes, I said “process.” The candidate who thinks they just need to find an “interesting” job posting, upload their resume and they’ll get hired will be hugely disappointed. The job search process requires much more time and effort than many job sites would lead you to believe. Contrary to advertisements depicting ecstatic job seekers claiming that a job site got them the “perfect job,” candidates must be prepared to have an intelligent conversation. If you are job hunting, you need to know about the company’s needs, possess the skills required to actually do the job, and be prepared to present examples of how you have actually done the required work.
Although it looks like it will be easy, there is no magic pill. It’s time for a reality check. Your strong interest in a position does not translate into being “competitive.” Electronic media has given everyone greater access to information faster. That said, if you are relying on an online tool to do the work, consider the fact that hundreds of other candidates could be competing for the same job. If you have less than 95% of the skills listed or if the 5% you are missing happen to be the most critical skills required to get the job done, then you can stop right there. And to be clear, even if you are functionally “qualified,” that does not translate into being “competitive.” The most competitive candidates will have 100% of the skills in addition to direct and current experience, and they will be familiar with the organization. The further you are from that combination, the less competitive you will be.
Even if you have 95% of the required skills and your experience is relevant, you will still be up against a bevy of other qualified candidates when applying for a widely posted role. If your experience is dated, it makes that entire scenario a bit tougher. The equation can be shifted by having an in-depth knowledge of the company and an inside connection through your network. A current or former employee is a source for learning company particulars, and they may also be able to introduce you to a hiring manager. But know this — if you wait until the job is posted to reach out to that connection, it may be too late.
Preparation is critical to your success. It is not uncommon for a highly “qualified” candidate to be stopped after a first interview because of their inability to relate their experience specifically to the industry or the company they are pursuing. Should they succeed in passing that step and move through an entire interview process, they could still end up being passed over in favor of an internal candidate or a referral by an employee.
Ultimately, companies will look for the candidate who is most likely to succeed. And a referral typically comes with less risk. It is expected that the referring person has screened a candidate to some degree before they refer them, and it is assumed that they would not knowingly refer someone who would not be successful. Yet, it is also not uncommon for a qualified referral to get stopped after a first interview if they have assumed they have it in the bag. There is still a chance that with a combination of relevant or transferable skills and an in-depth knowledge of the industry and the company, you could jump past other otherwise competitive candidates because they did not prepare adequately.
Overall, it is in your best interests to know as much as you can so that you WILL succeed. It only makes sense to recognize your shortcomings and do the best you can to dig for information that will allow you to give it your best shot. Should you succeed in getting the offer, you will be doubly ready to prove your point when negotiating for a higher rate.
For more great advice from Sherri on this topic, check out the Strategic Networking Workshop.