With fewer opportunities for traditional, face-to-face networking this year due to social distancing, job seekers should double down on other areas of the search process to maximize their chances of getting noticed. Making sure your resume is in excellent shape, creating a strong presence on LinkedIn and other social networks and setting up informational interviews with industry professionals are effective ways of increasing your hiring potential, say experts.
Your resume is a great place to begin. A good resume is neat and organized, formatted consistently, avoids the use of “inside baseball” acronyms and is no more than one to two pages. It also should be packed with accurate descriptions of past roles and responsibilities described in a way that’s action-oriented and grammatically correct.
“To me, what helps a resume stand out is the format and consistency,” says Talent Acquisition Specialist Sean Henagan with IT services management company Perficient in Lafayette, La. “Keep the same font and text size (except for your name at the top), have bullet points under each experience and pay attention to your spacing to eliminate unnecessary white space. This will give your resume a clean, concise format that makes it easier on the person reviewing it.”
Since most job seekers will apply online, it’s important to also pay close attention to prompts and questions within the employer’s applicant tracking system (ATS). They’re there for a reason, says Human Resources Manager Michelle Hebert with satellite communications company Globalstar in Covington, La.
“In our ATS, we set up questions for each position posted that are related to that position,” Hebert says. “We review the resume as well as the answers to the screening questions. If the question asks the candidate to explain or give details, one-word answers are not impressive.”
“Also,” continues Hebert, “responding to screening questions with ‘see resume’ appears to a recruiter that the candidate is not willing to take the time to respond.”
Another area job seekers can show initiative in the era of social distancing is in developing a strong online presence through LinkedIn and in online industry groups and professional networks. Job seekers should have an updated LinkedIn page with a professional photo, and they should consider posting or commenting on relevant content from thought leaders in the field.
A candidate should also use LinkedIn to learn more about the companies they’re interested in working for, says Perficient Talent Acquisition Manager Pam Urso.
“Candidates shouldn’t just apply to a job at a given company,” Urso says. “They need to research the company, message employees within who could be connected to that role and follow the company on LinkedIn.”
Urso also encourages joining professional groups and networks online. “When you’re part of a group of any kind, it’s an opportunity for members of that group to get to know you in a non-interview setting,” she says. “Oftentimes, open jobs and referrals are posted within groups, so it could be an opportunity to drum up some additional visibility.”
Urso says that prior to COVID-19, online networks were an extra advantage for job seekers, but now, they’re a “must-have.”
Baton Rouge-based management consultant Devin Lemoine says now is a great time for job seekers to set up informational interviews. These unobtrusive conversations can be done by phone or video chat. They’re a simple and straightforward way of gathering information and advice about particular kinds of positions, or about an industry or sector from someone on the inside.
“You’re not asking for a job, but for information about a company or about what it’s like to work in a particular field,” says Lemoine, president and owner of Success Labs. “It’s almost always something people say ‘yes’ to, especially now. There’s a willingness to be generous, and a lot of people have extra time they didn’t have before.”
Lemoine says job seekers should reach out directly to industry professionals or, better yet, tap their personal networks to find connections. Even though candidates shouldn’t ask for a job in an informational interview, it’s possible that they’ve positioned themselves advantageously if an opportunity emerges down the road, says Lemoine.
“A lot of jobs are being filled that are never advertised,” Lemoine says, “so if you’ve impressed someone by reaching out and asking good questions, you could be considered if an opening comes along.”