If you’re job hunting in the COVID-19 era, get ready to boost your chances of success by following a new playbook. Though the pandemic has put millions out of work, companies are still hiring, says Leigh Yanocha, executive director and head of people strategy at Knopman Marks.
“You can still find work you love,” says Yanocha, who previously oversaw analyst and associate training programs at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. “It’s a matter of adjusting your usual approach and preparing for a process that’s 100% remote. Have a plan, do the pre-work, and be consistent in your efforts.”
Since you may not only interview over Zoom, WebEx, or Skype, but also work virtually once you get hired, be prepared to talk about your experience working remotely, especially if your position involves leading a team. Consider updating your resume to add a section about your home office. “You want potential employers to know you’re set up for success,” Yanocha says.
Who’s hiring now? The good news is that more than half of small and midsize companies plan to hire full-time employees this year, according to a recent survey of 600 business leaders. Financial services firms are among those hiring. For real-time lists of employers currently hiring, check out LinkedIn, the Wall Street Journal, FlexJobs, and Job-Hunt. Tap your networks for anyone you may know at firms with job openings. “A referral from a current employee can go a long way in giving a recruiter confidence that you’re a good fit for the company and the position,” says Yanocha, who recommends consistently devoting at least two hours a day to your job search.
Top Tips to Land a Job in Finance in a Pandemic
1. Polish Your Digital Presence
Start by making sure your LinkedIn profile is strong and mirrors your resume. “The first place I look when I’m recruiting is LinkedIn,” Yanocha says. Like your resume, LinkedIn gives people another snapshot of you. Yanocha likes to see an engaging About section, including extra credentials or projects that may not be listed on your resume but that convey more about you, as well as endorsements. “I always read the endorsements,” she notes.
Be sure to have a recent photograph to help a recruiter get to know you. “It doesn’t have to be a headshot taken by a professional photographer, but it shouldn’t be a photo from your last vacation either,” Yanocha says. “You should look polished.” Of course, your online presence extends beyond LinkedIn. When was the last time you Googled yourself? Go through old photos and posts, ensure personal accounts are private, and check that professional accounts are buttoned up.
2. Network While Social Distancing
Join your alumni association and groups related to your industry. Keep your existing network strong by staying in touch with former colleagues and mentors, and making sure friends, and friends of friends, know you’re looking.
One of the best ways to expand your network and discover job opportunities is by requesting an informational interview with people in your field. “This is a way to connect without pressure,” Yanocha says.
“Send notes to people on LinkedIn and via email, post on Facebook and Instagram, so you’re continually engaging with people in your industry,” Yanocha says. Don’t be shy about letting everyone know. “It makes life easier when you talk about what you want on social media platforms,” Yanocha notes. “When you bring it to light, things come to you.” Asking for referrals and references is a part of the process. It may feel uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. “A lot of people worry that nobody will want to vouch for them. Erase that from your mind. Be vulnerable. Throw yourself out there.”
3. Make Your Resume Bot-Friendly
Do a keyword search of your resume to ensure that the buzz words for the position, and your field, are included. “If you’re applying for a project management position, make sure that key terms, and relevant skills, appear early in your resume,” Yanocha says. According to some estimates, 75% of resumes never get read by a human. At some smaller firms and many Fortune 500 companies, before recruiters and hiring managers see your resume, a piece of software known as ATS, or an applicant tracking system, ranks your resume. Speaking of ATS, it tends to weed out resumes with unusual formatting, so save your resume as a Word document.
Of course, you also want to make sure your resume reflects who you are. “It’s a balance between using keywords and showcasing your talent,” Yanocha says. Think about what you can include to stand out. Is the contribution you can make based on your skillset demonstrated? Have you drawn a clear line between prior successes and the job you’re seeking? Use language that matches the terms the employer listed in the job posting, and emphasize competence in skills that are tagged as requirements for the position. In today’s competitive marketplace, make sure you check all the boxes in the job description and that you can confidently speak to each one.
After you revise your resume, and have a trusted friend review it, it’s time to post it on popular job boards, such as Indeed, CareerBuilder, and Monster. Be sure to check resources like Glassdoor to hear what current and former employees have to say about a company. Check out Glassdoor’s “Hiring Surge” listing of companies that have a spike in demand for workers with relevant skills.
4. Prep for Remote Interviews
Yanocha believes the success of your interview, and whether you land the job, will depend on more than your technical skills and knowledge. The “X factor” that will distinguish you from the pack will be more subjective, such as whether you seem like someone the interviewer would want to work with every day. But you can up your chances by being prepared.
“Prepare for your interview as you would for the most important exam you’ve ever taken,” Yanocha says. She also recommends dressing as though it’s an in-person interview. Be on time, have a professional background without kids roaming around, smile, and make sure digital documents, such as your resume, are handy to share with your interviewer. Be prepared to talk about how you function as a remote worker, how you structure your workday, and hacks you’ve discovered to be productive while working remotely. Find more of Yanocha’s tips on preparing for interviews.
5. Tell a Compelling Story
Count on interviewers asking you to walk them through your resume. “Your career overview should be succinct and interesting, and align with your resume,” Yanocha says. “Don’t stumble or ramble.” Mention unusual extracurriculars or unique, relevant projects from a prior position. Find a way to include accomplishments you’re proud of that relate to the position you’re seeking. “Think about what truly makes you stand out from other candidates,” Yanocha says. “Try to illustrate this in a brief story, so that you’re showing them who you are, rather than saying, for example, that you’re a hard worker.” You want to convey something memorable.
What If I’m Not Hearing Back in My Job Search?
If you don’t get any bites from potential employers after looking consistently for 45 days, it’s time to pause and explore what’s not working. The problem could be that you lack the skills needed for the positions you’re seeking. If you take a close look at your dream jobs, and you lack specific skills or experience required, sign up for a class. “Don’t hesitate to brush up on your skills. I love to see this,” Yanocha says. “It means a candidate is taking the process seriously and investing in their career. It says, ‘I went the extra mile.’”
If you’ve cherry-picked your job opportunities and have the requisite skills, the issue may be your presentation. Consider hiring a professional job coach, a resume expert, or a headhunter. “Job searching is a skill in and of itself,” Yanocha says.
You may also want to listen to professional development podcasts, or work on your communication skills on platforms like LinkedIn Learning. To maintain momentum and avoid feeling discouraged, use your time wisely. Consider auditing your online presence and building out a CV website to create a digital footprint that makes you feel proud. “As long as you take your job search seriously,” Yanocha says, “you will see a light at the end of the tunnel.”