The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in many ways, impacting a wide array of industries. While working remotely has become a new normal for many, and some are starting to return to work, millions of Americans are still unemployed (13.6 million as of August 2020).
Whether you’re looking for remote work, a side gig or something more traditional, you’ll likely be doing much – if not all – of your job search virtually. Job hunting was never easy, but virtual job hunting poses its own challenges.
From honing your skills and revamping your resume to preparing for virtual interviews, there’s plenty you can do build your brand and improve your job search.
Whether you’re looking for employment or just want to update your portfolio, check out these tips to establish your professional brand for online job hunting.
Building Your Professional Brand
Your brand is a representation of you. It’s based on everything you do, including your job performance and the behaviors you demonstrate.
“Ask yourself: What am I known for? What does my supervisor think about my work? How do my colleagues perceive my attitude or behaviors?” said Jill Harris, AAA Northeast’s manager of talent acquisition. “Depending how you respond to these questions, it might be time to consider ways to enhance your brand, knowing that you have the power to positively or negatively affect your brand all the time.”
Think about who you are and what makes you unique, and then play to your strengths. Do you volunteer? Have you learned any new skills? Maybe you took online classes, learned a language or earned a license. If not, there’s always time to learn. LinkedIn Learning offers free courses. You can also take a skills assessment to prove your know-how.
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Regardless of where you are in your career or job search, networking can be a valuable tool. LinkedIn is perfect for virtual networking because you can join groups and make connections within your preferred industry.
“Given the climate right now, I’ve seen lots of opportunities for job seekers to attend virtual information sessions that employers are hosting, or virtual career and networking events hosted by a state’s department of labor,” Harris said. “If you belong to industry associations or affiliations, they likely have regular meet-ups virtually. It’s worth exploring all that is available.”
It’s recommended you update your LinkedIn account – at least your headline or “about” section – every 90 days.
Updated Cover Letter, Resume and Portfolio
Your cover letter, resume and portfolio are all extensions of your brand. Make sure they are the best representation of you and your work history.
Even if a job posting doesn’t require a cover letter, you should consider writing one anyway. It’s a great way to differentiate yourself.
“It allows the job seeker to expand on his/her skills and experience and how they directly relate to the job opening,” Harris said. “But be careful – a well-written cover letter could be a game-changer, but a poorly executed cover letter could put you out of the running.”
Try submitting a unique letter for each job posting. While it’s perfectly acceptable to reuse a template, try demonstrating specific skills and incorporating language listed in the job posting.
Unless you’re a designer, modern resumes should be simple, clean and easy to read. Some white space is good. Use headings and sections to break up your experience, education, skills, etc., and put the latest experience first. List accomplishments and responsibilities with bullet points, not paragraphs, starting with action verbs.
“Industry surveys indicate that at least 90% of people ‘pad’ their resume, which means to some degree inflating their experience and skills,” Harris said. “I would caution against this; the resume needs to be an accurate depiction of the work you’ve done.”
Portfolio websites have been growing in popularity, but you might not need one. It all depends on your profession. Artists, programmers, writers and other visually focused professionals can benefit from portfolio websites as a way to show examples of their work.
“If that site is used in a professional capacity for prospective employers or clients, I would encourage the job seeker to be mindful of the content and only post what is relevant,” said Harris.
Applying for Jobs
There are many online platforms built for job hunting. Websites like Indeed, LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter are free and let you search for work by experience level, job type, salary and more. Some also allow you to set up job alerts that notify you when a new posting matches criteria you’ve selected.
“I recommend that job seekers review the position details closely and only apply to jobs that match their skills, experience and interest,” Harris said. She also recommends keeping a log of the jobs you apply to. “No one wants to be contacted by a recruiter and then not remember that they submitted an application.”
While applying to jobs is stressful, the worst part can be waiting.
“I know every job seeker wants to know immediately what’s happening with their application,” said Harris. “Employers can review hundreds, and even thousands, of resumes and applications a day. I would like job seekers to understand that it takes time.”
Some job sites offer application tracking where you can check on the status of your application.
Preparing for Virtual Interviews
When it comes to virtual interviews, prepare like you normally would. Research the company, practice answers to FAQs and come up with your own questions to ask. During the interview, dress the part, speak clearly and use positive body language.
The only major difference is you’ll be in your own space, so make sure it also reflects your brand. Good lighting, a quiet, private space and a clean background are all important.
Make sure the device you’re using for the interview is fully charged, perhaps plugged in, and updated. Finally, make sure you’re using the right program – Skype, Zoom, Google, etc. – and do a dry run to test the audio and video.
When all is said and done, try to be patient and stay positive. Your last action should be sending a follow-up email to thank the interviewer for their time.
“The interactions you have with employers – by phone, email, text, video or in-person – matter,” Harris said. “This is the time to continuously be mindful of what your brand represents.”