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How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting job searching

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The coronavirus pandemic has upended work environments and greatly affected millions of Americans in the US jobs market. What if you were in the process of applying for a new job before the pandemic, or what if you need to look for one now? This article takes a look at how recruiting and hiring processes have changed because of the pandemic and what job seekers and human resources departments need to know.

Changes in networking and recruiting

In-person networking is out, due to social distancing guidelines, stay-at-home orders and bans on large gatherings, so job seekers need to use every virtual tool at their disposal.

Professional groups on LinkedIn and Facebook can be used to meet others in your field and share your knowledge, consultant Nancy Halpern tells The Muse. This is also a good time to practice your video skills by having a mock virtual-networking conversation or interview with a friend, says Laura Labovich, CEO of The Career Strategy Group in Bethesda, Md.

Networking events, such as those held by the Career Network Ministry at McLean Bible Church in Virginia, also have moved online and can be a convenient way to connect.

On the recruiting side, because Employee Benefits News reports that recruiters are opening fewer offices and video meetings are replacing office visits for potential hires at several companies, video is your best shot to make a good impression.

Changes in communicating

Many HR departments are preoccupied with taking care of their current employees, so they may be slow to respond to job seekers. Kathleen Landers, executive director of SEQUENCE Counseling and Consulting Services in Silver Spring, Md., tells The Muse that it may be difficult to reach people now, but that will likely change as people and companies get more settled.

Changes in interviewing

Companies and applicants alike need to know how to do interviews via video. Indeed has guidelines for both sides. For interviewers, it recommends following many of the same protocols as an in-person interview, along with giving applicants time to prepare, holding interviews in a quiet location free of distractions, testing the internet connection before the interview, dressing professionally and sending a virtual invitation to the interview via email. Notably, interviewers should “make direct eye contact by looking at your computer’s camera instead of the screen.”

For applicants, Indeed’s advice is similar: Test technology, dress professionally, prepare ahead of time and limit distractions. It also recommends using professional body language, building rapport and being genuine with the interviewer, and following up afterward. In addition, SpencerStuart consultant Jason Baumgarten recommends having an appropriate background and good-quality lighting.

Changes in onboarding

More companies hiring during the coronavirus pandemic will be onboarding new hires online, Doodle CEO Renato Profico writes in Fast Company. It’s important that meetings are “as focused, engaged, and productive as possible,” he writes.

But one-to-one contact with bosses is crucial: “The key is to use the right technology solutions to automate and optimize the process so one-to-one meetings can be set up quickly, the right people can participate, the right knowledge is shared, and necessary action items come out as a result.” Employers should also use technology to help new employees meet their co-workers and begin to fit in.

What else should I do?

If you don’t hear anything back during your job search, it’s important to still stay positive, according to recruiter and consultant Lisa Rangel. She writes, “Be prepared and anticipate delays so you can reposition yourself, remain optimistic, and keep your pipeline full.”

If your job offer has been put on hold, career expert Caroline Ceniza-Levine recommends asking why and continuing to promote yourself, but not too much. She also suggests offering to work for free to show you’re serious and can do the job. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to just look somewhere else.

Rangel writes that when following up, “showcasing your accomplishments that demonstrate turning around challenging situations into profitable paths can make the potential employer’s decision easier to hire you. Be sure to highlight skills such as your experience working virtually to outline how you will assimilate into the organization faster.”

If all else fails, this could be a good time to develop some new skills and reach out to potential references and connections, Washington, D.C., area career experts Tony Lee, Jennifer Chestnut and Byron Auguste tell WAMU-FM. Along with updating your resume and cover letters, this will make you better prepared to apply when the labor market is ready to accept more new hires. The Career Network Ministry currently offers virtual lessons in resume writing, interviewing, finding a job with the federal government and other job-related topics.

If you need a job right away, Amazon and Walmart have started hiring 100,000 and 150,000 workers, respectively, to help handle increased demand because of the pandemic. Other businesses, particularly delivery services, pharmacies and grocery stores, are looking to hire thousands of workers -- CVS Health, Dollar General and Papa John’s, to name a few.

Indeed also notes there are many resources available for those who have lost their job or whose work has otherwise been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. State employment agencies are a good place to start, along with nonprofit organizations such as Goodwill Industries.

The pandemic’s long-term effects on the nature of work and hiring -- and the economy as a whole -- remain to be seen. But hopefully, this advice will help you thrive during this difficult time.

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Catherine Guiles is a copy editor/writer at SmartBrief. Connect with her on LinkedIn.