Job hunting advice to help you hustle in the COVID era
I graduated from my undergraduate degree in 2019 and got a job instantly. This may sound surprising, but there are jobs out there, it’s just about knowing where to look. I’ve had great internships, fixed-term contract jobs, volunteering opportunities, and my CV was looking great. However, when my contract inevitably ended, I suddenly felt that the career that I had worked hard to build for over 4 years was over. I felt like a racehorse who had been gaining energy in the gate and then tripped, breaking its leg as soon as the gate opened. I spent months applying for any kind of job I could find that I was remotely qualified for. No luck. Now I am back at university doing my masters, so for the time being I may be able to dodge the job market. Nonetheless, here are some tips and insights that I have gained over the last few years. Who knows, maybe they’ll help you get your dream job, or at least put your foot in the door in these COVID times.
Sometimes they just ghost you from the start
On average a company will receive anywhere between 100-160 job applications for a graduate position or entry-level job. That’s a lot of CV’s for one poor recruitment officer to read through, and with the effects of COVID-19 that number is likely to be even higher. That is why many companies use a software know as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which scans CVs and will automatically eliminate the least-qualified candidates. As a result of leaving it up to a computer system, ATS eliminates up to 75% of applications before a person even sees them. As often as you’ve heard it before I suggest looking at similar job adverts to see what words are somewhat regularly repeated. I would focus on two or three terms particularly in the ‘key skills’ and ‘work history’ sections. Try to incorporate them into your application, they will help you trick the software into letting a human decide whether you’re right for the job.
Once you have applied, it’s time to get sleuthing with a bit of cyber-stalking. Search the website, LinkedIn or even Twitter for who works there (specifically the Human Resources manager). But before you send them a note please remember to keep it short. Simply reaffirm your enthusiasm for the role and quickly summarise your relevant qualifications. Whatever you do, don’t ramble or keep sending messages – you’ll just end up coming across as creepy and needy.
Sometimes they regret swiping right
Congrats! You got the interview and you smashed it. However, you haven’t heard anything since and it’s been over 2 weeks. Sadly, and rather annoyingly, there are no laws requiring employers to offer feedback after an interview (believe me, I’ve checked). Some employers are like those cowardly, silent right-swipers on dating apps: they just don’t want to deal with any awkwardness. Then again, if the company does get back to you with some feedback it shows that they actually care about their employees and that they do see potential in you, so keep an eye out for other positions there. They might remember you next time and if you improve upon their feedback it will show them you respond to constructive criticism well and can actually act on it. There is often (if not always) an opportunity during an interview for you to ask them any questions – this is the perfect opportunity to ask them when you can expect to hear from them about the next steps. When the time frame passes and you’ve heard nothing, send them a quick email reiterating your interest in the position; be specific and maybe suggest a quick phone call too.
If you still haven’t heard anything from them weeks after, I would cut your losses. Then again, you could look on the bright side: how a prospective employer treats you during the interview process is reflective of how they would treat you as an employee. So if it’s not great now, it’s not likely to get any better later.
Sometimes you can feel like you’ve been catfished
So, you got the interview, but the job’s not quite what you were expecting. I’ve been for an interview where, online, the company looks like a fun and inclusive environment, yet when I turned up the room was very white and male dominated, with the employment of interns acting as mere tokenism. Other times, the job just may not be for you. Don’t waste breath telling them that you’re not interested, but also don’t rush into it. Double check over the job description, ask questions, see what people have said about the work environment online. I find Glassdoor.co.uk is a great place to see reviews, feedback, salaries – pretty much anything about a company culture.
If after all that and you still don’t want to take the job, don’t ghost them. You don’t like it when a company ghosts you, so don’t do it back. Send them a short, quick and simple email saying: “Thank you for your time, but I don’t think this position is the best fit for me. Good luck with your search!”. See, it’s not so scary.
Just keep going
My last piece of advice is to not give up. Apply for as many jobs as possible. I applied for over 300 jobs when I graduated and only heard back from 3. Make sure your CV is up-to-date and memorable. Make sure your social media is recruiter-safe and that your LinkedIn is a fuller version of your CV as 77% of recruiters rely on LinkedIn. Sometimes HR professionals just take judging people way too seriously.