Posted March 15, 2021 by Mark Perna
A Silicon Valley career coach shares his tips for what to do when you’re already doing everything right. Mark’s article, “When You’re Doing All The Right Things In Your Job Search—But Still No Joy,” published at Forbes.com on March 9, 2021.
Navigating crowds of candidates in a virtual hiring market, today’s jobseekers have their work cut out for them. Network virtually with all the right people (but don’t be annoying). Showcase your adaptability on your resume (just like everyone else is, but do it differently). Give highly personable interviews via a screen (just do your best).
If you’re frustrated with doing all the right things but still not landing the job, you’re not alone. I recently connected with Silicon Valley career coach Kyle Elliott on the biggest challenges facing jobseekers right now—and how to overcome them.
“With fewer companies hiring and more jobseekers on the market than ever before, the COVID-19 job market is saturated with great talent,” says Elliott. “Jobseekers must stand out if they want to secure interviews and get job offers.”
In our conversation, Elliott shared tips on virtual networking, strategizing your resume for a fast-changing world and interviewing through a screen. You might already be doing all this right—and in that case, there’s some advice for you, too.
Like everything else in the virtual space, networking can be done right—or very, very wrong. “The biggest mistake I see jobseekers make when it comes to virtual networking is focusing on quantity over quality,” says Elliott. “As a jobseeker, you want to focus your efforts on connecting with the right people at your target companies.” In others words, it’s not about how many connections you can make on LinkedIn, but how many actually connect to your field and aspirations.Like everything else in the virtual space, networking can be done right—or very, very wrong. Click To Tweet
Elliott says that jobseekers tend to focus their virtual networking efforts on recruiters and hiring managers. But it’s all too easy to get lost in their inboxes. “These decision-makers’ LinkedIn inboxes are flooded with messages from job applicants,” says Elliott. “They receive hundreds, if not thousands, of messages per month from people interested in working at their companies.”
Instead, you should focus your networking efforts on people with your target role. “This will not only increase your chances of hearing back, but it will also increase the quality of the insights you receive,” advises Elliott. “Remember: these are the people who successfully navigated both the application process and the interview process for your target role.”
Never has your resume needed more strategic planning than now, when things are changing so rapidly. “COVID-19 is continually changing how companies operate,” says Elliott. “Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for talent that can adapt to and thrive through constant change.”
But before you open your resume document to insert “adaptable” and “flexible” everywhere you can, think strategically about how to not just tell, but show these abilities. “Be sure to call attention to your flexibility and adaptability on your resume,” says Elliott. “But rather than just say you are ‘flexible’ and ‘adaptable,’ share examples that back up your claims.
“Your resume stories should demonstrate your agility in action, as well as the results of your contributions,” he says. “When writing your resume and LinkedIn profile, ask yourself, ‘Why would the CEO and shareholders care about my contributions to the company?’”
Virtual interviews present some challenges to the interviewee, but also some unexpected benefits. “You can pop into an interview without fighting traffic or alerting your current employer to the fact you are job hunting,” says Elliott. The experience can also move much more quickly. “Interview processes that used to take an entire day can now be consolidated into a few hours or less.”
A virtual workplace has also opened the doors to candidates from a much broader geographical area. “Out-of-state candidates can now more easily compete with local talent—which can be both a benefit and a challenge in this competitive market,” says Elliott.
Referring to your notes is another advantage of the virtual interview. “While I encourage my interview coaching clients to take notes at their in-person interview sessions, Zoom allows you to use notes more easily during your interview,” says Elliott.
But with all their benefits, virtual interviews aren’t without their drawbacks. “Zoom interviews make it more difficult to access the feel and culture of your new workplace,” Elliott warns. “It can also be more difficult to connect with your interviewer.”
This is where great questions come into play. “Plan ahead of time what questions you can ask to get a better feel for the company culture and the person you’re speaking with,” advises Elliott. “Don’t discount the importance of small talk. Take time to engage your interviewer and learn more about what drew them to the company.”
Just as with an in-person interview, preparation is everything for your virtual interview. “Be sure your lighting is adequate, your background is free of clutter and you are looking directly at your camera, not your computer screen, when speaking.”
Practice makes perfect—and recording your practice can help. “As you practice for your next interview, consider videotaping your interview responses, then watching them back to see how you come across on camera,” says Elliott. “If your conversation goes well, don’t be afraid to request feedback on your application, information about the internal referral process or an introduction to the hiring manager.”
Maybe you’re doing all the right things—working hard on your virtual networking, crafting a strategic resume and reaching pro level at virtual interviews—but still can’t seem to get hired. It’s a discouraging place to be, but you can’t stay there. What’s your next move?
“It’s critical that you identify exactly where you are stuck in the job search process,” says Elliott. “Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help. Athletes, musicians, and other professionals use coaches to help them improve their skills. You are no different as a jobseeker—it’s okay to ask for help with your job search.”
Sometimes an outside opinion can shed light on a blind spot that may be impeding your success. Elliott remembers one client who seemed to be doing everything right, but spent 11 months job-hunting. He’d landed at least a half-dozen interviews at major tech companies, yet never made it past the first interview. “My client thought he was a greater interviewer, but his answers to questions were 10 to 15 seconds max in length,” says Elliott. “I learned that the short answers that seemed obvious to my client were not so clear to interviewers.” Armed with this insight, this jobseeker developed compelling stories that proved his experience—and received three job offers from top tech companies.
Of course, you want to make sure anyone you hire has expertise in preparing career materials for your particular field. “When researching career professionals, be sure to ask for verified testimonials from people with a similar background and career trajectory as you.”
Finally, remember that the job search takes time. “Don’t be disheartened if you send a handful of resumes out and don’t hear back from recruiters,” says Elliott. “Set a daily goal for the number of applications you want to submit along with the number of people you want to network with, then be patient with the process. You’ve got this!”