At a time when business is facing unexpected disruptions and in-person meetings are off-limits, anyone who’s been searching for a new job has been thrown a huge curveball. And some professionals who had no plans to change jobs at the beginning of the year are suddenly on the hunt for a new role.
Whatever your situation as a job seeker, there are big questions about going through the recruitment process without ever being in the same room as a potential new employer — and without leaving home. Is that even possible?
The good news is that, though your job search will look a little different right now, you can still press on.
Office buildings might be largely empty due to COVID-19, but companies are moving forward with business — including hiring for vacant positions. In some cases, the pandemic is even creating increased workloads and demand for experienced professionals, such as those in customer-facing and IT roles.
Thankfully, technology is making it easier for people to look for work from home and organizations to recruit remotely. While finding, landing and starting a job with no in-person contact is rare, each element of an all-digital job search has at least some precedent — and a set of best practices to guide you.
Find your best opportunities
Online job boards should be familiar to anyone who’s sought a new position in the last 20 years. Our roundup of the top job search websites includes general boards as well as specialized sites.
But don’t stop there. Utilize your online network. Though nobody’s hosting in-person conferences or networking events for the time being, you can still reach out to professional contacts through LinkedIn or social media.
Let people know you’re on the hunt for a new role. They may be aware of companies looking for talent — and might even be able to talk you up to hiring managers. Also, ask colleagues on LinkedIn for endorsements and recommendations (and remember to offer to do the same for them).
Get help from the specialists
Specialized staffing firms like Robert Half have their finger on the pulse of the hiring market and workforce trends. This built-in knowledge makes them a great resource for helping you find a job under uncommon circumstances.
In fact, no matter what the circumstances, staffing agencies can help make your job search easier. Once they know your skill set and work preferences, recruiters can not only recommend you directly to hiring managers, they also have close connections with local employers, often hearing of open jobs before they’re posted publicly, if they’re advertised at all.
Getting in first can be quite an advantage, especially when you have someone advocating on your behalf.
And if you’re looking for off-site work, many of the positions Robert Half staffs fit the bill. We have temporary, full-time and temp-to-hire opportunities across the U.S., and we uncover new ones every day. Our staffing experts are well-versed in all types of work-related scenarios, including remote job searches and working away from the office.
Make the call
Once an employer takes interest in your resume and cover letter, a phone interview is standard for kicking off the evaluation process. You may have done several of these before, but that’s no reason to take this step for granted.
- Dress the part. Sure, the hiring manager won’t see you, but dressing for a phone interview the same way you would for an in-person meeting instills confidence and helps you come across as the capable professional you are.
- Find a quiet place. Make sure the room where you take the call is free from noisy distractions — kids, pets, outside commotion and everything else. You don’t want to spend your time apologizing for the background noise.
- Speak up. This doesn’t mean yelling into the phone, but speak clearly, articulately and professionally. Answer with, “Hello, this is _____,” and thank the hiring manager for their time. Don’t rush your speech and end up tripping over your words. And smile. While this may sound trite or even pointless, it really does help convey a positive tone. Thank them again when the call is ending.
- Prepare yourself. A phone interview shouldn’t get into the nitty-gritty — it’s usually fairly brief. But do your research on the company and position ahead of the call, and keep your notes handy while you’re on the phone. A reference here and there to the company’s projects or history and an insightful question to the interviewer can help you make the cut to the next round.
Be a video star
Video interviews are now pretty common, and may even become the norm for a while. The most important thing to do is treat them exactly as if you were in the same room with the hiring manager. Many of the tips for phone interviews apply — speak clearly, find a quiet spot — but there are more layers to consider.
And keep in mind that, in an all-online hiring process, video will likely be your primary tool from this point on, including all interview stages (possibly meeting with multiple people at once) and when you get the job offer and negotiate salary and benefits. Being prepared is essential.
- Test your tech. Set up a video call with a friend or family member at least a day or two ahead of time. Use the same video platform you’ll use for the interview to make sure it works well with your laptop or tablet (avoid using a smartphone if at all possible). Check for audio levels, good lighting, a strong Wi-Fi signal and camera placement. Set your camera so it’s level with or slightly higher than your head for a professional-looking angle. (You don’t want the hiring manager looking up your nose!) Also ensure your face is well-lighted (natural lighting work best) and you have a clutter-free background.
- Join early. If the platforms allows you, log in for the interview 5-10 minutes before the start time. This ensures your tech is working properly at the critical moment — and can help you work through any nervous jitters before the interview starts.
- Dress up (again). Dressing right is even more important than for a phone interview since the hiring manager will now see you. Suit up — fully. Don’t try to pull the shorts or sweatpants trick, or you could undo all your hard work in getting to this point if you have to stand up or accidentally lean too far back in the camera frame.
- Make video eye contact. In video calls, your natural tendency is likely to look at the other person’s face. To you, you’re looking them in the eye, but to them, you’re looking down. Especially while they’re talking, spend most of the time looking right into the camera. Then you’ll be looking them in the eye — and establishing a stronger connection with them by doing so.
- Beware your body language. Wherever you sit for the video interview, make sure you maintain a professional posture, exactly as if you were in a chair across from the hiring manager. And your facial expressions can convey your interest and engagement to the interviewer, especially when they’re talking.
- Have solutions ready. If you’re seeking a job where you’ll actually be working remotely, either permanently or temporarily, show that you have a plan for staying in touch with your coworkers and key stakeholders, and how you can navigate the potential pitfalls of not being there in person (see below). If you have confidence that you can make it work, that goes a long way toward giving potential employers the same assurance.
Start up by staying connected
What many professionals may be less accustomed to is starting a job remotely. You landed the position, but you’ve had zero face time with your new team members, the IT staff and, well, anyone who wasn’t in your interviews. It can feel like you’re alone in unfamiliar territory. But you’re not.
Make sure you have a direct line to IT, admins and anyone else who can help you get set up remotely or call on in case problems arise. Especially in the first weeks, try to connect via video whenever possible so people see your face, expressions and mannerisms. This helps them get to know you and establish a personal connection.
Stay in regular communication with as many people as is practical. In addition to recurring team or project meetings, set up one-on-one calls — audio and video — with your supervisor and any team members you’ll be working closely with. And make at least some of these touch-base calls weekly, at least with your most frequent collaborators.
Messaging platforms like Slack or Skype can be crucial during remote work. Whichever platform the company uses, have it open at all times and visible whenever possible so you don’t miss alerts.
Be an active chatter. Don’t just passively watch everyone else communicate. Send messages to ask quick questions about a project or company standards, update people on your progress, and respond to others’ messages frequently to keep yourself visible and involved in the conversations. Do the same with email and any other ways the team keeps in touch.
The two most important factors for all-online job searches and remote work are communication and professionalism. Stay in touch using all channels at your disposal, and treat every typed, audio and video interaction as if you’re all in the same room. You’ll not only feel more connected to your new team and company, you’ll actually be so.