Career Coach Answers to the Top 10 Questions Asked by Job Seekers During COVID-19

Career Coach Answers to the Top 10 Questions Asked by Job Seekers During COVID-19

Finding employment, even before 36.5 million Americans lost their jobs due to COVID-19, was a challenge. Aside from the unpredictability, there is an array of obstacles throughout the job search process — finding a job that interests you and/or matches your background, customizing your application documents, completing multiple rounds of interviews, and passing a background and reference check. The journey to employment can become overwhelming especially if you have not been in the job market for quite some or if you are a recent graduate. To address your top concerns during this stressful time, MBM Coaching & Consulting has compiled the most frequently asked questions we receive from job seekers along with practical advice and lessons compiled after years of helping individuals just like you.

1. It has been a long time since I updated my resume. How long should it be and what should it include?

While many career experts might advise to keep your resume to one page unless you have many years of full-time work experience at multiple companies, studies have actually shown that recruiters spend nearly twice as much time reading through two page resumes.

When it comes to content, your resume should include your Contact Information — email, phone number, LinkedIn profile if you have one, and any other social media handles you feel comfortable sharing. The top quarter or third of your resume should contain a Personal Brand Statement that indicates the position title or level you are seeking, such as Senior Accountant or Global Supply Chain Leader and highlights key qualifications and expertise that state why you are a good match for the role. These should be customized for each job application you apply for.

After your Contact Information and Personal Brand Statement your resume should showcase your Professional Experience listed in chronological order, with the names of the companies you’ve worked at, position(s) held, dates of employment. Each position should include a high-level description of your job responsibilities along with key accomplishments. Following your Professional Experience present your Education, Awards/Certifications, Volunteer Experience, and possibly Personal Interests.

Finally, to make it easier on the individual reading your resume, use a simple layout (clear sections, bold heading titles, and bulleted accomplishments). Resumes organized by an F-pattern, which leads the reader to scan across the top of the resume first then down the left-hand side, are also easier for recruiters and hiring managers to review quickly.

2. What do I need to know about getting through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

Many companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to save time and money by automating processes like sourcing, organizing, and tracking candidates as well as building a network. You can determine if a company uses an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) by visiting their careers/jobs page. Most pages or individual job openings/listings will be branded somewhere with the vendor’s logo. Common ATS vendors include iCIMS, Oracle, SmartRecruiter, ZohoRecruit, Jobvite, etc. If no branding is present, mouseover the ‘Apply’ button and look at the bottom of your browser window. You should see the destination URL appear. If the company is using recruiting software, the domain will indicate the vendor.

Knowing if an ATS is being utilized is important is because it will determine how to format your resume in order for it to be scanned properly by the software. To be read properly, all formatting including tables/boxes, non-standard round bullets, icons, unique fonts, and images must be removed. When applying to jobs through an ATS, follow directions and supply all documents asked for and in the format requested. Be sure to use the keywords found in the job description in your resume as ATS systems are designed to do a keyword match. A helpful free tool to use that will compare your resume to the job description is

3. I have been reading about something called a Personal Brand Statement. What exactly is it? Do I need one and if so, how do I use it?

A Personal Brand Statement is one or two sentences answering what you are the best at (value), who you serve (audience) and how you do it uniquely (USP). Think of your USP (unique selling proposition) as what it is that you do better than any of your competitors. For example, “I keep young girls in public schools (target audience) inspired to become future engineers (value) through tailored online STEM curriculum (USP)”.

When we meet new people, we often ask they what they do for a living. Rather than just explaining through simple pleasantries, you can convey a lasting impression with that person, an impression that might just lead to business—or a new job—one day, which is why everyone should have a Personal Brand Statement.

You can also include your Personal Brand Statement in the headline section of your LinkedIn profile.

4. I’m on LinkedIn. What other platforms could I use for job hunting and career management?

While LinkedIn is the number one platform for all things career-related, there are additional tools to take advantage of to either search for new opportunities or make connections:

  • Nexxt – a job search site with a network of more than 500 industry-organized talent communities nationwide
  • Jobcase – has the ability for candidates to create a comprehensive profile to show off their most important and relevant information. It powers more than 100 existing job-listing websites, giving users access to a wider range of employers and opportunities associated with those sites
  • Let’s Lunch – an app that lines up your lunch and coffee slots with people you should know
  • Opportunity – matches you with sales leads, like-minded professionals, employment opportunities, and possible partnerships
  • Shapr – it’s essentially Tinder but for networking purposes. (Tinder is a geosocial dating app that allows users to anonymously swipe to like or dislike other’s profiles. Once two users have both indicated interest in each other they can exchange messages.)

Additionally, be sure to not discount social media as a means of gaining employment. Over 90 percent of employers are using social media to hire. Betterteam found 70 percent of hiring managers surveyed have successfully hired using social media and a study from the Aberdeen Group revealed that 73 percent of millennials found their last position through a social media platform.

5. What are the top three interview questions I should be prepared for?

First and foremost, the one question you must master is “Tell me about yourself?” Nine times out of ten this is the first question you will be asked by a recruiter and/or hiring manager. It’s a way for them to break the ice and for you to create a solid and relevant first impression. Don’t know how to answer this one? Follow these helpful tips of how, and how not to, answer this critical question.

Second, most interviewers will ask you about what you did in your most recent job. Be sure to summarize your key responsibilities and tailor any content to the job description for which you are applying. For example, if you recently worked as a Marketing Manager with email marketing as one of your tasks, go into a little more detail when describing your experience for an Email Marketing Manager position. Rather than speaking to your full marketing responsibilities such as SEO, Paid Search, and website management, reference the specific accomplishments and results of your email marketing experience such as reducing your unsubscribe rate, increasing click-through-rates, and designing new email templates.

Finally, another common interview question relates to your interest to their company and the particular role you are interviewing for. This could come in the form of, “What do you know about us?”, “What makes you want to work at X company?”, or “What drew you to this opportunity?” These are valid questions that deserve a thoughtful, genuine approach based on your research. It’s important to not only look over the company’s website, but check out their latest news articles, research the interviewers’ LinkedIn profiles, and browse competitors’ websites, as well. Based on the familiarity and insight you gain, develop compelling answers that you deliver with good energy and enthusiasm. Employers want to hire people who want to work there and are excited about the specific job opportunity.

6. The company is interviewing internal candidates. Do I have a shot at landing the job?

A recent survey of top U.S. corporations indicates that more than 50 percent of all job openings advertised are filled by internal candidates. An internal candidate has many advantages including having insider knowledge, friends and colleagues within the company who can advocate for them, and most likely a rapport and history with the hiring manager. A company knows if an inside candidate can get the job done well because they also have a good sense of their work ethic, social skills, strengths, and weaknesses.

However, as an external candidate you can still prove your alignment with the position, bring new skills, and offer a fresh, outsider’s perspective. Remember, that just because someone is an internal candidate does not mean that they have the qualifications to do the job or experience to advance within the company.

7. What are some industries to consider that might help to avoid future layoffs?

There are no guarantees in today’s job market. Even healthcare workers, who are deemed essential, are being laid off during the coronavirus pandemic. However, when determining what industries will be growing over the next ten years think of what resources, tools, or services will be in-demand as the world changes. For example, the U.S. home healthcare market is projected to grow about seven percent annually from $103 billion in 2018 to $173 billion by 2026 due to the growing senior population. For other insights, view the full list of the fastest growing industries in 2020 and beyond.

8. I often see job ads for positions that I’m not fully qualified for. How do I decide if it’s worthwhile to respond to them?

It might seem logical to only go after jobs you’re fully qualified for, but it’s an extremely limiting (and unnecessary) mindset, and you’ll wind up removing yourself from potentially amazing opportunities. You don’t need to be 100 percent qualified in order to be the best candidate for the job. Since the hiring decision can be based in part on the chemistry between two parties, your enthusiasm, passion, and soft skills can impress the hiring manager. Overall, it’s better to pursue the job of your dreams rather than possibly regretting if it could have been yours.

9. How do I know if I need to consider a pay cut to get back into the job market?

Personal circumstances will predict whether a pay cut is necessary. If you are the breadwinner or major contributor and your family depends on your income then bringing in some money is better than none. If you are looking to pursue a new career path then it may be likely that you’ll need to accept a reduced salary to go from a Sales Executive role to an entry level Web Developer. Sometimes it might make sense to take a pay cut at a company that has strong opportunity for growth so even if you are earning less now, you can eventually move back up the ladder. Many people also take pay cuts for a better quality of life. No matter the reason, you’ll want to ensure that a reduction in income will not drastically decrease your motivation or passion for your work. You will most likely need a new personal budget and so may want to work with a financial planner to help you manage at your new income level.

10. I’ve been wanting to change careers but am unsure as to whether I should consider this in the aftermath of COVID-19?

Fear and anxiety regarding when the next paycheck will arrive is impacting millions of American who are unemployed due to COVID-19. Considering alternative career paths at this time is practically expected. Now that you are away from the office, it is worth exploring what other fields or industries you might be interested in. Start by conducting informational interviews and joining online networking groups to meet individuals who can provide you with valuable information, company insights, and other connections.

MBM Coaching & Consulting has helped hundreds of professionals in numerous industries and at different levels of their career find new employment. Whether you are a new grad looking for the right start, a mid-level professional considering a change in direction, or perhaps a seasoned professional in need of an exit strategy, we can help you find the right path. Check out our career coaching, exploration, and transition for individuals wanting to launch or change direction services.