Job-Hunting Tips for Community College Students in a Pandemic
As of April 2021, the unemployment rate in the United States was 6.1%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While numbers have significantly improved over the past year, there were still an estimated 9.8 million people unemployed – this is compared to a 3.5% unemployment rate with 5.7 million unemployed persons in February of 2020. Though the job market is slowly recovering, 2021 college graduates will need to be patient and flexible as they start their job search.
The COVID-10 pandemic caused millions to lose their jobs and many to start working from home. While some companies have started to transition back to in-office work, many processes are still being carried out virtually – including the hiring process. As a community college graduate, you may find your job search looks different than graduates who came before you.
Read on to learn some simple tips for finding a job and how to ace a remote job interview.
10 Simple Job Search Tips for Graduates
Even in a non-pandemic year, graduating from community college and looking for a job can be stressful. Your first job out of school may not be your dream job, but it’s a steppingstone in the path that leads to a successful career. Though things are certainly improving, the economy isn’t what it was a year and a half ago and the job market hasn’t fully recovered.
With millions of jobseekers out there, your job search may be a little longer and more challenging than it normally might be. The best thing you can do is make sure you’re as prepared as you can be to enter the workforce and follow a few simple tips when starting your job search.
Here are 10 simple tips to help you with your job search:
- Be flexible. Depending on what you studied in community college and what industry you hope to enter, there may be an abundance of jobs waiting to be filled or very few. You should be prepared to be flexible with your first job out of school. If you can’t find a job in your desired field, look for something that puts your strengths and skills to use.
- Stay optimistic. Hunting for a job during a recession is difficult and it can start to affect your self-esteem after a while, even though the situation is not even remotely your fault. Keep reminding yourself that things will get better and you can always take a job while you keep hunting for your next opportunity.
- Start networking early. Even though in-person events aren’t completely back to normal, there’s no reason you can’t start networking while you’re finishing up school – you’ll just need to do some of it online. Join professional groups on Facebook and spruce up your LinkedIn profile. Make as many connections as you can and work on building your resume.
- Keep in touch. If you’ve made a connection at a job fair or had a promising interview, stay in contact with the company’s hiring manager. Even if you haven’t heard anything in months, it doesn’t hurt to check in for an update on the company’s remote work policy and hiring status. Showing interest will be viewed favorably.
- Do your own research. If you’re lucky enough to be graduating into a field that still has plenty of job opportunities, you may have some degree of choice where you end up. Do your research on the big players in your field to see how they’ve handled the pandemic – how companies deal with emergencies and how they treat their employees says a lot about what it would be like to work for them.
- Take some time to think. While the ultimate goal is to land a job after graduation and start working, there’s no need to rush. Even if you know what field you want to go into, there are probably a number of different angles you could pursue. Take the time to think about your education and your work experience to get a better idea of what you want for your future.
- Bolster your qualifications. The job hunt could be lengthy, but you don’t have to sit idle and wait it out. Take opportunities to bolster your qualifications, adding new skills and experiences to boost your resume. It will look good to employers that you’re still working hard.
- Work on your brand. An interview is an opportunity to sell yourself to potential employers, so it’s important to have a strong identity. You want employers to get a feel for you as a person but, more importantly, as an employee in their company. Tweak your resume, get some business cards, and keep your online professional profiles up to date.
- Make the best of your situation. Maybe you get an interview for a job you’re interested in, but the game has changed – the position doesn’t pay as much as you’d like or maybe there isn’t as much room for advancement as you’d like. Even though things aren’t quite back to normal, you should still fight for what you deserve. Negotiate that salary, ask questions about potential job responsibilities, get a feel for your options before you accept an offer.
- Don’t settle too quickly. With the economy still on the mend, you may think it’s best to take the first job offer you get but that’s not necessarily true. Don’t waste your time applying for every job under the sun – take your time selecting the jobs you apply for and remember that interviews go both ways. Sure, you’re trying to show potential employers that you’re a good fit for the company, but you always want to make sure the company is a good fit for you.
In addition to following these tips, you should spend some time preparing for remote interviews. Even though some companies have started back with in-person work, it’s likely that some of your interviews will still be done virtually. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about remote interviews.
What You Should Know About Remote Hiring
Interviewing is the most stressful but also the most important aspect of the hiring process. An interview is when you get to put a name with a face – it’s when you get to show potential employers who you are and why you would be an asset to their company. The trouble is, hiring these days looks very different than it did a year and a half ago. So, what do you need to know?
First and foremost, be prepared to go through the majority of the hiring process virtually.
The job application process is almost always virtual – you submit your application and wait to hear back. In normal times, you’d probably get an email or a phone call from the company’s hiring manager to schedule an in-person interview. While some companies may be resuming normal hiring processes, many have not, so be prepared to undergo a virtual interview.
If you don’t like the idea of virtual interviews, take a moment to weigh the pros and cons. Sure, interviewing online is different from in-person, but virtual interviewing allows greater flexibility, and it saves both you and your potential employer time. You don’t have to worry about commuting to the office and arriving on time – you simply sit down at your computer.
Second, know there may be multiple rounds of interviews.
Even if you ace your remote interview, you should be prepared for the possibility that you’ll have to do another. Because face-to-face interaction is so much different than virtual conversation, many companies are extending the hiring process to make sure they really get to know the candidates before they make their final decision. This could mean multiple remote interviews for you.
Because the hiring process is likely to be different this year, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most interviewers will open the floor to questions at the end of an interview anyway, so this is the perfect opportunity to get clarification on what is likely to happen next. Ask questions like, “What is your timeline for making a decision?” and “What are the next steps?”
Third, stay in communication with the hiring manager.
It’s good job-hunting etiquette to send a personalized thank-you to the hiring manager after an interview, but you may need to go a little bit further these days. Asking questions at the end of your interview will help you determine when and how it’s appropriate to follow up. There’s nothing wrong with sending a check-in email if you haven’t heard from the hiring manager in the amount of time they specified in the interview. A quick email shows you’re still interested.
If you find the hiring process becomes very drawn-out, it may also be a good idea to check in every few weeks with updates on your skills and experience. Whether you’re completing a certificate program, volunteering with a local organization, or taking a class, sharing that information with your hiring manager may help move your resume a little higher in the pile.
Finally, be prepared to deal with challenges.
Though things are finally starting to get back to normal, companies are still adjusting to the effects of the pandemic, so you’ll need to continue to be flexible. Keep in mind that employers want to know how you handle stressful or challenging situations, so be prepared to talk about these things as well. Think about examples of times you handled a personal or professional hardship and be ready to talk about those things in an interview with potential employers.
What to Expect from a Virtual Interview
In a normal year, you would submit your job applications and field requests for interviews. Most, if not all, of those interviews would be held in person. Though each interview would be tailored to the specific job you’re applying for, they would all follow a similar trajectory:
- You confirm the time and date for your interview.
- You prepare a professional outfit to wear.
- You do your research about the position and the company.
- You commute to the interview, arriving 15 minutes early.
- You greet your interviewers with a handshake.
- You complete the interview and ask questions at the end.
- You follow up the next day with a thank-you email.
Though the details may vary from one interview to another, these are generally the steps you’ll take. If you think about it, a remote interview involves almost the same trajectory minus two key details: commuting to the interview and shaking your interviewer’s hand.
With a remote interview, you don’t have to worry about getting to the location on time – you don’t have to plan for traffic. In fact, you probably won’t even have to leave home. Though certain aspects of remote interviewing are definitely more convenient, you may have to work a little harder to make a connection with your interviewers and to convey your personality through video. You’ll definitely want to invest in a decent webcam and prepare your interview space to ensure you look professional as well.
Here are some tips to prepare yourself and your space for a remote interview:
- Choose your location wisely. If you don’t have a dedicated office space in your home, choose a location that is well-lit, quiet, and free from distractions. If you have a room where you can close the door, even better.
- Take a look at your background. Once you’ve chosen the space for your interview, take a good look around. The background of your interview should be free from clutter, so double-check through the webcam to make sure you’re not missing anything.
- Make sure your equipment is up to snuff. Though it has nothing to do with your job qualifications, having a poor web connection or fuzzy video might hurt your chances. You can get a decent webcam with a built-in microphone for under $50.
- Test your equipment. After you’ve chosen your location and set up your equipment, it’s time to do a test-run. Record yourself speaking into the camera so you can go back and listen for distractions – a squeaky chair, a loud fan, or other background noise.
- Adjust your lighting. You want your interviewers to be able to see you clearly, so make sure your interview space is well-lit.
- Dress to impress. Once your equipment is all set up and tested, it’s time to pick your outfit. Choose something you feel comfortable in that looks professional and make sure it is clean and pressed in preparation for your interview.
- Do your research. You already know what job you’re interviewing for, but it’s a good idea to review the job responsibilities ahead of time and to learn what you can about the company. Jot down some key info on a cheat sheet and keep it handy during the interview.
Preparing for an interview – even a remote interview – can be nerve-wracking. A little preparation goes a long way, both in terms of preparing your space and preparing yourself. Keep reading to receive some tips for acing your remote job interview.
How to Ace a Remote Job Interview
Now that you’ve done the work to prepare your interview space, all that’s left is to prepare yourself. Do some research about the company so you can speak intelligently during the interview. Know what position you’re applying for as well as the job requirements. It’s also a good idea to jot down a few questions you can ask at the end to show that you’re engaged and interested.
Here are some other tips to help you ace a remote interview:
- Know where to look. You can’t actually make eye contact with your interviewer but looking directly into the camera can create the illusion that you are. Place your webcam in the center of your computer screen and position your chair so you’re centered in the shot.
- Sit upright and don’t fidget. Adjust the settings on your webcam or move your chair so you’re centered in the shot and visible from the chest up – you shouldn’t be too zoomed out. Sit upright during the interview and try to avoid fidgeting too much.
- Speak clearly into the microphone. Whether you’re using a built-in microphone on your webcam or a headset, speak clearly. You may also want to talk a little slower than you normally might to make sure your speech is clearly audible and decipherable.
- Smile when appropriate. You can’t walk up and give your interviewer a handshake, so a lot of your communication will be non-verbal. Smile if you can or, if it feels too unnatural, keep a neutral but pleasant expression on your face when you’re not speaking.
- Address your interviewer by name. When you make your introductions at the beginning of the interview, jot down the names of everyone involved so you can greet them by name and use their names later when saying goodbye.
- Have your resume handy. Make sure you have a copy of your resume handy – both digital and printed. You’ll want to be able to reference it during the interview and have it ready to send off if you find yourself in a conference call and need to distribute it.
- Be yourself. If you’re not comfortable in front of a camera, you may feel awkward in a remote interview. Do your best to stay calm and be confident – your interviewers want to get a sense of your personality as well as your potential as an employee.
Hunting for a job is always a challenging task, perhaps more so now than ever. Though your job hunt may be longer or more difficult than it would have been in years past, there’s no reason you can’t find the job you want, ace your interview, and start building your career. Take what you’ve learned here to prepare for the job hunt and to put your best foot forward in your interview. Best of luck!