At some point in their career, everyone needs to find work fast. Like the optimistic uni graduate, who starts renting a London flat, despite having no clear way to pay for it. Or, more recently, the countless number of people whose job - and sometimes entire industry - vanished overnight. As the global outbreak of COVID-19 continues to unfold, it’s a huge understatement to say these are extraordinary times.
That said, don’t panic.
Yes, finding a job quickly can be a real challenge, especially right now, but it’s not all bad news. With the right insight and approach, it remains very possible to find work. The first - and perhaps most important - step? Learning how to optimise your job search. This article will offer various tips to help you find new work fast, as well as how to stand out during an interview.
How to find a job quickly
1. Find jobs that fit your qualifications
Don’t rely on your existing CV. This is particularly true if you were in your last job a while. Write a fresh list that catalogues your job experience, education and skills, remembering to add any recent achievements and being sure to spare any modesty. From there, you can look for positions you’re qualified for across your industry. When doing so, don’t discriminate. Apply for every relevant job, and don’t be afraid to widen the search to sectors where your skills might transfer. For example, if you’re a sales rep, you could actually be a great fit for business development or marketing jobs.
Also, look for jobs in companies you’ve always wanted to work at. Even if the role itself isn’t perfect, you can plan to make a lateral move once you’re on the inside. Remember, in a time of crisis, your priority should be finding work - whatever that looks like.
When applying for jobs, make it a non-stop process. If a company gets in touch for an interview, that doesn’t mean you should call off the search. What if you don’t get the position, or the salary is impossibly low? There is literally no time to waste. Until you get a job, applying for jobs is your full-time job. Besides, if the end result is multiple offers - not only will you have yourself a quality little problem, there’s a far greater chance you’ll end up with a job you actually want; not one you’ve accepted in pure desperation.
2. Tailor your cover letter and CV
With a tall stack of CVs to go through, hiring managers may scan yours for all of a few seconds. To combat this, you must grab their attention immediately. How? By tailoring each cover letter and CV you submit. (Every single one? Yes, every single one.) Even the slightest whiff of copy + paste could give an employer permission to bin your application. After all, if you’re not taking it seriously, why should they?
In your cover letter, explain why you want to work at the company, using keywords from the ad as a starting point. Specifically, turn what they are asking for into your basis of your argument - the company has a problem; you are the solution. Try to point out how you can help the business thrive, and also how you differ from other applicants.
In your CV, again revisit to qualities listed in the job post (and if you have them, add them). Limit your work history to the last five to seven years, or previous three jobs. Why? Because that summer of bar work in 2003 won’t be what clinches this particular job, is it? On the contrary, overlong CVs might see a hiring manager switch off.
You can include information about volunteer work, courses and side gigs, however. This - not listing irrelevant jobs or hobbies is what sets you apart. Even if you didn’t grow your skills in a conventional way, recruiters want to learn about you as a person, and what your life experience can bring to their company.
Related: Work From Home Jobs That Pay Well
3. Ask for help from your network
Asking for help isn’t easy - it can make you feel weak, or a burden. But, it can also be a surprisingly effective way to land a job. The coronavirus outbreak is an unprecedented, world-shaping event, but as a world used to socialising moves towards remote work, the human need for connection remains. Speak to people in your field via email or social media, and reconnect with old colleagues. The primary topic of conversation will almost certainly be the current crisis, but that’s not to say you can’t talk shop. Ask about their work situation, and don’t be afraid to enquire about available jobs.
Also, if you know anyone who works at a company that interests you, ask for their tips on applying. You’re more likely to get an interview if you know exactly what skills, experiences and personality types a business is looking for. You can even ask for a referral or a recommendation. Conquering COVID-19 can only be done if people work together - showing compassion and empathy for those around them - and this applies to the workplace, too. You might be surprised what lengths old people may go to, in order to support your job search.
4. Consider a temporary role
A gig economy job could fill an employment stop gap while you search for permanent positions. Here are some benefits of a temporary, contract or freelance position:
- Many businesses need temporary employees right away (think supermarkets), which means the hiring process is lightning fast.
- Freelance jobs are often flexible, meaning you can still interview elsewhere as you need to.
- You can meet people who work in your industry, and learn about long-term opportunities.
- If an employer likes the job you do as a temporary worker, they could offer something permanent.
You can often choose your hours. This may mean working full-time as long as you need to, then reducing your workload (or leaving the job) when you find a permanent role.
As the entire working world nervously checks their bank balance, a casual position may well be the answer. Done right, you can keep on top of your outgoings while continuing to search for the long-term option you crave.
Tips for standing out in an interview
Just weeks ago, the UK neared full employment. Now, a global pandemic means landing a job is more competitive than ever. Here’s how you can stand out during the interview process:
Research: Carefully study the company. Not only does this arm you with all the right info for the interview itself, you’ll learn about its culture, immediate needs and long-term goals. Basically, you’ll know whether you’re a good fit, and also any weaknesses where you might be the answer. If possible, research your actual interviewers by searching the company website or their social network profiles.
Appearance: Even if the interview is on Skype, FaceTime or Zoom, this is no excuse to dress down. Wearing smart clothes signals you are interested in the role, and are taking the process seriously. There’ll likely be fierce competition for every job, so it’s vital you don’t rule yourself out before saying hello.
Body language: Granted, it’s less easy in a virtual setting, but make eye contact with your interviewer as much as possible. Keep your back straight and your shoulders square. Don’t hammer notes into your keyboard, or thumb through paperwork - even if your purpose is to remain engaged and across the details, you might silently imply distraction instead.
Also: listen! Yes, an interview is about your suitability for the job on offer, but don’t turn it into a one-man show. Too much waffle could quickly turn off an employer.
Sell yourself: A mainstay of many job interviews, learn how to properly answer the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question, so you are not blindsided on the day.
Responses: Make your answers confident, but sincere. Think through your responses carefully, and match them with the company’s culture as much as possible. Give examples - sharing stories about the ways you helped customers or coworkers at your last job, and how you can help your potential employer. At the end of the interview, underline your interest in the job by asking for more information about a topic on the firm’s website, or about your interviewer’s experiences.
Follow up: After a few days, send an email to thank the interviewer and let them know you appreciate the opportunity. Remind them why you want to work with the company and reiterate your contact information. This lets businesses know you’re excited about the possibility of the position, and keeps you on their radar.
One note of caution, however: do not repeat this process every few days. Even superstar candidates will see their application tossed out if they are too pushy or impatient. Try to remember that, while you await an update, the hiring manager continues to spin plates (in the form of applicants). Their lack of response is not an insult, nor is it a criticism. The simplest answer is most often correct: they are very, very busy. Be patient and, with a bit of luck, soon you will be too.