Even in the time of the Great Shutdown, employers are still hiring and interviews are still happening. In most cases, these are taking place in entirely new ways through new channels. Regardless of whether you are actively or passively looking, here is what you should do now to position your job search for success during the global novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:

1. Stay Calm and Persist

First and foremost, put your health and safety first – always. Take a minute to do what you need to do to become and stay calm. Meaning that you should listen to the recommendations of government and health officials, exercise, eat healthy, call your family members, check on elderly neighbors, and do anything else that helps you to work through this uncertain time.

Amidst all of this, take 10 minutes today to create structure in your day so that you set aside time for your job search. Meaning, make room for your job search in this daily schedule but DO NOT make it your full time job. If you do, you will simply position yourself for burnout, anxiety, and all the other bad things that can follow with fixating on things you can’t control. Instead, set a time goal for each day (yes, even weekends if you can). That time goal should be realistic for your life and, in most circumstances, should absolutely not exceed 2 hours per day. 

Consider the following to help keep that daily schedule a reality as the Great Shutdown continues:

  • Keep consistent. Block the time off on your calendar and treat your job search like a meeting or any other appointment. This will help to keep the time free so that you can sit down and focus on what you need to do.
  • Set a timer. Force yourself to stay on schedule and not to be an overachiever. Set an alarm on your phone, a reminder on your smart home device, etc. so that you know when to start and stop your job search efforts. 
  • Don’t try to make up time. Much like a fitness routine, you probably can’t cram a week of job search into the weekends. Instead, simply move forward with your plan.
  • Celebrate small victories. Small steps add up in times like this. Take the time to celebrate, share, and reflect on those milestones – no matter how small. 
  • Stay resilient. No one is perfect. Don’t look at missing a day (or 14) in your job search as a failure. Instead, pick yourself up and get right back on track as soon as you can.

2. Build Your Message

Working from home or not working right now? Use this time to focus and build an effective message for your search. Crafting this message starts with a simple question – “Why hire me?” That question is also probably one of the hardest ones to answer, but it is ultimately the key to landing your next job (whether by choice or circumstance). 

In fact, building your message around this core question will help you to stand out amidst the sea of people that are looking for a new job right now (and those that will likely follow).  Those with the strongest consistent message on their resume, online, and in their interview will likely land on their feet the fastest. Here is how to start creating a winning message to make yourself pop in the wave of applicants:

  • Words on the page matter most. You can’t land an interview if you don’t have the information important to the application on your resume and on your online profile. Start by making sure that all the relevant details are clearly laid out.
  • Adapt your message. Your resume should not be a historical report of your experience. Instead, you will need to adapt that message to the specific jobs that you are pursuing. This will show attention to detail, genuine interest, and clarity in why you are a good fit for the needs of the employer.
  • Focus on the relevant details. Remove any jargon or overly technical phrases from your resume immediately. Instead, build your resume around the transferable skills and results that will resonate with the potential employer.
  • Emphasize your achievements. The best way to stand-out is to make it easy for the person that will skim your resume (on average, you have 6 seconds before that person makes their decision) to see how you are different. Do that by adding numbers to your results and clearly articulating what they were in a way that anyone can understand what you achieved. It’s not bragging if you are factually laying out the information on your resume.
  • Remember the ATS. Most employers use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to scan, sort, and manage the applications of candidates for their open jobs. There are currently over 900 ATS commercially available across the globe and countless more proprietary or customized systems in use by employers. These are all driven by keywords and job titles. As a result, on average, over 75% of all applications are automatically rejected or otherwise fall into the black hole never to be seen by a person. To avoid this unfortunate fate, make sure to incorporate the right keywords and details to show on the paper that you are qualified for the role. For more, read How to Beat the ATS.

3. Create a Strategy

A roadmap for your job search can be critical in times of uncertainty like the current COVID-19 pandemic. There are huge economic and historic events occurring right now and likely for a time to come. So, it can make it easy to feel like creating a strategy for anything let alone a job search as impossible. But, this is time to do exactly that. By building a SMART (specific measurable attainable relevant and time based) strategy you will position your search for success. In fact, studies also consistently show that such strategies result in considerable success/progress rather than those approaches that are taken without clarity (or any strategy at all).  Keep in mind the following while building your SMART job search strategy.

  • Be realistic. Historic events are happening daily (even hourly) and you or a loved one may be impacted by the pandemic. So, make sure to keep your strategy realistic and flexible in these highly uncertain times. 
  • Create a hit list. Take the time to create a list of ideal companies, those that you would never work at, and those that require more research. This will help you to focus your efforts in terms of applications, networking, and to find potential similar companies that you may not even know at this time. In doing so, remember that ALL companies will likely be impacted by this pandemic at some point. So, you will want to regularly check back on this list and adapt accordingly as the events unfold.
  • Be creative. Make a point to do the research and look for companies, jobs, and organizations that will be supporting people during these uncertain times. The economy is fundamentally changing right now. So, you need to force yourself to think about your career in an entirely new way right now. Use this time to think about what COULD be and build that into your plan. 
  • Set boundaries. Know what you want, what you can accept, and what you will not tolerate. These limits will change over time but take the time do write down what those are right now. Make sure to revisit those boundaries regularly so that you intentionally evaluate what is working and what has to change. 

4. Own and Address Your Gaps

No one is perfect. Everyone has weaknesses and strengths that they can plan for in their job search. Now is the time to take an inventory of what those weaknesses are to understand what is realistic for your career goals and to identify if additional education or training will be necessary to achieve your goals. 

Even in the current uncertain times, it is never a good idea to pursue additional education or certifications to simply fill time or gaps on your resume. Instead, you should evaluate the decision to obtain that degree or certification like any other economic decision. Meaning, does the investment in this program have the return on investment that makes the financial and time commitment worthwhile to you?

This can be a particularly challenging question during the Great Shutdown and the time to follow as uncertainty percolates around certain types of jobs and organizations. To help flesh out your answer to this question, consider the following:

  • Know the costs. Do the math so that you have a clear picture of what the investment will be in terms of hard costs (i.e. enrollment, prep courses, books, etc.) and soft costs (i.e. time, lost wages, etc.).
  • Identify the value. Understand what you can make if you invest in the program now and whether it will actually advance your long-term career. Be cautious of investing if there is no clear return in terms of wages, additional opportunities, or long-term career paths. 
  • Research. Look online at the program requirements, job postings, and the profession at large. Try to evaluate whether the degree, certification, licensure, or course is actually valued or even widely accepted. 
  • Talk to the program administrators. Send an email, sign up for a webinar, call, or schedule a video call with someone at the program to understand the reality of the program. Prepare to ask the hard questions, go into that conversation with an open mind, and take the time to reflect on what you learn without immediately committing.
  • Talk to people. You don’t have to meet with them in person to get their perception of whether that degree, program, certification, licensure, etc is worthwhile. Try to reach out to someone with the career you want by phone or even by reviewing their LinkedIn profile to see how they represent (or if they even do) the type of program you are currently considering. Then, keep looking to see if you can build out a sample of similar people (5-20 people) to see what they are doing. Use those trends to help guide your decision. 

5. Build and Engage Your Network

Studies have consistently shown over time that you are 10x more likely to land a job through a referral. This could be a formal employee referral program or even an introduction that leads to a series of introductions to the hiring manager. You can network even when you can’t leave your house. Here is how to effectively network for your job search from the comfort of your couch:

  • Create an online profile. You can’t grow or engage your network virtually if you don’t have a presence online. Take the time now to build that profile online so that you have the visibility and credibility you need. 
  • Know all of the places to network. LinkedIn is a good place to start for most people, but there are countless other sites that are equally important depending on your career, industry, and goals. Do the research to put yourself out there in all of the right places. 
  • Actually use that profile. No one can set and forget their digital profiles. You will need to actually build out the brand by connecting with people, following-up, and using that profile to further your career for the long-term.
  • Schedule calls. Many people are working from home and welcome the opportunity to connect. Life is crazy for many people right now so reach out in a way that is right for that contact (i.e. text, DM, in-mail, or email) to schedule a time that works for them. 
  • Consistently engage. Don’t be that person that always has their hand out or wants something. Periodically check in with your network so that they can connect with you. People want to help, but they can only do so much and will have to prioritize their own time. Make the most of what you have and work on growing the relationship with your network. 
  • Craft a clear ask. People can’t help if you don’t ask. But, you have to be smart and specific in that request in order to make it easy for them to help your search. Build a strategy before you reach out to the person to identify your goals and create clarity in your ask before that conversation. 
  • Work with outside recruiters. Recruiting agencies are a great resource in your search. They often work on jobs that simply can’t be published publicly or that are for an urgent need. Check-in with the recruiting agencies that you have been working with to see how they can help or do the research to find the agencies that may have the types of jobs you are now pursuing. And, make sure to work with as many as makes sense for your search as each agency will often work with different clients.

6. Apply to Jobs

Jobs are still being posted online, companies are hiring, and interviews are happening. So, make sure to set aside time and to create goals to apply to jobs online. Work and interviewing may be happening differently now – but it is STILL happening.

There will be a lot of people looking and applying online right now. And, employers will be working at their own pace and strategies to manage these applications as they rebuild their talent acquisition processes. Through this time of change, here is how you can make the most of your efforts:

  • Complete your candidate profiles. Take the time to set up a profile or to review them across all job boards (including company ones). This will make sure that the information you send to employers is correct, current, and complete. This step is more important than most people realize as many job boards or ATS will change the format of your information so that what the employer sees is not always what you think it is when you hit submit.
  • Set-up alerts. This will enable you to apply to jobs as soon as they are posted. Jobs that were posted before the Great Shutdown may still be active, but many of those are now on hold. The ones being posted after the shutdown began are for real needs that will move quickly. Don’t let those sit. 
  • Look beyond the big job boards. Most people will be in the obvious places, but not all companies use these job boards and those that do won’t publish all of their jobs on them. Research where your targets are posting their jobs and go there. Not finding anything? Consider adjusting your strategy.
  • Track your applications. Keep a list in the way that works for you. This list should track where, what, and when you applied. 
  • Follow-up. You won’t be able to follow-up on all jobs, but take the time to figure out if you can on each application, build the strategy to do so, and follow-through professionally. This can be with your network, connections, recruiters, talent acquisition people. 

7. Stay Flexible and Patient

More than ever, you will need to be flexible and patient in your job search. The unprecedented events of the COVID-19 pandemic will change many things in the economy, how people work, and what those jobs are. Things will take time as the world moves through the crisis and into the recovery period. So, make sure that you check-in with your goals, message, and plan regularly to see if they are still on the right track. 

You will know it is time to make a change in your approach if:

  • You do nothing. You can’t get a new job if you don’t work for it. The competition will be steep for some roles and now is the time to be proactive rather than reactive. 
  • You keep the same approach expecting different results. Life and the economy have changed and will probably keep changing. Make sure that your search adapts with the evolving landscape.
  • You only receive rejections. Although hiring may slow, you should still get through if you are applying to a number of jobs that you believe that you are qualified for. If you aren’t that means that your resume is probably getting blocked by the ATS. In that case, submit your resume for a free review to check if that’s the issue. 
  • You land interviews but never the offer. This can be fixed, but it probably means that your message is probably off in the interview. Schedule a free consultation with an experienced coach to assess whether your interviewing skills need a refresh. 
  • You hear nothing. This is also another red flag that it is time to change your message, strategy, and/or tactics if you are simply getting nothing in response to your efforts. If you are doing the work and still hearing nothing, get a free no-obligation quote to see if the experienced team at the Contingent Plan can help.


With years of experience in the job acquisition field, Kathy has delivered exceptional service by providing in-depth knowledge about recruiting qualified employees, and crafting the perfect resume. The Contingent Plan comprises a team of expert recruiters, resume writers, and outplacement experts—all ready to help you! Read Kathy’s blogs, and discover simple tricks and tips to help you land the job of your dreams.