COVID-19’s record unemployment rates have led to a surge of people looking for new jobs. It can be difficult to land a position regardless of global crises but now, in an increasingly saturated market, the challenge is heightened.
However, there are ways to stand out in this minefield, capture recruiters’ attention and land your dream job. Stephanie Womack, executive recruiter at The Hershey Company offered her best tips on how to successfully navigate the job application process. Hershey ranked No. 21 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.
Build your network.
Building contacts in various positions and across organizations you’re looking to enter is always crucial, but Womack said a pandemic-stricken world also requires jobseekers to be even more proactive.
“I truly believe that it’s all about building your network and not waiting for the job to find you,” she said. “You have to go and find the job. And that requires work.”
With today’s environment being even more competitive, Womack said that persistence is key. Take the time to update your LinkedIn profile and update settings to indicate to recruiters that you’re open to work. She also advised using the LinkedIn recommendations feature which allows other LinkedIn members to write brief recommendations and endorsements for skills.
“That is just so powerful because recruiters are using LinkedIn every single day,” Womack said. “If [jobseekers] have a small network, they really need to expand their network and connect with employees at the companies that they’re interested in.”
Offline connections are important, too. Let friends and acquaintances and other members of your community know you’re looking for work — you never know who is aware of opportunities.
Research the company.
Research the companies you want to work for, focusing on your passions. Genuine passion and showing you’ve done background reading about the company before your interview will help you stand out.
“I interview a lot of people and most know our iconic brands, but they may not know about our rich history. It’s impressive when a candidate has done their Hershey homework: they’ve watched videos about Hershey, know where we are located, read Glassdoor reviews. Applicants need to do their research as they apply for positions and make sure they are well prepared … because that stands out to recruiters,” Womack said.
You might be tempted to cast a wide net and apply to any job that’s even remotely in your skillset. But Womack said it’s most important to focus on your true passions and skills and apply to jobs you imagine yourself genuinely enjoying. Narrowing down the types of positions you’re interested in is important but so is identifying where you want to work, what size or type of company and/or location.
The process begins with you identifying what you truly want to do and where your skills are best suited.
Reach out to the right people.
Sending your application into the void can be intimidating. Will anyone even look at it? When will you hear back? Who can you follow up with? Behind the scenes, many companies use applicant tracking systems that rank applications by using screening questions for best candidate matches based on the job description. However, Womack said recruiters review all applications, even if you get an automated response from the applicant tracking system.
The internet can be another powerful resource. Womack says savvy applicants research who the recruiters are and reach out. She says she tries to respond to every LinkedIn direct message she receives; if a person reaches out to her about a position for which she is not the recruiter, she will direct them to the correct person.
For those who may not seem to be the best fit for the position but have the potential for another role, Womack said she often shares their résumé with other recruiters to keep them in the talent pipeline.
When reaching out directly, try to identify the right person on the talent acquisition team or someone who can connect you to the right person.
Triple-check for careless mistakes.
With instant-apply options on job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed, it’s possible you might send an incorrectly addressed résumé or cover letter to a company you’re applying to. Check that your résumé is updated with each application and make sure your cover letter addresses the correct recruiter, company and position. Always tailor your application so that it’s relevant to the position you’re applying to.
If you’re not sure about the name of the correct recruiter, Womack advises using a general salutation like “To Whom It May Concern.”
Also, avoid getting too creative with your résumé. It helps to be eye-catching but avoid distracting design elements — especially if you aren’t going for a design position. Also, including your headshot is unnecessary.
Prepare for interviews and stay calm.
Pandemic-age Zoom interviews come with benefits and downsides. Just like you would for an in-person interview, prepare yourself to answer the questions you’ll be asked. Womack advises that if you’re in touch with a recruiter beforehand, ask them how they advise best preparing for the interview. You can also go to the website Glassdoor, where users can leave anonymous feedback and tips based on interviews they’ve had with companies.
Also, just because you’re behind a monitor doesn’t mean an interviewer won’t notice your body language. Mind your posture and look at the camera.
COVID-19 comes with its own challenges and anxieties. You might be home with roommates, family members or others you’re taking care of, and it might be difficult to find a quiet space. You might be worried about loved ones who are sick or at high-risk. Remember: recruiters are people, too. Do your best, be yourself and be confident in your abilities and the research you’ve done.
If you’re newer to the job-seeking world, practice your interview skills with friends and family. If you interview and aren’t selected for the position, consider following up for feedback so you can improve and prepare for your next interview.
“You learn from every interview, interviewing takes practice,” Womack said.
Overall, remember your career is a journey. You might not love every job you have, but you’ll gain insights into what you are truly passionate about and enjoy going to work every day.
Hershey is hiring for a number of positions in finance, information services, global operations and more. Learn more about opportunities at Hershey, and check out DiversityInc’s job board for open positions at Hershey and other companies that “get it.”