During the first week of November 2020, I had the pleasure to participate at Hill Week next to amazing and inspiring colleagues…
If you’ve been diligently looking for jobs like me, then perhaps you’ve landed an interview, or two, or three. Maybe you have even landed an offer for a sweet gig, which is fantastic and you should be super happy. For those of you that haven’t been so fortunate, if you’re still at the beginning of your job search, you might be wondering what in the world the process looks like.
Seeing that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, things are just a tad different. We are not exactly going out to dinner and movies like we used to, and candidate recruiting has also involved some pretty stark changes. So even if you haven’t yet gone through a recruitment process (which you most certainly will eventually, just be patient!), here’s a perspective on what to expect.
So Long to In-Person Networking
When I was first starting the whole job-hunting process, I did what I was told endlessly by colleagues and coaches to do: network. That did not include mindlessly sending applications out to employers, which is generally not effective. No, I looked at networking events in my community. You know what these are. Career fairs, conventions, conferences, workshops, lectures. You go to those, shake some hands, impress the right people, and boom, you get a business card. Or a bunch of them. That you accidentally tuck away in your desk and lose forever.
Okay, maybe you are really organized and never have this misplacement problem. No matter how you curate connections, COVID-19 screwed this whole in-person networking thing up. Some countries have even gone as far as to ban gatherings of certain sizes, making in-person networking all but impossible. Which makes sense, but how are you supposed to get a foot in the door if you can’t make an in-person impression?
A few months ago, I would have just shrugged. But online networking, as it turns out, is not impossible at all. You can interact with strangers online, and it will work. It is not as hard as you would think. It’s all about being personable. Reach out to people that you are genuinely interested in, and make the message personal. Throw in a compliment about their work. Think of it like this: if you got a message, what would you want to hear? A little empathy goes a long way. I have also found that – after months of social distancing – people are much more receptive to requests for social interaction, even if it’s virtual. As long as the way you reach out to others is personable, people are much more likely to be responsive.
The Interview Process Isn’t All Chit-Chat
Do you remember your grad school application essay? No? Wait, yours was ALSO embarrassing and you want to bury it into the deepest untapped parts of your brain? Probably not, okay, fine. But that process of proving yourself with your application isn’t going anywhere. Having a graduate degree is the same thing; it isn’t enough to land a job, even if it’s useful. So you need to show, rather than tell, why you’re worthwhile.
If you’re shooting for a postdoc, you often need to write a research proposal and provide several publications to prove that you’ve got the chops. In industry, the assessments can be even more diverse. Writing-intensive recruiters will ask you to draft essays and complete writing assessments. Software companies will require coding tests. These coding tests are often tricky enough that other companies have created courses to help budding programmers ace their interviews. Others will ask you to give a presentation. You might get a combination of these kinds of exams. The screening process is no joke.
How might you go about nailing these screenings? The truth is, you never really know what they’ll ask you. I surely didn’t know exactly how I would be screened. But like any company, you can still learn more about what they do to at least estimate what might be asked of you next. You did not effortlessly fall into your grad school program, so use that same level of diligence when looking at your next step. Not all research is equivalent, and not all jobs will ask you to do the same tasks during the recruitment process. Just being aware of that will help mold your expectations. Also, websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn have profiles for a lot of companies. The company you are pursuing might be there, so it is often worth a shot to take a look and see what others have to say.
Interviews Are In Front of a Camera More Often
So, perhaps you have carefully bobbed and weaved through the obstacles of the preliminary screening process and landed a final interview. Great, but now what? In the past, that usually meant that you would get an onsite tour, shake some hands, and maybe even partake in a recruiting event with other candidates. Fantastic! But, wait, is that even the norm now?
In my experience, no, especially if you are interviewing for a job that isn’t local. Getting you to their site can be an expensive endeavor, sometimes requiring travel, lodging, and meals, in addition to coordinating interviews. Now with COVID-19, there’s a legitimate health concern to add to this list of complications. Companies are less interested in doing all of this if they do not have to. Of the interviews I have had, none of them have been in person, but they would surely have a year ago. You might be thinking that this sounds weird and uncomfortable, but I don’t think so. Many of us have probably been conference calling a lot recently when studying and working from home. Also, many companies are already reworking their at-home work policy. If you have gotten used to this new lifestyle, you will be fine with virtual interviews.
So there you go. That’s part of my experience. I wish I could have understood how business was going to be conducted during the middle of a pandemic, but who has a crystal ball? That being said, we’re not out of the weeds yet. And until the pandemic is officially over, our expectations need to change. Maybe this will help.
Featured image is under Pixabay License and free to use.
AlgoExpert. (2020). Ace the Coding Interviews.
Minor, M. (2020, June 3). Working From Home During COVID-19: Time To Fine Tune Your Home Office. Forbes.
Palmer, A. (2020, August 27). Which Countries Are Reopening for Meetings? Here Are the Latest Updates From Around the World. Northstar Meetings Group.
Ryan, L. (2015, October 17). Don’t Waste Your Time with Online Job Applications—Here’s Why! LinkedIn.