Finding & Landing a Job in 2020 - Best Practices During an Economic Downturn

Yesterday, Andrew Van Dam of the Washington Post published an article naming millennials the "unluckiest generation in U.S. history" after facing the 2008 recession and most recently COVID-19, which has resulted in 20.5 million jobs being lost in April alone. Many mothers (and parents) have been put in a position to try and find a new job during one of the most challenging economic times in our history. Even if you haven't been laid off, if you're desperate to change jobs right now, it is an uphill battle and many don't know where to start. Being that I have close to 9 years of experience working and consulting in the recruitment space specifically, I thought I could help shed some light onto the best practices of finding and landing a job (during a recession) in 2020.

Not so obvious best practices 

  • Identify A LOT of jobs you are qualified for and interested in. It would be wise to target at least 15-20 roles to start. The last time I was searching for a job (which was NOT during a recession), I applied to no less than 18 roles that I was either exactly or a bit over qualified for and I only moved forward in the process with four of them. It’s a numbers game and it’s likely you won’t hear back from a lot of the companies you apply to. Don’t be offended, and don’t take it personally. Many organizations’ recruitment processes are broken and they may not see your information at all. Which leads me to my next point...
  • After you apply through the company’s preferred application route, follow up, follow up, follow up. It is rare that you will apply to a job and get a timely response back from the employer without some sort of follow up on your end. If you aren’t following up, another candidate is. Previously, I was able to get my foot in the door for a role I wanted by finding the recruiter on Linked In and sending her a direct message letting her know that I had 8 years of relevant experience along with a link to the job I had applied to. I didn’t hear back. Five days later I found the person who I thought would be the hiring manager for the role I was after, and then sent him a message stating that I had 8 years of relevant experience and that I was very interested in working for the organization. I let him know that I had applied and reached out to the recruiter (“I’m sure she is swamped!” I kindly said) but that I would love to learn more about the type of person he was looking to hire to see if I’d be a fit. He then responded, included the recruiter, and asked her to set up time with me. It’s not that the recruiter wasn’t doing her job, but oftentimes they’re juggling multiple requisitions, candidates, and hiring managers, and they just can’t get to everyone. Take control of your own destiny and (respectfully) follow up! 
  • Interview Preparedness - Take the time beforehand to prepare the following:
    • Brief introduction / background on your professional career - Basic overview of your career up to that point (you can base off your resume) and why you’re interested in the role you’re interviewing for and/or joining the organization. First question from the recruiter will likely be something along the lines of “Tell me about yourself…” and this is your opportunity to have a clear, concise answer that makes a great first impression
    • Basic questions that will likely get asked in some form or another during a first round interview: Why do you want to work for this company? If you're still employed - why do you want to leave your current situation? (Note: Don’t talk crap about your current or most recent job. Find a respectful way to answer this question, even if you hate(d) it.) What makes you believe you’d be successful in this role? What are your compensation expectations? You can also go to, search for the company you’re interviewing with, and find out what their typical interview questions are so that you can be even more prepared!
  • Notes on compensation and how to talk about it when it comes up during an interview
    • Things to consider: what are you earning now (or were you earning most recently)? Is it in line with your level of experience? Based on your industry, is it reasonable that you'll have to take a bit of a cut, get paid the same, or get a bump in pay? It is my assumption that many companies who are hiring would be prepared to pay market value of the role they're hiring for. Understand your specific situation, balance that with what you know your value is, and don't be afraid to have the conversation 
    • In a normal economic situation, it would be fair for you to state what you’re currently making, but note that in order to leave your current role, you’d like to be in a range that is higher. If you have been laid off, you may not have that leverage (but you should still understand your value and what you're willing or unwilling to take)
    • Be ready for the compensation question, answer concisely and confidently, and don’t negotiate with yourself. Let me repeat, DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH YOURSELF. Say what you would expect / need in order to accept the role and stop talking. If you need to, mute your phone. It will feel uncomfortable and awkward if the recruiter doesn’t respond right away - but I promise you they have these conversations all day, every day. If it does not align with what you would expect based on your experience, it’s better to get that out of the way in the first round and move on to other roles that are better in line
    • If they do not ask you what your compensation expectations are in the first round, it is a fair question for you to ask. Something along the lines of “what is the compensation range for this role?” Neither party wants to waste time putting you through a long interview process just to get to the end and disagree on compensation

Obvious Best Practices...but you’d be surprised

  • Resume - Make sure it’s updated, modern, clean, and that there are no typos. Have it ready for every interview, every round. If it’s a phone interview, have it pulled up on your computer so you can reference it. If you’re going somewhere in person, print several copies out and bring them along. I know this practice is a bit outdated, but it’s still expected in most circumstances that you have a resume prepared (and in hand!) 
  • Social Media - Make sure it’s clean, professional, or set as private if you don’t want employers looking around 
  • Linked In - Make sure it’s updated just like your resume is. Some employers use this instead of reviewing your resume. Photo should be professional looking
  • Virtual Interviews: Assume it’s a video conference and that the interviewer will be able to see you. Dress and groom yourself as you would if this were an in person meeting
  • Virtual Interviews: Join the link / call 5-10 minutes early in case you have any technical difficulties getting in
  • Do not join a video conference from your phone. Find a laptop if at all possible
  • Candidate Questions: Have at least 5 questions prepared to ask at the end of the interview - can be about the role itself, company structure, company culture, etc. It’s also great to ask what the next steps are in the process and what their timeline looks like for hiring someone 
  • End of the interview: Ask if the recruiter has any hesitations with moving you forward in the process. You may get honest feedback here that you can then use to clarify an answer and turn around their opinion, as well as understand where their head is at / if you’re likely to move forward or not. I once asked this and the recruiter stated that while I was qualified and she’d love to hire me, she was concerned that even though the role was remote, it did require someone to come into their office (on the east coast) at least once/week. Being that I was located in the midwest, she thought this may be a logistical challenge. After learning more about the travel expectations because of that question, I agreed with her, and we both decided it may not be the best fit. This saved both of us a lot of time and I was able to focus on other companies that I was interested in

I hope this was a comprehensive list that you can easily reference if you've found yourself in this situation or if you're considering making a change. Please share with anyone in the job market and let us know if there are any other areas of the process you're struggling with / that you'd like more advice on! We're all in this together! 

Written by Kaci Smith
Founder of COO BABY

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