Your Guide to Entering a Post-Pandemic Workforce After Graduation
The job market is no stranger to the life-changing effects of COVID-19. Adapting to a hybrid workforce while navigating unstable unemployment rates can make the already daunting task of entering the workforce even more difficult for recent college graduates.
Some predict the pandemic may actually be helpful for 2021 grads. According to Forbes, a March 2021 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports employers are expecting to hire 7.2% more 2021 graduates than 2020 graduates. But economist Luke Pardue of payroll and benefits company Gusto tells Business Insider that 20- to 24-year-olds who typically make up 39% of new hires pre-COVID now account for just 26% in 2021.
If you’re a member of the class of 2021, you’ve learned to be comfortable with the unknown. You can use this resilience, and these tips on your job hunt for a successful transition from graduation to your professional career.
Getting the Interview
The first step in any job search is to prove to employers why you deserve consideration for a position. There are two parts to this process: the resume and cover letter. The importance of a resume is longstanding, but there are new things to consider when creating your resume in a world after COVID-19.
A resume’s purpose is to highlight your strengths and experiences. In 2021, the skills you choose to highlight may look a little different than skills highlighted in previous years. Employers are looking for candidates who are experienced in running virtual meetings, are fluent in modern workspace technologies, are able to manage a crisis, and who can think critically.
Along with an up-to-date resume, a well written cover letter is an essential part of standing out to employers. It can strongly set apart an applicant from their competitors. About 65% of employers consider cover letters to be important in some capacity. A strong cover letter demonstrates a deep understanding of the role and addresses why you want to do the job, and how exactly you meet the requirements.
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During the Interview
In 2021, even though the job market has changed, the level of preparation and effort you put in before your interview should not waiver. In a post on his blog about preparation and success, French entrepreneur Julien Foussard quotes former president Abraham Lincoln, who once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
In order to have a great interview, it is important to dedicate enough time to prepare yourself and your answers. Be familiar with the role’s duties and be ready to prove that you are more than willing and able to take on those responsibilities. Another staple for preparing for a successful interview is doing a bit of research into the company’s dress code and choosing your outfit accordingly. And as always, it is crucial that you arrive at the interview on time — in some cases, “on time” means about 15 minutes early.
Traditional interview best practices are easily transferable to the virtual business realm and just as important in virtual interviews. It is very possible that your first interview is a video interview with 89% of employers reporting they switched or started to switch to video interviews in 2020. Phone interviews are also increasingly popular, with 73% of employers in the same report responding that they are adopting or increasing the use of phone interviews.
With this in mind, it is smart to practice some video chat best practices, such as being mindful of the location from which you choose to do your interview. Be sure that you are in a well-lit area free of clutter, and don’t forget to test your internet connection.
It is also a good idea to rehearse speaking into the camera, not to your reflection. It is common to be more focused on your own face on-screen than with the conversation taking place. To eliminate the risk of distraction, don’t be afraid to turn off video mirroring during your interview. Having a good balance of traditional and modern approaches to interviewing will help prepare you for anything.
After the Interview
Most people think the work is over after the interview. The key to making a lasting impression that lands you a second interview, or even a job offer, takes place after the interview ends. You might ask yourself, “The interview is over. What more can I do?” The answer is simple: Thank them.
Sending a thank-you note, commonly via email, is a sure-fire way to stand out from the list of other applicants and make sure that your interviewer both remembers you and knows how serious you are about this opportunity. In fact, some hiring professionals won’t even consider a candidate who fails to follow up with a thank-you note after an interview. It’s important to do everything you can to stand out from your competition.
In the words of successful businessman Robert F. Smith, “I think it’s critically important to always be aware of, you know, the competitive dynamic in your market. But not aware of it just in a point of fear, but in a point of education.” You may be just as qualified as the next candidate, but making the extra effort to show appreciation for your interviewer’s time and consideration will give you an upper hand that could make or break your chance at getting that job offer.
While only time can tell how the workforce will continue to adapt to unavoidable change, there are strategies and skills recent graduates can use to rise above the uncertainty and make their way to a prosperous career. If you keep these few tips in mind when it comes time for your next virtual interview, you will be sure to impress your future employer.
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