Millions of Americans have lost their jobs since the pandemic began.
As so many continue to look for work and job numbers linger at historic levels, finding a job during a pandemic has presented another set of challenges to overcome.
Employers are forced to rethink the entire hiring process to prevent the spread of the virus and that can make that first impression even harder than ever. Across the country, we're even learning of curbside job fairs.
"That's the awkwardness. It's different. We're used to reading people in person and shaking their hand, and we can't do any of that now,” said Bronwyn Allen, a hiring expert and president of High Profile Staffing, who is preparing her clients for this new normal.
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Gone are the days of that firm handshake or showing off a warm smile. Now, facial expressions are covered by a mask or done virtually.
"As job seekers, we've truly had to alter or change our process,” she said. "Show emotion through your eyes and through your body language – because that’s the way that employer will get to know you.”
Her former client, Shareen Anderson of Dallas, started feeling these changes at the start of the pandemic.
“At the beginning, I was interviewing with a pharmaceutical company and they flew me out for an interview. And I had some anxiety about how to interact with them,” she said. “Should I come in wearing a mask? Or do I put the mask on when I’m there? Do I shake their hand?"
She recently landed another job entirely through virtual interviews. She suggests for others to invest in lighting and microphones like she did to amp up the Zoom or virtual presence.
“I just wanted to make my workspace as comfortable as possible so I could project myself the most professional way,” Anderson said. “For me, I felt like I had to just make an emphasis on certain words to let them know that hey I really do want this job.”
Allen said it's also important to practice those virtual interviews beforehand.
"So that you feel comfortable, you know where to look, you know if you're lighting is right, if you have dogs barking in the background, you know how to adapt to the situation,” she said.
And for in-person interviews, it’s crucial to practice your responses with a mask on.
"Because sometimes when you talk with a mask on, it’s even more difficult,” she said. “Just kind of rehearse through this, role play so that when you actually go on-site, you know what you're getting into."
If you're actively looking for work, now is also the time to keep networking and maybe earn certifications online during the downtime.
At the end of the day, Allen wants to make sure people don't lose hope. Stay focused, adapt and keep pushing forward.
"Please stay positive. These are tough times, these are challenging times,” said Allen. “That positivity, that enthusiasm will come out when you're interviewing."