3 Tips to Land Your First Real Job During COVID-19

College is over. When you were accepted to school back in 2016 you never imagined graduating into a job market that was overturned by a global pandemic. Yet, four years later you find yourself entering into an unstable job market, competing with experienced professionals who lost their job at the outset of the pandemic and now will do anything to get their foot back in the door.

No, this certainly isn’t what you envisioned while staying up late writing papers, studying for tests, and waking up for early morning classes, but it is today’s reality.

So, how do you compete in a job market against experienced, out-of-work professionals, and land the job that you need to kickstart your career? Here are three tips to help you get started.

Play Up Your Inexperience

It’s counterintuitive when going up against more experienced candidates to show how little experience you have, but let’s get real. If this job comes down to experience, you’re going to lose even with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Your inexperience may mean you haven’t done something before, but it also means you haven’t had the chance to pick up bad habits yet. It means you are ready to learn how to do things the way this company wants it done, rather than the way you’ve always done it.

When you let your prospective employer know that you want to learn how to do things their way, you suddenly become more interesting than an experienced candidate who will be looking for their next position before their seat is even warm.

Prepare for a Video Interview

Due to the pandemic, it’s likely that at least some of the hiring process will take place over a video call, and at least a portion of your job will require you to work from home. Demonstrating mastery and comfort with video technology can go a long way toward showing that you are the right candidate for the role.

Make sure to test your internet connection before the interview, and double check that your microphone and video camera both work. Call a friend, or even your mom, and ask them if there are any distracting background noises that you may have tuned out.

Avoid fake backgrounds. They tend to make parts of people disappear. Be mindful of your real background. Avoid displaying a wall that has posters of your favorite boy band or models on a beach.

Before starting, take some time to play for the interface. You’ll want to know how to mute yourself in case there is a lot of background noise, share your screen in case the interviewer wants to see your CV or some type of sample, and use the chat function in case you or the interviewer needs to share a link.

Finally, have a practice call or two. Ask a friend to interview you, to acclimate you to the type of video call you are going to take part in. Business interviews over video tend to be different than Zoom calls with your friends.

Killing the Interview

It’s important to get the interview moving on the right foot, so login to the platform a few minutes before the interview is set to start. Depending on the platform, you may find yourself in a waiting room, with an on-screen message telling you that the meeting will start shortly. While you’re waiting make sure your screen name is your actual name, and not PartyGoer Pat.

Dress as you would for an in-person interview. While it’s tempting to put on a nice shirt and a pair of gym shorts, wear the full ensemble. Dressing for success will give you more confidence, and you won’t have to worry about making the wrong impression if you have to unexpectedly stand up.

Speak clearly, and look directly at the camera. It’s not easy, because you’ll be tempted to look at your interviewer on screen, but when you do that you will appear to be looking off in a different direction.

Feel free to glance at any notes you’ve written down about the company you are interviewing with, or answers to typical interview questions, but avoid staring and reading off of them. 

Many video platforms include video recording, so your interview will probably be shared with others in the hiring process. Those higher-ups will be watching you more closely than the person conducting the interview, so avoid all distractions. Don’t look at your phone, turn off notifications from your computer, and direct all your attention to the interview.    

Not What You Expected

It’s easy to sit on your couch and text your friends that this isn’t the post-college life you signed up for. It might feel good to vent, but it won’t help you pay off those college loans, or help you move toward a better future. 

Take the steps you need to have a great interview, and pretty soon you’ll land that job you’ve always wanted.