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Job Searching? Here's What Employers Need From You Right Now

Executive Summary

Most job searching advice applies in any economy: update your resume, grow your skills, and practice patience.

  • When the economy is in flux, however, employers look for a very specific set of experiences and expertise to ensure the success of their businesses.
  • Author of Mastering the Hire and managing director of The Broad Center, Chaka Booker, shares how prospective employees can understand what employers need at any given moment.
  • Learn the 3 skills employers are hiring for and how you can demonstrate that you possess them before, during, and after an interview.

Our current Covid19 lockdown will eventually end. Across the world, there are brilliant people developing ways to attack this crisis—vaccines, rapid testing, improved treatments, protocols for daily interactions, contact tracing technology—all with the goal of bringing a level of certainty back to our lives.

That’s the good news. The tougher news is the economic impact will stretch beyond the eventual flattening of the curve. The statistics about record unemployment are sobering and the hurt felt by real people behind the numbers is intense.

The economy will gradually heal as well. But in tougher moments, genuine support for one other is vital. That includes providing guidance to those with disrupted career paths who are job searching in an uncertain and volatile market. When you search the internet for such advice, you’ll find a consistent set of next steps:

  • Update and/or revamp your resume and LinkedIn profile.
  • Expand and tap into your network
  • Take online courses and learn new skills
  • Be patient and persistent

This is all good advice worth taking. To further increase your odds of success, you need to put yourself in the shoes of employers and understand how they think. What are they facing and how does that drive their hiring decisions? Most importantly, what does that mean for you as you interact with them?

Employers need people who can pivot.

In a previous article I shared that in the face of uncertainty, organizations need to be able to execute at high levels, and pivot when things change. To accomplish that, they need people who can do the same.

During job interviews, share examples of when you changed course on short notice. That type of pivot requires comfort with ambiguity. If you need lots of information, high amounts of clarity or a very hands-on manager—this is not the time to show that. This is the time to demonstrate (and develop) your ability to advance work despite uncertainty. Be prepared to answer questions like:

  • Have you had to adjust to changes over which you had no control? How did you handle it?
  • What do you do when priorities change quickly? Share an example.
  • Do you have an example of adapting to a wide variety of situations or environments?

Employers need people who can plug and play

In the past month, the number of people working remotely has skyrocketed. That will either stay high or come down only to shoot up again with another outbreak. In addition, we are in an environment when team members may leave work for extended periods of time because they or a family member are ill.

The term “plug and play” is used to describe devices that work perfectly as soon as they are connected. You don’t need to become a robot to land a job, but you do need to recognize that people who can easily play more than one position—either in terms of function or physical space—will be highly valued.

  • On your resume and during the interview, indicate you are set-up to work from home. Show familiarity with some type of videoconferencing (Zoom, Skype, etc.). Do the same for collaborative tools (Slack, Asana, etc.). If you aren’t familiar with them, find one with a free trial and get comfortable with its functionality.
  • Give examples of times you have taken on work that was not yours, backfilled an open role, or otherwise stepped outside your position. Pinch-hitting is a unique skill. Employers will want people who have expertise in their current role and can move into different roles if necessary.

Employers don’t want to worry about productivity

As how (and where) we work changes, it will become more complex for managers to measure productivity. Whether it is because everyone’s role is shifting or because managing remote teams is new to them—managers will struggle with knowing who is doing what. Don’t give them reason to worry.

  • Give examples that show, with absolute clarity, that you accomplish what is asked of you. Begin answers by saying, “I was asked to do _____”. Then give a bit of context, explain what you did, and end with, “and we accomplished exactly what was asked…” Don’t leave room for any doubt about your ability to execute.
  • Think of examples that demonstrate a can-do attitude, optimism, and strong time management. Focus on your ability to communicate upward and outward, always keeping relevant people informed of your work and progress. Managers will have many things on their mind and removing the concern of having to monitor you closely will be important.

Adaptability Will Improve Your Job Searching Odds

This advice may feel as though you’ll become a widget to be inserted anywhere and expected to execute and produce. That would be a misinterpretation. While I cannot predict how your employer will manage you, I can assure you that your ability to be effective during uncertainty is a powerful skill that requires self-awareness, quick learning, responsiveness, and relationship building. Even with an average manager as your boss, these competencies will give you more independence and autonomy than those without them.

The people making hiring decisions are human too. Unexpected situations, personal and professional, will be weighing on their hearts and minds. Position yourself as one less thing to be concerned about. Be the embodiment of the stability we all need. Keep this advice in mind during your job search and you’ll inspire the confidence and competence required to collectively fight our way back to a better tomorrow.

Chaka Booker

Chaka Booker is the managing director of The Broad Center. He is a Forbes monthly contributor and has also written for the Stanford Social Innovation Review and Success magazine. He is the author of Mastering the Hire, which focuses on unique interviewing strategies for consistently identifying great talent.

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