With more than 36.4 million people filing jobless claims as of May 9 as a result of COVID-19, competition for jobs is fierce. But, there are still plenty of opportunities available.
Many industries, like grocery stores and delivery services, have thousands of job openings in the United States right now, and are hiring urgently. The task for job seekers applying for these positions is to find ways to stand out from the crowd to land one of these jobs.
"When there are mass hirings, it's important that you know what the company — or interviewer — needs," says Juliet Huck, an expert in persuasive communications strategy. "You need to talk about what you can do for them."
So, while you need to be able to discuss your experience and qualifications for the position, the ability to show your interest in the interviewer's needs by asking some questions puts you at an advantage over other candidates, she says.
"You can say something like: 'I really want to help you. What is it you really need right now?'" says Huck. "It's important that you show that you're focused on them. You want to help them answer the problem they have."
Huck also emphasizes the importance of leaning forward a bit and making eye contact with the interviewer. If you're standing, face your body toward the person. This shows you're focused, and marks you as someone who is truly interested in the job and the interviewer.
Some other tips to stand out during mass hiring:
1. Show up prepared
Know something about the company, such as what it does, and perhaps how it plays into the coronavirus pandemic recovery and response.
For example, grocery stores are considered essential services and are critical for getting products to consumers, whether it's in-store or through online ordering or delivery services.
Look online to check out how the company has operated during this time, and plans for the future. You will be more interesting to the interviewer if you're knowledgeable about the challenges the industry or the employer is facing.
2. Be courteous
"I think being very polite is very important in making yourself stand out," says Huck. "While you can't shake hands, you can be very courteous to the interviewer. Before you leave, make sure you get the person's name so you can send a thank-you note."
3. Look the part
Even if the job is for a store stocker, wear business casual clothes and make sure that you're neatly groomed and showered. It shows respect for the interviewer and demonstrates that you believe the opportunity is worth the effort.
Before you go to the interview, ask someone who knows you whether they believe you to be shy, or that you have difficulty talking to others because you're more introverted. If the answer is 'yes,' then take some time to practice answering questions with a family member or friend. For example, be prepared to talk about why you want the job and your qualifications. "You want to be yourself, but you also should be willing to engage in a conversation. Ask questions — try to open up a bit more if you're a shy person," says Huck. "If you know you're someone who gets quiet around others, then practicing can help stop you from going inward when you're in the interview."
5. Bring key documents
Make sure to have a printed copy of an updated resume and a cover letter. Each should be targeted toward that specific job and highlight the transferable skills that will be of value to the employer. Let your cover letter reflect why you want to work for the employer or why the position is of interest, instead of just repeating what's in your resume. You can also have a list of references prepared if the employer requests them.
Finally, remember to silence your cell phone, offer a smile and a friendly "hello" to the interviewer since handshakes will not be part of the job-search process for the foreseeable future.