Optimizing Your Job Hunt in a COVID-19 World

By Olena Mazur

The COVID-19 pandemic is turning out to be the crucible for many businesses and industries. At the onset of lockdowns across the globe, industries such as tourism, hospitality, and aviation were the most visibly hit, with other sectors feeling the strain. 

A report from the U.N. has projected cutbacks of up to 200 million jobs as we enter the second quarter of 2020. This trend is countered by the rise of hires in the finance and technology industries. There are also hiring sprees from companies, such as Amazon and Walmart, to match the workforce needs resulting from COVID-19, followed by a list of more than 30 companies in the U.S. 

As the world adjusts and gets firmer bearings to the pandemic, we will see innovations that result in attractive job openings that we wouldn’t have seen in a pre-COVID-19 world. Though many would term this period as one of job loss and recession, we see it as a time for new job opportunities and unmitigated career migration.

Remote working breaks down a barrier of entry for job seekers, and we have seen many professionals find their stride in different industries with transferable skills, such as:

  • Project/Product Management: understanding the structure, analysis and inter-departmental coordination needed to see a project or product to completion is a sought after skill 
  • Vendor Relations: Always valuable across industries
  • Data Analysis: Ability to derive useful analytics from raw data is valuable in any industry
  • Team Management: Critical in many industries, the ability to organize teams, evaluate performance and drive results
  • Business Strategy: The ability to understand the company’s goals and strategies is universally valuable across company sizes and industries

However, career migration and job hunting can be a daunting task during the pandemic. With social distancing, the resume has become the first and most significant challenge for applicants. We will be sharing three resume barriers that, when avoided, can drastically improve your chances.

Barrier 1: Understand the ATS

The applicant tracking system (ATS) pre-reads and filters resumes through hiring parameters set by recruiters, resulting in many promising candidates binned before anyone has seen them, losing their chance before the process has begun.

There are two things that the ATSs look at: structure and content. Here are some general guidelines to break through this first barrier:

Structural guidelines

  1. Maintain a top to bottom layout
  2. Adopt a simple black and white color scheme
  3. Keep your resume ideally between 1 to 2 pages
  4. Stick to a 1,200-word limit; an exception would be for academic roles
  5. Resumes should not be over-designed: infographics, slider bars, and graphics should be avoided. If the ATS doesn’t understand the format, the resume goes to the bin. 

For content, the ATS picks up essential information. Think of it as an SEO ranking for resumes, or a checkbox that determines if a resume makes it to the next stage.

Content guidelines

  1. Always have your personal information at the front and center. Your first and last name, adding the country code for any phone numbers, your email address, and your LinkedIn URL 
  2. Educational qualifications must be spelled out correctly. ‘Bachelors,’ ‘Bachelor’s of Science’ might confuse the ATS, ‘Bachelor Degree in Science’ would be better
  3. Never include high school/secondary school details. If you do not have a degree, list courses, and certifications. Don’t list the online learning platform where you took the course, instead, list the actual institution which created the course
  4. Research and use the keywords prevalent in the industry and role for which you’re applying 
  5. Stating soft skills might hurt your resume, ‘ability to work under pressure,’ ‘assertiveness,’ ‘flexibility’ are often repeated in resumes, and add no contextual value other than being space fillers 

Barrier 2: Understand the cultures and territories before sending your resume out

The resume guidelines we shared have to be taken in the context of where you intend to send it.

For example, in the United States, companies have to adhere to the rules stated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices. In this case, resumes that include a picture, gender, or race automatically get rejected due to the legality of the hiring discriminatory practices they place on the company. 

Conversely, in the UAE, employers prefer C.V.s (similar to the U.K. or Australia) to resumes. Due to different labor law practices, adding photographs, gender, and even religious beliefs is not a bad thing. The information should encompass maximum career history and not only the last ten years, as in the U.S. or Canada case. Often going above 1,200 words, applications can also include achievements beyond the job scope. 

Barrier 3: Understand that you need to organize and optimize constantly

When it comes to landing a successful job application, always go for quality in what you send, not just quantity. It’s also important to be mindful of: 

  1. In terms of the positions you’re applying for, be specific in your header for each application. If you are looking to apply for the Sales Associate position, customize your header to showcase that your main niche is in line with it like ‘Sales & Customer Service Manager’ or ‘Sales & Business Development.’
  2. If you’re migrating from a different industry, do your homework and know the desired skill sets that are essential to the role you’re seeking 
  3. Keep track of where each resume gets sent to, organize it into a spreadsheet and follow up after two weeks

Persistence with purpose pays off, always be polite, ask for feedback when you get rejected, and if you have a good rapport with a recruiter, consider adding them to your LinkedIn network.

We hope you have gained some insight to land the career you want. The time to be proactive is now more than ever. Always go prepared, and remember that you only have one chance to make an excellent first impression.

About the Author

Olena is a seasoned professional with 15 years of experience in ecommerce, edtech, and digital content creation. In 2017 founded Resumeble as a starting point to address a larger gap in the jobseeker market. 



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