Why Your Story, Not Your Resume, Is Key To Job Hunting During a Recession
May 4, 2020

By all indications, we're entering the worst economic downturn of our lifetime. Mass layoffs are happening, companies are uncertain about their futures and afraid to make hiring decisions "until things calm down."

If you're one of the 26 million Americans whose jobs have been affected by COVID-19, you may be wondering... How the hell am I supposed to job hunt during a once-in-a-lifetime black swan event? Is anyone even hiring right now?

The truth is, there are still plenty of jobs out there for the taking. Yes, many companies have seen their financial future evaporate thanks to COVID, but there are plenty of organizations who have seen dramatic increases of demand during this time. Software companies that enable working from home are struggling to keep up with demand. Companies that enable hospitals to run are booming. Logistics companies that ensure that the package you bought online shows up on time are essential today.

Job hunting in any recession is tough, but when you add in a global pandemic, job hunting right now may feel damn near impossible. That's because the way we were taught to job hunt was wrong to begin with. I want to help you land a great job during this downturn, so I'm going to lay out everything wrong with your job search process, share how top-performers job hunt differently, and give you a step-by-step guide to job hunting in a recession.

If you want to take your interview game to the next level in these challenging times, I'd recommend my free 5-day email course on telling your personal story in a job interview.

How We've Been Taught To Job Hunt

Are you ready for a harsh truth?

There's a very, very good chance that whoever taught you how to job hunt didn't know what the hell they were talking about.

I know because that's what happened to me. In college, we had a ton of workshops and classes about job hunting... How to interview, how to write a resume, how to network. I attended several of them and their advice usually looked something like this:

Here's another harsh truth... If the people giving me this advice could get literally any other job, they wouldn't be here right now. Career coaching for college kids isn't exactly lucrative. I don't believe the axiom that "those who can't do, teach," but this is a case where it is accurate.

The reason this advice is particularly bad is because it misunderstands how and why hiring managers make hiring decisions. It applies an academic lens to a very un-academic process. There's a belief that there's a "right" way to format a resume, or that you get bonus points for networking in the company and having connections.

They're looking at the results of the hiring process and extrapolating the wrong lessons. They believe that, if you apply the right combination of resume, cover letter, and network, you'll get the job. Check the boxes, get an A. That's how school works, that's how jobs work, right?

Wrong. There's something that top-performers have figured out that both your academic advisor in college and your dad who told you "just walk in and ask to speak to the manager" don't understand.

Both your dad and your academic advisor have a weird view of hiring managers... They think of the hiring manager as some benevolent monarch with a bevvy of jobs to hand out to those they deem worthy. In the advisor's case, they think that, if you can check enough boxes, the hiring manager will see that you're an A-Student and you deserve the job. Your dad thinks that, if you can do the shoe-leather work of knocking on doors and show grit, the hiring manager will think you're a hustler who will get the job done.

Both of them completely misunderstand why companies hire to begin with, and if you fix that skewed mental model, you'll be ahead of 90% of the field when you apply to your next job.

How Top-Performers Job Hunt

If you only take away one lesson from this blog, I hope it's this: If a manager is hiring, it's because they have a problem that needs to be solved.

If you can solve that problem for them, you are more valuable to them than they are to you. Your only job throughout the hiring process is to communicate that you can help solve the problem that they have. The process that sets top-performers apart is simple. They're not focused on tasks like keyword optimizing their resume or generic "networking" to get a warm intro. Those things don't work. Instead, they're focused on executing a simple strategy:

  1. Identify the problem the company has
  2. Determine the urgency of the issue
  3. Demonstrate their ability to solve that problem

This flips the power dynamic on its head. Unlike the average applicant who is hoping the benevolent hiring manager will do them the favor of offering them a job, top-performers view themselves as strategic consultants from day one. They don't view the interview process as a list of questions they have to answer right to get an A. They view it as a collaborative effort to figure out if they can help the company solve a problem.

As a result, they get more job offers, get offered more money, and get ghosted less frequently. This strategic framework takes those tactics we discussed earlier and makes them 10x more effective. Networking for the sake of networking is dumb. A warm intro from a colleague doesn't increase your odds of getting a job that much. Using that connection to better understand pain points of the company to better sell yourself, however, can be an invaluable approach.

How Does COVID Impact My Job Search?

Again, companies hire because they have a problem that needs to be solved. Sure, the economy has slowed down, but have all of the problems in the world been solved? Not even close. That means there's plenty of work out there.

Here are the biggest areas where COVID will impact your job search:

Step-By-Step Guide: How To Job-Hunt During a Pandemic

Despite those challenges, it is entirely possible to land a great job during a global pandemic. All we need to do is follow the principles we outlined above:

  1. Identify the problem the company has
  2. Determine the urgency of the issue
  3. Demonstrate their ability to solve that problem

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you job-hunt during this pandemic and recession:

It's rough out there. We have a long, hard road ahead of us to get out of this economic situation, but if you apply these principles to your job search, I believe that you'll come out ahead.

If you want to dive deeper, I recommend checking out my free email course on using the power of story in the interview process. You can sign up here.

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