How to get a job in a recession: 7 tips from experts

From creating a bot-resistant resume to listing your soft skills to being among the first to apply, here are seven tips to help you land a job during the coronavirus pandemic.


Millions of people are looking for work in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. If you're one of them, don't wait to start applying.

"Job search activity right now is actually even lower than it was in February before the recession," says Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecuiter. "So even though we have many, many more unemployed people, we have not really seen a huge wave of job seekers."

That being the case, "the biggest piece of advice we could give to job seekers is to start searching immediately," she says. "It's only going to get more competitive."

Here are seven tips that can help you land a job during the recession.

Be one of the first to apply

"Applications to jobs within the first seven days have a 50% higher likelihood of being read by the employer," said Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter, in a recent blog post.

Set up email alerts on sites like ZipRecruiter, Monster, LinkedIn, and Indeed indicating which jobs you're interested in or which jobs match your skill sets and apply as soon as one pops up that's relevant.

Create a bot-resistant resume

Hiring managers often use recruiting software to help them narrow down the field of candidates. Managers receive a list of qualifications, experience, and skills desired to fill the position, and plug them into the software to find a match. 

"The system is going to look for tags, keywords, and key strengths," Jon Christiansen, chief intelligence officer at Sparks Research, previously told Grow. "It's going to look to put those pieces together, and it's going to score the resume."

To ensure your resume gets seen, make sure its formatting is straightforward and easy to process. Include subheads and bullet points as well as relevant keywords from the job description so the system knows you're a match.

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Highlight soft skills too

Your job qualifications don't just encompass tasks you've done on the job. They also include soft skills you've developed, such as the ability to work well on a team, being a strong communicator, and being self-motivated.

"Employers can teach new hires technical skills to ramp them up," Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster, previously told Grow, "but soft skills are often more highly coveted."

Fill out your LinkedIn profile completely

When it comes to your profile on sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, or ZipRecruiter, make sure to fill it in completely, from the summary "about you" section to recommendations from others.

"ZipRecruiter research finds that you are more likely to receive a call back if you fill out your profile completely," says Pollak. "For example, if you list two or more examples of past work experience rather than only one, you are more likely to be rated favorably by employers."

You are more likely to receive a call back if you fill out your profile completely.
Julia Pollak
Labor economist, ZipRecruiter

Develop more skills while you search

"If you can take some time and invest in a certification online," says Pollak, "that can make you more competitive in the future."

Being certified in how to use new software or popular programs can give you a leg up. "One skill that's a huge demand all the time is [Microsoft] Excel," says Pollak. "Better to be able to demonstrate those skills by having an Excel certification on your resume."

LinkedIn Learning is another site offering certifications in various work skills, Pollak says, and its first month is free to use. She suggests job seekers see what qualifications are required in their field to check if there are certifications you can get online to fill those needs.

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Focus on growth industries

While no single job or field is immune from the effects of a challenging economy, there are some industries projected to grow over the long term.

Think about which industries rely on "products or services that are growing in demand over time," Ernie Tedeschi, economist at financial advisory firm Evercore, previously told Grow. "Cybersecurity is an example of a job where the demand for that particular skill set is growing," he says. Higher education and care giving are others as well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also features a list of the occupations expected to grow the fastest over the next 10 years.

Look for employers with the greatest need

When you're perusing job board sites like ZipRecruiter and CareerBuilder for openings in your field, look for jobs where the employer includes an "urgent need" for a candidate. Employers who need to fill positions immediately will be more responsive and want you to start as soon as possible, according to ZipRecruiter.

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