Smile! For many, finding a job during pandemic involves video interviews

May 5, 2020

With unemployment skyrocketing in recent weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions are looking for any work they can find. And the way to get in the door has changed for many people.

Jared Valentine used to own a restaurant and he has marketing experience, but in recent years, he’s been working gigs whenever he can get them. After he lost his seasonal job in Zagster’s operations department due to the bike-share company leaving Rochester, he found himself looking for work immediately. 

He recently answered an ad for a per diem position called "COVID relief" with Rochester Regional Health. He said he wanted to pitch in on the front lines of the pandemic. 

Jared Valentine in his face shield.
Credit Jared Valentine

His interview started with a phone call.

"That phone interview went really well and I had a great conversation with the gentleman, so I must have hit some of those key points," said Valentine.

It went so well that Valentine said the interviewer wanted to turn the phone interview into a video interview on the spot, but he wasn’t ready for it. He scheduled it for later. (More on that a little later.)

Many job seekers like Valentine are finding that face-to-face interviews are the exception during the pandemic, and video interviews are becoming "the new normal." 

But even if the format has changed, career coach Annie Walker said, the fundamentals of job searching have not.

“You look at your skill sets and you see how it can fit in in this world the way it is at this point in time, and you see how you can fit into a particular entity,” said Walker.

Her advice to job seekers: Be aware that employers notice everything, especially on video.

“You want to make sure where you are and what you look like is appropriate,” she said.

Walker also advises doing a dry run to make sure the camera or program used for the interview works. That test will also help job seekers see what’s visible to employers and how noisy the room will be during the interview. Walker said “all the pieces matter.”

Jared Valentine takes meticulous notes as he searches for work.
Credit Jared Valentine

“I think it's going to put you in the best light with the employer,” said Walker. “I also think it's going to make you more prepared, less stressed and able to really concentrate.”

Valentine's video interview with Rochester Regional Health clearly went well. Shortly afterward, he was invited to a hospital to make sure he was healthy and that his shots were up to date. They checked his temperature and gave him a mask on the way in. They also fit him for a face shield -- by putting a bag on his head.

“It was a big clear plastic bag, with like a hole in the front of it with a tube that she could squeeze this vapor in with," Valentine described.

He was told that the bag helped a technician know that the shield fit him. Before the pandemic, Valentine said, he never thought he’d consider a health care position.

But Ana Liss said more people like him should. Liss is acting director of the Monroe County Department of Planning & Development. Her department runs job fairs for the county.

“Hopefully when we get on the other side of this, we can have a community discussion about upskilling, members of the workforce that are interested in entering careers in manufacturing and nursing and medical professions,” said Liss.

For example, Liss said Monroe Community Hospital was recently hiring for at least 60 positions with the word "nurse" in their titles, from practitioners to assistants. And she says that number has gone up with COVID-19. 

She said she thinks situations similar to Valentine’s will become more common.

“I think in the aftermath of COVID-19, and hopefully it happens sooner than we think, virtual job fairs are going to become the rule and not the exception,” Liss said.

The county is considering a high-tech system for virtual job fairs, but for now, Liss said they’re using Eventbrite to collect resumes for employers.

As for Valentine, after going through a phone and a video interview -- and having a bag put on his head -- he got some good news: He was hired.

The job is full time, and it varies day by day, depending on what's needed, but it often involves cleaning, something that's more important than ever in a pandemic.

“Obviously, not all those cases are COVID cases,” said Valentine. “But every one has to be treated like they were. I mean, you have to make sure that every room is safe for the next person because if they don’t have it, they might get it that way.”

And though the job is temporary, Valentine is happy to be working as he decides which direction to take his career in next.