P. Jason King is founder, president and CEO of P. Jason King Associates, an executive search and career development firm focused on various elements of the travel industry. A pandemic, he tells job hunters, is no excuse for letting up on best practices and etiquette. He argues they also need to work hard while managing their expectations and mindset.

It’s still a jungle out there!

Companies are laying off talented professionals every day, whether they are front-line agents, back of the house techs or they are in management. This is real and it is happening based on plans, not “willy nilly.” Every large firm is doing it. People are scared. Me too; I’ve been in self-quarantine since this started. People who won’t admit they’re scared are hurting themselves.

An application came in last Thursday. Our standard quality control department is not really the same (what is?), so I have the time to scan. First, I make sure the application is real; people sometimes send in bogus applications. They have nothing better to do. This one was real: A VIP senior corporate agent recently making a base salary of $65,000. Great pay for an agent. Their minimum acceptable on our application reflected $70,000. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be a problem. Average bumps in pay are 20 percent, unlike cost of living increases. But in these times, to state that you want as compensation more than what you are currently making, or just had made, is ridiculous.

Today, laid-off employees will take temp jobs if available, will work for a lot less money, and will be happy to do it. Management is not the exception, either; the smart ones are open and willing. Taking a vacation or sitting back and relaxing is not what our industry is all about. Some management, including executives, will learn this the hard way when their severance runs out. Not too many employers who are hiring will be interested. These are facts

Companies are, for the first time, having a chance to “get rid of” (harsh words but true) employees who were either “grandfathered in” due to a merger or acquisition, or others they could never find fault with but didn’t like. Easy; now they are out. Many companies are not providing any severance package. Why should they? These people who gave their lives and skills to their company for many years — dedicated employees — are only “at will” employees. They are not entitled to any package. Some companies are not even giving their employees the vacation pay owed to them. No incentives, nothing. Not fair!

Our team, located throughout the United States and other parts of the world, is all virtual now. They report in once a week with their own stories and statistics. The overall numbers of applications are low. Weird, one would think they’d be high. People are scared. They are waiting until the fall. What will happen in the fall? I predict nothing will change except the weather. 

So what can people do now? Now is the best time in your life to get things in order. 

Jason King, P. Jason King Associates

Jason King, founder, president and CEO of P. Jason King Associates

Create a new résumé. If you’ve never looked for a job before, get with a career counselor. Make sure they know our industry, though. It is equally important to have a counselor for all of it: the résumé, the sales pitch (some call it the elevator pitch). Yes, you need to sell yourself in less than five minutes; four is better. Practice it with a loved one or use a mirror. What are you wearing these days? If you’re quarantined, probably in your underwear, get dressed!

Video interviews are and will be the key. Whether it’s Zoom, GoTo or Skype, download the best of them and check out how they operate. They are not all the same. If you currently don’t have a new computer or smartphone, this may be the time to get one. Companies will invite you to an interview via one of these systems. You cannot say, “I don’t have the availability.” Say this and you are out! Video interviews are tricky. It would help if you had a backdrop that looks good, not a bare wall, but not too busy either. The focus is you and the interview, not what’s on your back wall. 

I recently conducted an interview for a client company, and the candidate was sitting in a swivel chair that kept swiveling. It was distracting and rude. The back wall was white, he was wearing a white shirt and he was wearing a tie (which is not required these days, but may depend on the company interviewing you). I kept my chuckling to myself. He was almost in camouflage! The wall, the shirt, the tie. Usually this is worn by someone who is a pencil pusher. No definition. Yes, that sounds mean. I told him the next time we meet online, he needs to “jazz” it up a bit.

One of the biggest problems we have today, since interviewing in person is generally a no-no, is communications. Using a smartphone or video, you need to take a breath. If two people talk at the same time, with our current technology, they are both knocked out of the conversation. Speak, then wait for the other person to ask a question or make a statement. It will be appreciated. Don’t wait too long, though, because they will think you are not there. “Hello?” “Hello?” You get it.

Some interviews will have a time limit, so you need to be prepared. Wear appropriate clothing. Shave. Do your hair. Find a good, steady chair to sit in. Make sure your computer camera is aimed straight at your face. Test this with a friend. Your head should be straight in the middle of the camera view. Four inches below the computer camera is usually the best guide. Men: no chains around your neck. Ladies: minimal around yours. Be aware, depending on clarity and streaming, that there may be delays before you can speak. Be attentive, and always be on time. In fact, be early in the waiting room and do a soundcheck. 

In other words, be prepared. If you need notes to remind you of certain things, type them up or write them out. Use one- or two-word phrases, enlarge them up to 72 points and place them above and behind your computer. (Make sure you can view them while still keeping your eyes looking straight at the interviewer.)

To recap:
• Organize
• Check out videoconferencing
• Put together a wardrobe
• Hair coiffed prior 
• Get résumé in order
• Get references (in writing)
• Create elevator pitch
• Room options
• Camera positioning
• Test with friend

Don’t ever even think you are ready without the steps above.

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