When the Mask Comes Off: Job Hunting in a Post Pandemic World

Asking yourself tough questions ahead of your job interview will allow you to prepare truthful responses and ensure a better outcome, says Russ Riendeau, of New Frontier Search Company, and Tim Tolan, of The Tolan Group, in a new report. The coronavirus crisis may have cost you your job, but it won’t last as an excuse for having failed to advance your career. Here’s why.

May 6, 2020 – Search professionals continue to adjust to new ways of doing business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite growing unemployment numbers, recruiters are finding new pathways to work through the crisis. From the jobseeker standpoint, however, many mid- to senior-level professionals are unsure how to proceed with their job searches.

A new report by Russ Riendeau, senior partner and chief behavioral scientist with New Frontier Search Company, and Tim Tolan, managing partner of The Tolan Group, provides strategies for job hunting during a crisis and offers some questions to ask yourself before you start your job search.

“The number of calls and emails we both get daily is over the top in terms of volume,” said Dr. Riendeau. “And some of these calls are from great people we know very well who have been impacted by COVID-19. We feel compelled to address these concerns and offer some ideas and thoughts to the candidate market as a whole. We don’t have all of the answers, but we do have expertise on this topic we want to share with those impacted. We’ve both experienced other downturns as executive recruiters so our feedback is real and our suggestions are (intentionally) very direct.”


State of the Industry Report – Part 2
Forecast & Recovery Strategies

The nation’s vast executive search community and their clients are quickly adapting to the new realities of Covid-19 – and what it means for hiring in 2020 and beyond.

Hunt Scanlon’s latest executive recruiting industry sector report series will be available in 30 days. Hunt Scanlon Media will offer its two-part ‘Executive Recruiting State of the Industry Report’ focused on the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Part 1, ‘Adapting in Uncertain Times’ will examine how executive recruiters are resetting expectations in the midst of an unprecedented interruption to their business.

The part 2 installment, ‘Forecast & Recovery Strategies’ is our aftermath report – and provides critical data to guide your decisions and inform you on forward-thinking recovery strategies. Industry experts from across the talent and recruiting spectrum offer up their wide-ranging opinions, definitive viewpoints, and expert forecasts.

Many expect a significant pause in business, followed by a sharp rebound later this year. We talk to the experts, uncover the opportunities, pick the sectors and reveal how search firms and talent organizations are navigating and adapting in uncertain times. Buy Both Reports Now


To create some context and perspective around jobs and unemployment as of today, said Dr. Riendeau, consider these data points: More than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week as job cuts escalated across an economy that remains all but shut down. More than 30 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the five weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to either furlough their workers or close their doors. About one in six American workers have now lost their jobs since mid-March, by far the worst string of layoffs on record. According to economists, the unemployment rate stands at nearly 19 percent. Sadly, more pain is coming this month and next.

“Of those impacted, we understand that a high percentage of jobs lost are in food, hospitality, retail and transportation services,” said Mr. Tolan. “It is a challenging time for all of us. And for those individuals looking to replace a lost job, make a career shift or new graduates entering the workforce, each of you have a unique set of challenges.”

Economic recovery and returning to the “new normal” of daily life in a safe society will take another six to eight months or more, by some estimates. “If you have been let-go, laid-off, right-sized, downsized, furloughed or your income has been significantly reduced in this pandemic, there are self-assessment questions you want to ask yourself,” Mr. Tolan said. “And be prepared to be asked tougher questions by a hiring manager, as you seek a new job in your current field or if you decide to change careers altogether.”


Russ Riendeau Ph.D., is senior partner and chief behavioral scientist with New Frontier Search Company, a retained search practice specializing in senior leadership, sales & sales management. The author/co-author of 11 books, numerous TEDx Talks, and a highly regarded keynote speaker, he also consults and writes about behavioral science topics and peak performance.


“Asking yourself the tough questions now will give you both time to prepare truthful responses to ensure a better outcome, as well as educate yourself to be qualified to secure a better job offer,” Dr. Riendeau said. “While the reality is this pandemic triggered job losses, it won’t last as a permanent excuse to advancing your career and job search should you not do all you can to upgrade your skills to compete in this post-pandemic world. And eventually, the world will go back to a new normal.”

“As longtime executive search professionals in the world of pay-for-performance, all of our colleagues know the importance of proactive behavior and ongoing education demonstrated by the best candidate receiving great job offers,” Mr. Tolan said. “Metrics measure reality. Every CEO, hiring executives and HR leaders we work with understand this as well. They too, watch for evidence that job applicants for the best jobs are working as hard on skills training on their own personal time, to gain a competitive advantage on the field to secure the better offer and higher compensation.”

Related: Conducting Executive Searches During a Pandemic

The search consultants said that if you are serious about securing a job or making a career shift you have to commit—really commit—to secure job leads and stand out above the competition. And while this pandemic is stressful and creating hardships for every American, you have the resilience to persevere; you have a choice to dedicate your energies to creating opportunities for yourself. There’s no room for excuses as to why your strategy or research is lacking evidence of commitment; why your resume has formatting issues; why your references won’t return a call; why your LinkedIn profile is not current and focused; why you’re too tired/busy/pre-occupied with the pandemic, kids, family, etc.


Tim Tolan is managing partner and CEO of The Tolan Group (TTG), a retained search firm in St Augustine, FL. The Tolan Group was founded in 2005 and is part of the Sanford Rose Associates network of 100+ offices across the U.S. and abroad. TTG is primarily focused in multiple sectors, including healthcare services, healthcare technology, behavioral health, substance abuse and human and family services.


“We’re all in similar predicaments, so it could mean you staying up late, getting up early, forgoing a binge of Tiger King (yes, a tough choice),” said Dr. Riendeau. “If your family depends on you, if you are looking to build your skills and career path, it is your responsibility to make changes that will improve your marketability. And if you are anxious about the future, feeling stress like you never have before—then you are self-aware, and please note, this is normal, healthy and appropriate emotions for right now. You will come out of this experience a stronger person. We all will – but only if we forge ahead with steadfast determination. Lastly, we must do so with a positive outlook and attitude as you look to the future. Focus on the good. It will get better!”

Ask Yourself These Questions

To provide some specific ideas to move you further ahead, Dr. Riendeau and Mr. Tolan offer a number of critical questions chief executives, hiring managers and HR professionals will ask you or will be listening/watching for your responses in this competitive job market. Ask yourself, they said, how your responses to these questions will hold up in a job interview:

  1. During this pandemic, what evidence can you show that you have researched new career tracks, read specific books, articles, webinars, meetings, etc. that are directly related to improving your skills to compete?
  2. What goals, ideas, timelines, possible career tracks have you documented and researched to determine if you are a viable candidate in these roles you’ve targeted?
  3. What does your job search plan, spreadsheet of contacts, targeted companies and phone calls per day reveal about your commitment, time management, work ethic and self-awareness? Are you targeting a job or career that maximizes your skills and energy? Do you actually have a file to demonstrate your homework? How many hours are you investing in your job search each and every day?

Related: The COVID-19 Impact on Executive Search

  1. When asked why you were laid off, terminated or furloughed in this pandemic, how will you explain? You must be specific when answering why you no longer have a job. It’s perception: How are you taking command of your future by ramping up your skills and goals into a new career? (Remember: This question is intended to help you think differently about your future, not criticize anyone.)
  2. How much time have you dedicated to self-analysis with a pen and paper to document your skills and weaknesses related to your job and desire to secure a new career? What have you learned about yourself right now that you can begin to improve or concentrate on? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  3. Have you targeted a new job, new industry, new profession that you believe will be more self-sufficient and profitable? What research are you doing to prove this choice is rationale, logical, viable?
  4. How is your LinkedIn profile? Does your profile look like, sound like the professional you believe you are? Will your profile hold up to the pressure of job interviews and secure you a great job offer? How many LI groups do you belong to? How many connections do you have in the market segment in which you have the most expertise? Does your profile match your resume with dates of each career transition? If your profile is not current or missing data, lacking evidence of your success, how do you expect others to see you as a successful, in-demand professional? (LinkedIn is your chance to showcase your value and successes to the business world.)

Conducting a Job Search During a Global Pandemic

A new report by Koya Leadership Partners points the way to finding a new job in the toughest economic climate in years. Start by accepting that you’re not alone, says author Amanda Sonis Glynn. Networking, pro bono work and developing new skills are just some of the approaches that will pay dividends in the long run.


  1. Compensation goals: Do you know what you are worth in the marketplace right now? $75,000 $150,000 $250,000 or more? What determines your value? How will you demonstrate your value proposition in 15 seconds or less? Do you know what your living expenses are and what you want to earn and invest each year to create your own FID—Financial Independence Day? Are you studying your investment habits to ensure you have good advice to make good investment decisions?
  2. Do you appear successful? Perception of effort and personal appearance: The research and effort others see you attempting enforces their perception that you are being proactive in your personal and professional development. This perception can be the difference in a great job offer or finishing second. Your appearance—physical appearance around clothes, grooming, written materials and your professional demeanor such as, online appearance (LinkedIn images, resume, social media content do impact perception, believability and trust. Act and dress like the professional you say you are. One chance meeting can create a career lead—especially now with social distancing and isolation.)

Related: Conducting Executive Searches During a Pandemic

  1. Seeking accurate advice: Who do you turn to when you need impartial, truthful feedback on your skills, decisions and career tracks? Do you even seek out advice? Have you considered investing in professional coaching to realize your true potential? Do you have mentors/role models that ask you tough questions, deep questions that make you sweat– scare the hell out of you–because the question is dead-on to where the holes are?

“If these questions and options resonate, make you defensive, scare you—even intimidate you—then you already know what you need to start now to improve your options and securing a great job offer,” Mr. Tolan said. “To secure a great job or change careers requires specific actions to prove you are doing the heavy lifting to ensure your success. Be prepared every day for a conversation.”

Dr. Riendeau said that “when a potential hiring manager, mentor or colleague that could refer you a job lead reads your resume, checks out your LinkedIn profile, looks you in the eye, asks you what your game plan is, what will they be thinking? What if she asks you what specific action steps you have engaged in to improve your life situation while confined in-part to your home in this pandemic, what will you say? Masks help protect you against deadly viruses. Masks won’t protect hiring managers from excuses of why you’ve not been more strategic and proactive in your personal and professional development knowing change was coming.”

“The harsh reality of this crisis is that it reveals vulnerable weaknesses in us as humans and in our decision-making,” Mr. Tolan said. “You and you alone have the choice in how you use your time and energy.”

Related: Conducting Executive Searches During a Pandemic

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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