As the recent outbreak of Covid-19 escalates across the UK and the world causing widespread panic, clients have been asking me this week, “But what will this mean for my job search?”
Here’s how the picture was looking on the day I write this (16:20 19 March 2020):
- Markets are taking a hit everywhere. Stocks and shares, and the investments and pensions connected with them are taking a hit.
- The leisure and travel industries are especially suffering: restaurants, clubs, pubs, theatres are closed. As Boris is advising us to avoid “non-essential meetings and travel”, trains and buses are reducing services and cities are reduced to ghost towns.
- Anyone who can work from home is working from home while others are self-isolating. Others have lost their job.
- Parents have been hit with the news that they’ll need to school their kids from Monday, while juggling home working if they cannot find childcare.
Looking at the bare facts, the economic picture looks grim… And yet I believe there is cause for cautious optimism. Here’s why.
- Brexit means that many companies are still struggling to attract the right people due to a skills shortage. They are still hiring and looking for applicants to fill these posts and help their businesses grow.
- Some companies are thriving: supermarkets, food producers and delivery companies are obvious examples, alongside any business which facilitates employees working from home such as web-conferencing platform Zoom and collaboration tool Trello.
- Businesses are discovering that many staff (maybe even all) can work perfectly well from home and business can operate almost as usual, with a little adjustment. Companies who were doubtful about people working from home are discovering that home-working can even increase productivity – and saves money.
- Kids in China are back to school today and Chinese manufacturing is beginning to recover as staff go back to work, just weeks after the virus started. The virus appears to have peaked and fallen away.
What could this mean if you are serious about finding a new job? My main advice is don’t assume you have to hold off.
- If you have skills that were in demand before coronavirus, they will still be in demand It’s still worth checking jobs boards and recruiters and submitting applications. Who knows, maybe the time saved doing your daily commute can be spent productively applying for a new role? (Please don’t apply for a new job in company time on company laptops though. I don’t want to get you or me into trouble for that one!)
- Expect that your interviews will be video interviews If you haven’t done one before, they work much the same way as face-to-face ones. Prepare your answers and practice them as usual until they are succinct. Dress up as normal, stick a brightly-coloured dot at your webcam to remind you to look straight at the camera – and forget the camera is there and relax. Ensure a plain background behind you. Light your face from the front, avoiding the washed-out look. Video interviews are easier because you can dot post-its with key stories for the competency questions around your screen: you don’t have to memorise them and recall in the moment.
- Check the financial situation of any organisation you apply to Read the annual report on their website or companies house. If they are a small to medium one, what’s their trend over the last 2-3 years? Look for well resourced, growing companies that can survive a blip of a few months. They’re more likely to be hiring and less likely to lay off.
- Stay in touch with your friends, family and wider network by using the phone and videoconferencing It’s isolating to work from home or to conduct a job search alone from behind your computer. Connect with others by checking in how they’re doing. Real conversations will keep you mentally well and resilient, while potentially opening the door for further conversations about your job search later. They could be your eyes and ears for internal vacancies in the near future.
What I can’t predict is whether companies will impose a hiring freeze or slow down their recruitment altogether. The situation continues to be fluid and could change again at any time.
If you are a leader reading this I invite you to take the long view. Your fear is a natural response to an abnormal situation but those your business serves are still looking to you to serve them. I encourage you to keep in mind your business objectives, focus on getting the right people in the right roles to achieve them, and to keep connecting with your team and taking care of yourself in the meantime.
I’m interested in hearing your experiences of recruitment and hiring during this coronovirus outbreak. If you send them to me, I’ll collate the themes and update this blog as soon as I am able to help others navigate their job searches too. Thanking you in advance.