Applying for a new job in the time of COVID-19

26 Mar 2020

Applying for a new job in the time of COVID-19

What should you do if this crisis arrived just as you were seeking or accepting a new job opportunity? Here are a few ways to proceed, now, and in the future.

It is fair to say that a couple of months ago while exchanging wishes for a happy 2020 and setting our New Year’s resolutions, none of us could imagine that by the end of March around 20 per cent of the global population would be under lockdown.

Perhaps one of your goals this year was to further climb the career ladder by seeking a new opportunity. This global crisis may even have caught you while negotiating your contract.

Here are some possible questions that might be going through your head right now, and, hopefully, some answers.

‘Should I even consider applying now?’

Some sectors such as health, streaming, ecommerce, gaming, food manufacturers and delivery, SaaS, all public service/healthcare providers, just to name a few, are in urgent need for more qualified and skilled experts in a very short timeframe.

The current crisis demands immediate response so if you are one of those or who has the necessary training and expertise, then your efforts will be highly appreciated as hirings are now done without human interface if necessary.  

For those sectors where the need is less immediately critical, before applying or continuing the recruitment process, discuss any global/regional functions with your selected companies.  

If the commercial functions require extensive travel, how realistic will this be in a post-COVID-19 era, certainly in the short term? Will there be a re-focus on local coverage or will these global functions continue to exist?

For private SME’s or PE backed-up companies, you may want to find out who the shareholders and stakeholders are, ask about the board and how flexible/agile a company’s strategy is in times of crisis – mitigating against risk. 

We have seen that some companies are very well-prepared: there are numerous examples in the aviation industry, medical and life sciences industries, logistics, to name just a few. Yet, even they will still have to face up to the huge economical turmoil ahead.

Perhaps the bigger question here is, in a post-COVID-19 era, how relevant will this company still be, in terms of either their services as well as their products?

Have they already adapted their strategy/go-to-market/channels? This should give you an idea of how future-proof your future company’s leadership is.

However, I do believe that a crisis of this scale will accelerate how companies will reconsider the usage and effectiveness of digital tools in its vetting process as workflows will become more and more automated and consequently for a majority of functions less human interaction will be required.

‘I have received an offer, should I sign it?’

In some cases, you might be at the end of a vetting process and about to receive an employment contract. In this case, you should carefully consider if this is the right time to move and if there is a possibility to extend the start date as late as possible without having to resign immediately.

This might be the best solution, especially if the hiring can only be completed if some background checks are met such as credit, criminal, social media and, in some cases, also medical checks.

Alternatives are to delay the starting date as long as possible and potentially even revise it if the outbreak continues longer than expected.

‘I was expected to start now, what happens in this case?’

When you have already signed your contract and the company is in confinement, your new employer may pay out your monthly salary, but they might not be able to pay out/give you benefits such as company car. These benefits are related to specific work requirements that need to be fulfilled.

However, if you start during the lockdown, then most likely you have to work remotely and onboarding will take a different shape. Take this time to introduce yourself within the company and expand your network and gather information as much as possible. This will be key in making you successful in your new function.

‘How should I prepare myself for when the dust has settled?’

Activity may be low at the moment, so the best thing you can do is take advantage of this period and prepare yourself for the times ahead when social distancing will be overtaken by increasing digitization and AI-influenced hiring could  become the norm:

  • Prepare for digital presentations to back-up your CV – personal branding will be key!
  • Prepare for digitized interviews
  • Update your social network profiles
  • Take the time to write/record your motivation for joining
  • In these downtimes, you can consider online learning and enhance your skills, especially in the digital/tech/VR fields.
  • Now may be the best time for executive coaching, to sharpen your leadership capabilities.

Return to normal

Of course, there are numerous other questions left to be answered as we are going through an unprecedented period of change.

However, we already see from some regions that the tide is turning and that there will be a time when activity will return to normal, even if our outlook on the world will be a little different. For this, let us take care of ourselves and our loved ones, and focus on our own preparation for the post-crisis era.

Jaimie Haye leads the Life Sciences and Fast Moving Consumer Goods Practices in the Brussels office.