Aug 13th 2020

Key takeaways: Generation COVID: Getting a job in a crisis

We are living in an unprecedented era where people wear masks to the shops, treat hand sanitiser as an essential, and many people are being thrown headfirst into a job market that is both unpredictable and challenging. In fact, 24 percent of the UK workforce is at risk because of COVID-19 related lockdowns. 

Yesterday, City Manager, Ash Sabzevar hosted a virtual panel event where we were joined by hiring managers from companies that are still actively recruiting: Richard Hutchinson, Recruitment Delivery Lead from Cityfibre, Marie Krebs, People Operations Manager from Learnerbly and Hakon Junge, CCO of Capdesk. They shared with us how they have approached hiring during these times, offering real advice for candidates applying for jobs right now to help give them the best chance of finding work. 

We break down the main takeaways from the event. 

How the pandemic has affected their hiring process

We kicked things off by asking about the changes in their approach to hiring due to the pandemic. For all three of them, the biggest change has been moving the process over to being completely virtual. Candidates have to shift into this new hiring space. Richard says, “a big challenge for us has been making hiring decisions without having met the candidate.”

For Marie, coping with this shift has involved the addition of screening questions at the beginning of the application process. “We want to see people’s competencies and motivation right from the beginning so that we know they can take on the role.” 

Hakon has also approached hiring in a similar way. He says they have been extremely strict on filtering and that they have been doubling the use of video as applications are skyrocketing. He says, “we use video to screen people and so candidates should sharpen up their video game.”

Stand out from the crowd 

With so many people applying for jobs right now, you have to step up your game and stand out from the crowd. Marie shares how just because there are numerous applications, doesn’t mean they are more qualitative. “We want to know exactly why you want to work for us, showing what you can bring to the table in a unique way.”

Hakon expands on this with how you should make an effort by stepping up your game to separate yourself from the rest of the candidate pool.

“You just need to go that extra mile to compete against the masses.”

And with everything being virtual, a great way to do this through the use of video. Marie highlights that if you use video you should make it as short as it can be once you’ve said all the relevant information.

Hakon goes on and emphasises how effective reaching out after you’ve submitted your application can be. “Go a little further and engage with the hiring managers, letting them know that you have submitted an application and that you have done your research. It will get you ahead of hundreds of people.” He had 500 applications in the last few months – where only two people reached out to him. 

Sharpen up your application

It takes a few seconds for a hiring manager to skim your CV and decide whether to put you on the “no” pile or the “yes” pile. And you want to make sure you give yourself the best shot at being on that “yes” pile. Richard says you should tailor your CV to the job you are applying for. “Make sure you pull out the skills and experiences that apply to that specific job”. Don’t just have a general CV. 

Marie highlights the importance of buzzwords.

“Hiring managers need your help in showing yourself as the right person so you should use the same words used in the job description.”

But she also emphasises that you mustn’t hide all the relevant information in waffle. “Be to the point. The first sentence of every paragraph should summarise what you say below.” That way they can instantly see what you have to offer. 

Courses are a great way to highlight your skillset in your application. But Hakon advises against doing too many courses without any real focus. “You need to think about the job and what skills are required for the job and highlight the relevant courses based on this.”

Be proactive in the job search 

Don’t just sit around and hope a job lands in your lap. You need to be proactive. Richards says, “get involved in Linkedin by engaging in conversations, sharing posts, and building your network. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people.” He highlights how you should think about what you are saying on your Linkedin profile and use it to tell your story. He also advises following businesses you are passionate about so you can see when they are recruiting. However, he makes it clear that you should be focused and not sporadic when building connections. “This way you can build the right network and shine in the right way.”

Hakon gave a great example of a woman that worked in fashion who had been laid off. She was looking to move into the fintech space and so followed him on Linkedin, sending him a humble message about her situation and asking for advice.

“It’s about connect, respect and request. You’ve got to put in that daily grind to get a job, remaining present and focused.”

This idea of reaching out is important at all stages of your job hunt. Marie recommends finding the hiring manager after sending in an application or even an interview and asking for feedback. “Even if you don’t get this job, you’ll know what you need to do better next time. It’s all about resilience and dedication.”

Ask the right questions

Asking the right questions can go a long way in an interview. Marie advises candidates to ask the company about the onboarding process and also how they have dealt with COVID. “That will tell you a lot about how the company values people and how they approach difficult situations.” 

For Richard, he highlights how the company should also sell themselves to you.

“Ask why you should work for them, as a big part of landing a job is making sure you align with the organisation’s values and cultural perspective.” 

But Hakon expands on this and how you need to make sure you focus on the “we” not the “I’ in your questions. “Make the questions about what we are going to build together as it shows the right mentality.”

Take an alternative career route 

With so many people looking for work right now, a great way to give yourself the best chance of landing a job is to broaden your horizons. Richard says, “there are opportunities out there where you should consider a career change and upskilling.” He goes on to explain how his company is looking to recruit people that are unskilled in the roles they have available and offering training to them. 

Hakon also supports this idea of reskilling and going for a change-up in career. But he emphasises that you should explain why you are reskilling when applying for roles. 

Last words 

We asked the panelists if they had any last pearls of wisdom and they left us with these final words for candidates looking for work in the current crisis.

Richard: “Don’t lose faith as there will be an opportunity that is right for you. You should also make the most of the virtual world as it allows you to expand your search geographically – broadening where opportunities might come your way.” 

Hakon: “You need to be visible to be discoverable. It’s a brutal world out there but it’s not impossible, just don’t be complacent.”

Marie: “You will find work, you just need to be proactive about it. Looking for a job is a full-time job so you should be doing it 40 hours a week.”

It’s a challenging time for us all and the job market is not what it used to be. But if you follow the advice of these hiring managers and approach the job hunt with dedication and a positive, open-minded attitude, you will sail into a role. 

You can watch the full webinar below. 

For more tips on how to land a job, have a read of our blog on how the world of tech can help your job search here