Written by:
Abdul Wahaab MSc GMBPsS
Organisational Psychologist

Have you been affected by Covid-19? You’re not alone.

All around the world, jobseekers have been thrust into an uncertain space where the future is unclear.

Even those that had a job have been hit hard, with many being furloughed and others being laid off entirely.

So, what do you do?

Get ahead. Get ahead and see how companies are adapting to Covid so you can too.

How have companies been affected?

Small businesses without the infrastructure and scope of larger companies simply cannot operate with the lack of reach due to Covid, and have been forced to shut down entirely.

If we look at industries, the Restaurant industry is struggling given the lockdown restrictions. Similarly, Events just could not function without mass gatherings of people.

Retail in particular has also been hit hard, with the limitations of shopping in-person having a huge effect over the course of lockdown. Online shopping has helped reduce the impact somewhat but the economic impact of relying entirely on remote solutions has resulted in mass layoffs taking place.

Pret-a-Manger is one of many companies impacted by Covid-19.

Even successful companies like Pret-a-Manger have been forced to close restaurants across the UK. Other large organisations such as Intu are also struggling with a large proportion of its profits attributable to people attending its shopping centres.

What about other industries?

Well, airlines such as Virgin Atlantic are struggling to stay afloat (pardon the pun), with Travel simply not on the cards for many people. Naturally, Healthcare is already being strained, with the National Health Service in England being stretched to its limits to cope with the demands. Hospitality and Leisure, like Retail, have also been hit hard, with 46% of employees likely to be furloughed.

We are now seeing restrictions beginning to ease which should help a number of sectors, including Retail and Travel, to resume normal functioning.

However, the fear of contracting the virus is likely to still play a role – many people will still be wary of being in contact with others and may choose to limit their public interactions.

The fear of developing Covid-19 may slow the progress of some industries.

Industries will need to prepare and adapt accordingly.

What does this mean for recruitment?

There is demand but particularly in the following areas:

  • Cleaning
  • Facilities
  • Growth
  • Healthcare
  • IT
  • Retail
  • Supply Chain
  • Transportation

With companies having to cut cost, they will need to find more cost-effective ways of recruiting the right candidate.

Companies (especially large ones) will usually opt for recruitment agencies to do much of the recruitment for them. However, this is a costly solution and companies will be forced to turn elsewhere on rely on their existing technology to do the job for them.

In a nutshell, companies will need to decide whether they want to continue outsourcing recruitment (an additional expense), or delegate more work to HR. Despite companies likely to have fewer staff members working in HR, given layoffs and the focus on cutting cost, the latter seems more likely.

Applicant tracking systems (or ATSs) will still be a must, as these allow large organisations to keep an electronic record of candidates. Whether companies continue to use external solutions such as Workday, Taleo, or GF remains to be seen. We could see a shift toward internal ATSs, but this will be dependent on development times. As this is likely to require a lot of time and effort, companies are likely to stick with external providers – Technavio forecast the ATS market to grow by a staggering 106.16 million USD up to 2023.

Is recruitment already changing?

Some companies have stopped recruitment entirely or shifted start dates, with employer confidence in the economy reducing by 22%.

As we touched on above, many organisations are furloughing members of staff or cutting jobs entirely. Recently, LinkedIn was reported to have cut 960 jobs amounting to a huge 6% of its global workforce. Indeed, Covid has impacted the need for its recruitment products.

Recruitment agencies continue to provide job postings, but we should expect fewer and fewer companies to partner with them for the foreseeable future.

TIP: Don’t over-rely on recruitment agencies. We recommend checking the Careers sections of companies that interest you regularly. Sign up to their job alerts (if they have them) and visit the site often to make sure you don’t miss out on any job postings.

Online job tests and video interviews will only become more common as companies limit interactions and become more desperate to hire new talent for economic purposes. For example, GF was privileged to support the NHS with recruitment for one of its graduate schemes during the lockdown period.

Online job tests and video interviews are more likely given the challenges of Covid-19.

TIP: You must remember that companies and HR especially will be under a huge amount of stress to recruit candidates. When a job advert goes out, their stress will be at its highest and gradually reduce once the “right” applicants come flooding in.It is your job to apply early and catch recruiters when they are most likely to consider applications.

The use of video interviews in particular is a controversial issue. The Black Lives Matter campaign has given rise to meaningful cross-industry discussions being raised. This has included the use of Artificial Intelligence in Recruitment, such as its use in detecting a candidate’s competence from their video interview performance.

With Artificial Intelligence still being a fairly recent area of research, the concern is that the parameters that determine competence are based on cultural norms. This has led suppliers of video interviewing software to pause, with HireVue receiving further scrutiny as to whether it’s A.I. technology discriminates against those with “non-traditional” faces and voices.

HireVue faces further scrutiny with regard to its Artificial Intelligence software.

Big players like IBM have even stated that they will no longer offer or develop facial recognition technology.

So, what does this mean?

We may see more companies opt out of video interviewing software based on artificial intelligence, though the issue of discrimination may take longer to address. MIT’s Technology Review highlights the lack of regulation of artificial intelligence, and suggests the majority of companies offering this technology are unlikely to release their data or fully explain how their algorithms work.

Will there be an Assessment Day?

Usually, after filling in an online application and successfully completing your tests and video interview, you’re invited to an Assessment Day.

An Assessment Day, or Assessment Centre can be costly and time-intensive for companies to run, with a typical centre lasting the course of a day.

The elephant in the room will of course be health concerns. For these centres to work, many people would need to be present. Reducing the number of candidates invited per assessment centre is simply not cost-effective and timely given the hectic nature of work post-lockdown. Adding safety measures would have similar drawbacks.

Thus, companies are being forced to turn to virtual assessment centres. These attempt to mimic the real-life assessment centre from the comfort of a candidate’s home. For companies, it means they can run more assessment centres and offset some of the cost they would typically have in a physical scenario.

Virtual assessment centres are more likely due to Covid-19.

Here are links to the most common types of assessment centre exercises and how they have been adapted to the virtual space:

  • Group Discussion: The dynamic of a group discussion would be a tad different on a video call. Timing of speech will be key as you do not want to interrupt anyone, but also want to show you’re a contributor who helps discussion move forward.
  • In-Tray: These exercises attempt to simulate real-life scenarios you would encounter at work and typically measure how you respond to juggling multiple tasks. An E-Tray is essentially an electronic version of this task and can be done online without the need of supervision from an assessor.
  • Presentation: It is entirely feasible to conduct a presentation over a video call, with screen sharing offered by most mainstream platforms. The challenge will be the lack of nonverbal communication visible through a video call.
  • Role-play: Typically, an assessor will play the role of someone in the workplace and you will need to respond accordingly. This is entirely doable over a video call though non-verbal communication may again be lost.
  • Written: Here, you’ll be presented with a brief and will be required to write a response. This will require collating information, identifying key points, and often proving arguments. On a virtual basis, you could either be presented with a PDF of the brief during or prior to the video call. The camera allows assessors to see how you work and avoid collusion.

TIP: The challenge of a video call is the lack of nonverbal communication. In a real-life setting, these gestures and nonverbal bits of information are vital for assessors to form an impression of you. However, in a virtual setting, it is more important to focus on your delivery and ensure you have everything completed on time.

The beauty of all of these tasks is they can easily be done on a virtual basis and do not necessarily require individuals present in the same room.

What to expect in the future

We are likely to see greater reliance on online technologies, such as video interviewing in the future. As companies get better at virtual assessment centres, we can expect to see more of these in the future given the implication of cost.

The issue of discrimination within Artificial Intelligence solutions remains, and is particularly relevant given the Black Lives Matter campaign. MIT suggest this will require a longer process for true change to truly take place.

In the meantime, we may see less companies employ Artificial Intelligence within recognition technology to uphold their image, such as IBM.

Recruitment agencies will struggle, and candidates may be better off going directly to companies to apply for the foreseeable future.

Companies will also be conscious of how much is spent on recruitment and may turn to cost-effective solutions, particularly as they bounce back from Covid-19.

So go forth – adapt, apply, and succeed.