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Written by:
Piotr Binduga
UCL Graduate

The outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) was declared a worldwide pandemic by WHO on the 11th of March. Since then, we have experienced a great amount of change to the way we live in a very short time. Whether it is the way we work, consume or socialise – one thing that is certain is that the reopening of the economy and society will be a long and gradual process.

Many people are struggling to move on with their lives as normal. One of the biggest concerns around the world is the job market. As is usually the case during crisis, job markets come under growing cost-pressures and fewer candidates can be recruited, while at the same time the pool of potential candidates is increased by the recently unemployed. It is estimated that in the developed countries the rate of unemployed may more than double during the Covid crisis.

In this article we will navigate through a number of interesting questions that may shed light on the future of recruitment during and after Covid-19 pandemic, such as:

1) How will Covid-19 affect businesses?

2) What does Covid-19 mean for graduates and their degree worth?

3) How will the recruitment strategies of employers change?

4) What can candidates do to get jobs during and post the Covid-19 crisis?

Make sure to scroll all the way down for best tips and advice on how to be successful in the labour market during Covid-19 and the consequent economic recession.

1. How will Covid-19 affect businesses?

Many industries and businesses had already been under financial pressure before the Covid-19 outbreak. Some industries, such as high street retail, transport or travel companies had already been faced with growing cost-cutting pressure and decreasing demand from consumers.

Covid-19 meant that many of these already struggling businesses and industries had their operations grounded overnight, including shops, restaurants, hotels – as well as extended supply chains and professional-services contractors. For many professionals in hospitality, tourism or retail, career plans and expectations for the future drastically changed.

According to the Office of National Statistics, in the weeks from April 6 to 19, 2020, 23 percent of businesses had temporarily closed or paused trading, with around 60 percent of businesses that continued to trade reporting a fall in revenues.

According to the McKinsey report, 22% of UK’s working age population, around 9 million, had been furloughed.

It is certain that these industries will need to change their operating models and revenue channels after the crisis. It is also expected that many of the jobs that are currently sustained through the government furlough schemes will cease to exist when the fiscal aid finishes.

Other industries, including big multinationals, have had to rapidly adjust to new ways of working from home. These businesses have:

  • Seen a decrease in the amount of revenues generated in the uncertain economic environment as some of their clients were forced to close operations or delay business deals.
  • Introduced companywide pay cuts of 20% to preserve the headcount, e.g. AON in the UK.
  • Invested in new technology licenses and WFH equipment for their employees, including chairs, second screens, etc.
  • Opted to use government help and furlough parts of their employers. Finally, most of the new recruitment – especially of fresh graduates – has been for now frozen.

These changes will leave a lasting impact on the industries that had already been experiencing structural problems. It is only expected that the pressure to cut costs will only increase across the industries. Some, such as hotels, restaurant chains, tourist attractions or high-street or shopping centre shops will need to decrease their physical presence.

Many experts claim that what otherwise would take long years of adjustment, Covid-19 speeded up the transformation in the IT Technology in just a few months. Therefore, we will be looking at changes such as increased use of e-commerce or new remote ways of working for teams that will no longer be limited by location.

Will companies continue to follow similar ways of recruitment?

As is usually a case, uncertainty in the market makes businesses less likely to make decisions that require outlooks for a few years. One of these decisions is employing candidates without prior experience, whose training and development is costly to start with and only starts to pay off with time as employees produce valuable work. Since there is uncertainty around expectations of economic activity in the next few years, many companies will choose to uphold or significantly decrease the size of their recruitment. With fewer jobs available, and the pool of potential candidates growing – the competition for jobs will get stiffer and candidates will need to work harder to differentiate them.

How will the ways of work change with Covid-19?

Other changes in the work environment for businesses will mean growing reliance on technology and flexible ways of working; mostly remote working from home. Companies may start to choose to downsize their costly office space and invest in technologies or training to make employees more productive in their new offices in their own living rooms or bedrooms.

According to Market Watch, in cities like New York or London, the office space per employee may be as much as $15,000 a year.

Economic recessions and uncertainty usually tighten the labour market, with those who lost their jobs unable to transfer that easily, and those who have kept their jobs unwilling or uncertain to venture out and change jobs. This in turn stifles the innovation and flow of creativity. As segments of the economy are focused on recovery and sustaining daily operations, many riskier and exciting projects may be cancelled or delayed.

2. What does Covid-19 mean for graduates and their degree worth?

Covid-19 has generated a lot of uncertainty for everyone around the world, but perhaps a group most impacted are students and fresh graduates. Trying to navigate the life after university, searching for full time jobs or simply moving around is faced with a number of obstacles. In this section we will discuss the consequences of Covid-19 on graduates.

For many, a decision to start university studies is an important one – but also a costly one. In many countries like the UK or USA, students face a trade-off between finding a job with income right away, or committing a few years of their time and great sums of money in debt to receive a title they believe will bring them higher incomes and greater career opportunities in the future. Is this likely to change?

With Covid-19, traditional methods of teaching, such as class-room based learning, have been replaced by online lessons. As students receive less physical interaction, and can essentially study from their parents’ homes away, the benefit of moving out to study diminishes. With fewer incentives it is likely that more people will decide to opt out of university studies, if not just delay these by a few years. As long as the social distancing measures remain, many degrees that can be substituted online will continue to be taught remotely. This, in turn, means that for many individuals, spending large sums of money to receive an education online – especially at the time when many institutions such as Harvard or MiT offer many of their courses online, is simply not worth it.

With lower interest in taking up studies, graduates who do have a university education may be seen as more valuable to potential employers and therefore will receive higher premiums for their investment in education. On the other hand, the move away from traditional university education may also mean that determined individuals who show interest to learn from a variety of sources online and have valuable experiences will be performing better in the job market to graduates who only hold a university title. It has been long debated if university education is a good proxy for productivity at work, or whether good grades and diplomas from respected universities really reflect the merit and skills of candidates.

On top of that, the recession caused by Covid-19 means that many people who had recently lost their jobs may decide to downgrade and apply for similar positions as fresh university graduates. This will mean that with stiffer competition the university degree itself will hold less value, and that candidates for jobs will need to work hard to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

3. How will the recruitment strategies of employers change?

With the offices closed and recruiters and HR staff working from home, it looks unlikely that any candidates should be asked to participate in the recruitment process in the offices.

Since the first few stages of the recruitment processes with most companies are online, little change is expected here. The candidates will continue to register their interest and fill in the information online. In the next step they are likely to be invited to take online aptitude tests, among them the most common online aptitude tests:

  • Numerical Reasoning Test (https://www.graduatesfirst.com/numerical-reasoning/)
  • Verbal Reasoning Test (https://www.graduatesfirst.com/verbal-reasoning/)
  • Logical Reasoning Test (https://www.graduatesfirst.com/logical-reasoning/)

It is also very likely that candidates will be asked to take personality tests, which can include:

  • Situational Judgement Test (https://www.graduatesfirst.com/psychometrics/situational-judgement-tests/)
  • Work Personality Questionnaire (https://www.graduatesfirst.com/psychometrics/personality-tests/)

The part that is expected to change in the course of Covid-19 are the stages of recruitment that required physical presence of the candidate and recruiter – including interviews and assessment centre exercises. These are likely to be either translated onto an online platform, such as video or telephone interviews, or some parts of the process may be simplified meaning candidates will not have to go through group exercises or role play exercises. It is important to follow latest communications from each company and to read the instructions received by candidates.

4. What can candidates do to get jobs during and post the Covid-19 crisis?

1) Expand your search

With the limited options in the labour market, you may increase your chances if you consider the type of industries or companies that you would not have considered before. Many starting positions will give you the same type of initial training and it may be better to find a role that you are not entirely happy about for the moment being than not work at all. After all, with the experience you make now it will be easier for you to compete against other candidates in the future.

2) Practice online aptitude tests

With fewer jobs available for candidates, being successful in recruitment will be harder. It is therefore imperative that candidates prepare and know what to expect from the process! Practising online aptitude tests can help to increase chances of successful passing, and therefore ensure that candidates will get a chance to present themselves in the next recruitment stages.

3) Be ready to make a great impression through a phone or video interview

Telephone or video interviews can be seen as either easier or harder depending on the candidate. For those who are usually rather shy and nervous in new situations, and would find intimidating traveling to a new office and having to meet a number of staff and recruiters, telephone and video interviews are a great way to focus on the strengths and present oneself as a confident, enthusiastic and prepared! On the other hand, for those who find making new contacts easy and are usually more expressive, having to impress the recruiters over the phone or a camera may pose a bigger challenge.

Regardless – all candidates should take time to carefully prepare for their interviews. It is good practice to start from the research about the company you are interested in, knowing the key facts about the business, its industry and competitors, including recent trends or industry risks. Secondly, it is imperative to practice speaking, on the phone or via video camera depending on the mode of interview, and to receive feedback from your friends or relatives. Pay attention to the tone and way you speak, as well as finding the right spot in terms of lighting and background for the camera. Technical preparation is crucial.