Job searching during a Pandemic Part Three – The “Open to New Opportunities” Applicant

And so here we are, in the last of my three part series digging deeper into the mindsets of job seekers during the pandemic. Hopefully you have enjoyed, or at the very least, killed some time reading through my last two pieces, which is what brings you back here for the final flourish.

Having spent time speaking to two candidates who have recently secured roles, one directly and one through agency, I thought it would be interesting to speak to someone who has not yet moved into a new role, and is mid search.

The “Open to New Opportunities” Applicant:


One who is working in a position, and has no pressing reason to move, however wants a new challenge.

During the beginnings of lockdown, I would speak almost exclusively to candidates who were immediately available, seeking new opportunities. Some had finished contracts and were unable to secure new ones, others were the victims of redundancy in the wake of the pandemic. There was an urgency to the search, the need to be back at work as soon as possible. For most of those lucky enough to be in a role already had no intention of moving any time soon. To quote Simon Pegg, they were going to “Have a nice cup of tea, and wait for all this to blow over”.

Fast forward 9-12 months, and the mood has shifted. People have accepted this new normal. Working from home is common place, video calls are the new coffee meetings. Candidates are more comfortable with this reality, and with that, are ready to make career moves.

In this last piece, I reached out to a candidate I am working with who is doing just that, passively exploring the market, whilst working their existing role.

For the purpose of this interview, this candidate has chosen to remain anonymous.

  •  What is your motivation to look for a new position?

The pandemic and lockdown has given me a lot of time to think. Whilst I enjoy the role I am in currently, it occurred to me that I really don’t have any room for progression. Initially I had decided not to look for a new role until the pandemic was over. However as the months rolled on, I became more and more lacklustre, and realised I wasn’t doing myself, or my current role, any favours by not performing to my full potential. That’s when I decided to start looking again.

  • Do you need to have extra considerations to make a move during the pandemic?

I think the main one for me, is that I don’t want to leave my role without something new to go to. Whereas previously I would have taken a bigger risk, and perhaps given my notice before I get a new job. I have done this in the past as I have a three month notice period, and so I have been comfortable knowing I have three months to secure something. As this is all new territory, I have decided not to do that this time.

 I am also being a little more particular about the roles I am applying for. A result of having to do everything remotely, and wanting to make sure I do my homework before hand. I am conscious that it's unlikely I will meet people face to face and see the office for some time. It can be harder to gauge a culture on video call, so doing my research, and speaking to as many people as I can, either recruiters, or in my network as possible has helped.

  • How do you feel about moving during a Pandemic?

It’s very much on my mind, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. Equally as I mentioned before, I feel stagnated in my current role, and by staying I am not doing myself justice in my work. I delayed my job search until Christmas 2020, in the hopes that lockdown would be over by then, however now, I feel very much that my mind is set on moving on.

  • The job market is very candidate heavy at the moment- do you find it hard to stand out from the crowd? Do you do anything to make yourself stand out from other applicants?

I definitely agree with that. (That the market is candidate heavy) I think a lot of people have been made redundant, or had trouble picking up work after projects have finished, so I am very aware of it.

I think the only thing that I have done is to adapt my CV to each of the job descriptions that I have been applying to. So for example, if a role talks a lot about using Workday, as that is a system I am familiar with, I will make sure that is highlighted and prominent on my CV. Whereas, if it talks a lot about Benchmarking, I will make sure there are some examples of my experience with Benchmarking. I never lie on my CV, but I make sure that the relevant information, and where I can add value is front and centre. Almost spelling out my experience, leaving no room for error.

  •  How do you approach your job search? Do you work with agencies /apply directly /have you been headhunted?

 I would say I have mainly been working with agencies. It started out calling a couple of recruiters in my network to try to figure out what the market was doing, if it was a good time to leave my current role etc. I had worked with them in the past, and was comfortable that I wouldn’t be pushed into leaving my role if it were a bad time. From these conversations, I heard about positions, and started putting my CV out there through them.

 I have also applied for a couple of positions directly, however I have yet to have a direct interview this time around. I believe this is due to the high volume of candidates, although of course cannot be sure.

 I find it reassuring working with an agency in that I am more likely to get feedback on my application, and also hear about relevant roles before they are on LinkedIn, and open to the masses! That being said, if I saw a position I was interested in, and I hadn’t spoken to anyone about it, I would apply directly. Its all about balance.

  • What has the interview process been like – does it take longer than normal/what is it like to interview via VC?

The interview processes I have been in have been fairly seamless. I enjoy being able to do them from home, and not have to worry about taking time out from my office. I can book time out in my diary discreetly, and no one is the wiser. I also feel less nervous, as I am at home, and more relaxed. I feel I give a better impression that way. No jitters!

 I have noticed that there are more rounds of interviews however. Usually I would expect two stages, but I have had up to four for some roles. I assume this is to make up for not being able to meet in person, and whilst I do appreciate that, it can get a little tiresome.

  • What advice would you give someone looking for a job in reward at the moment?

Do your homework, and take the time to make your CV sing. You haven’t got the luxury of meeting people face to face, and seeing an office first hand the way you would pre lockdown, so its on you to make sure you are going for the right positions.

 Your CV is your foot in the door, and the competition is higher than normal, so make sure you take the time to make it relevant. Spell out to the business, where you can add value, and why they need to meet you.

And so concludes my foray into the job searchers of the pandemic. Whilst there are a variety of options available, a theme I am seeing over and over again is that working with a trusted recruiter can have tremendous benefits, especially for people working in a niche environment.

By speaking to someone who knows the market and specialises in their field, they will be able to advise and direct you in the right direction for your career and longer term career goals, advocate for you in your search and will be positioned to provide insight on the team or business you are applying to.

Applying directly can leave you waiting on feedback that may never come. In a market that is so candidate heavy, there is a question mark over whether your application will be seen at all. When in doubt, speak with your consultant about the direct role you have seen. A reputable recruiter will let you know if they have a connection or any insight for you, and advise you to apply directly if that is the better route. You lose nothing by speaking to a specialist recruiter, and with their connections and knowledge of the market, it could be just the “leg up” your job search needs.

Related articles

In the first of a three part series, Elizabeth Kerry asks a recently placed candidate to share their experience of looking for Reward jobs in a pandemic.

In the second of her series on Job Searching in a Pandemic, Liz Kerry explores the experience of a direct applicant.

Simon Hunt, John O'Brien and Sam Clark look at heightened optimism in the HR, Payroll and Reward markets.

Simon Hunt, John O'Brien and Sam Clark comment on the positivity reflected in our Specialist Markets businesses.

Elizabeth Kerry shares her thoughts on the challenges facing Reward and Analytics in Professional Services...

Ready to get in touch?

Contact us

Want to keep up-to-date with future events, job postings and all things Oakleaf?

See our privacy notice for more information on how we take care of your information.

Oakleaf Partnership Limited. Registered in England with no: 5396257