Job Searching in a Pandemic

Part 1 of 3

Working as a recruiter during in the pandemic, I have seen the mood change almost hourly from candidates. Ranging from, “I’m not going anywhere until this all blows over” to “Get me out of this job!”

It is my opinion that people are more comfortable making a career move now then they were 12 months ago. When lockdown 1.0 came along, no one really knew what to expect or how long this would all last. Having lived through it for a year, people are now getting stir crazy to move into new roles. They have seen that “the show must go on” to a degree, and that life hasn’t stopped just because we are all working from home.

Although according to BBC News, UK unemployment is at a five year high. Looking for a new role may not be choice for a lot of people, and more of a necessity. Coronavirus or not, people will need to be looking for new roles.

But what does that experience look like for candidates during this unusual time?

With so many things unknown it can be a daunting prospect.

I decided to reach out to three candidates in my network who have been experiencing the job search first hand.

In a three part article series, I will be speaking with three candidates and how they have approached their job search.

I will be speaking with a candidate who is currently working, but looking to move roles, a candidate who found a new role directly, and in this article, a candidate recently placed by our own Harold Ejele through Oakleaf Partnership.

These articles over the next few weeks will serve to find out more about their experiences with leaving, interviewing and joining a new position, and what this was like during this unusual time.

*For the purpose of this interview, our candidate has asked to remain anonymous.

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

Having been in the same role for 7 years and it being a small company with limited room for progression I felt I needed a challenge and a chance gain more experience. The longer you are in the same role, the more concerned I was that I would end up being there forever.

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

I think so yes, slightly more then normal. I actually resigned with nothing lined up and was fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to survive not working. This meant that I was prepared to be unemployed for a little longer. Which because of the pandemic was a good thing. Although if I hadn’t have been able to resign and look for a role, in retrospect, with virtual meetings, I would have been able to fit in the interview processes around work. The pandemic has made the interview process, and clients very flexible.

  • Did you feel nervous moving roles during the pandemic?

No not nervous- it actually presented more of an opportunity to be able to work remotely, which appealed to me. (At least initially to get used to everything!) I was more nervous to leave a role that she had been in for 7 years, but I am so happy I took that plunge.

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

It is an employer’s market at the moment, they have so much choice and they can be more picky. For example finding someone who has the same industry experience seems more important then it did previously, rather than relying on transferrable skills. I don’t think I broke the mould in order to stand out. But I did end up with multiple CVs. I would spend a little extra time to match up my experience to the different job descriptions. Never lying about my experience, simply highlighting where I would be able to add value to the role.

  • How did you approach your job search? You were working with Harold, but did you also work with other agencies, apply directly or get head hunted for anything?

Well I stopped applying directly when I realised how candidate heavy the market was. By working with an agency, my CV would be put directly with 4-6 others, rather than goodness knows how many going into the process, which may or may not even get seen.

  • What was your overall impression of these avenues? Pros and cons?

I think all consultancies are different. It’s nice to work with a consultancy that you have a relationship with, and I felt that with Oakleaf Partnership. A lot of agencies would only talk about one job then disappear, never to hear from them again, which can be disheartening. So if you find a good agency, stick with them. They will come back to you with feedback where they can, and remember your details for new roles that come up that might interest you.  It also makes the salary negotiation and application part quicker, because you have that relationship already,  saving time filling in applications on line over and over again.

Some roles also seem to take so much longer when you go direct. A role I applied directly to took 3 weeks to get back to me, by then, I had already secured a new role through Oakleaf.

  • What was the interview process like – was it longer than normal? What was it like to interview via VC?

It didn’t feel too weird as I have become used to doing everything over VC during the pandemic, why should interviewing be any different! It was actually an advantage as I could do it all from home, not having to worry about commuting to the interview or making excuses to the office. In fact it was actually much more convenient and I suspect companies will continue to VC interview in the future. Its such a time saver! In terms of process, I find it depends on the company, some were much quicker then others. I actually secured this role very quickly after one interview. But others had been about 2-3 interviews which can be delayed. 

  • What was the offer process like? Was there anything that was important to you during this process in terms of salary/variable pay/benefits/flex working? Was that different to considerations during previous moves?

Because I went through Oakleaf, Harold took care of it all. I discussed with him in advance what was important to me. Salary, working from home, hours etc. I didn’t really have to worry about anything.

  • What was your remote onboarding experience like?

I have been really impressed with the business, the line manager is checking in several times a day and making sure that I am meeting other people in the team remotely. They have recently revamped the onboarding process, and I think I am a bit of a guinea pig for them! I have also been doing online training, which I am enjoying. They have sent me a laptop and that also made things very easy. I feel very well looked after!

  • Is there anything would you change in your search / approach if you were to move roles again?

I wish I had spent more time on my LinkedIn profile, I think it’s a wonderful tool, and in retrospect I think I could have used it more to my advantage.

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

I think moving around will give you such an advantage. Changing roles every 2-3 years to build experience in different sectors, and learning new ways of doing things. Different sectors, different systems, different team sizes. Anyone in reward should be move around every few years to gain more experience in my opinion. I wish I had moved on sooner!

I hope you found this helpful, and if you would like to talk more about the market or have any specific questions about looking for a new role during this time, I would love to hear from you and hear your thoughts.

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