Careers advice

Job hunting during Covid-19: tips from a recruiter

We asked a recruitment professional for advice for Kiwi job hunters during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Covid-19 crisis means many job hunters are more uncertain than ever about searching and applying for jobs.

While It’s important to know that opportunities are definitely still out there, your application needs to be watertight – competition will be tough.

To help you put your best foot forward we spoke to Sam Stevens, Manager at Robert Walters recruitment consultancy in Auckland, for her advice to New Zealand job hunters.

1. What aspects of their previous experiences should candidates highlight in the current environment?

We’re already seeing a trend of organisations moving to project-based work due to the impacts of Covid-19, and Sam recommends job hunters take note.

“Look to highlight projects you’ve been part of, especially when you worked with a broad range of stakeholders and delivered on key business goals. This is something all employers want to see.”

Another highly sought after soft skill is adaptability: “We’re also seeing organisations needing to pivot quickly in order to take advantage of new commercial opportunities. So make sure employers know you can pull up your sleeves and adapt to changing situations.”

2. What transferable skills should candidates mention in their applications?

Just like job hunters, many Kiwi businesses are facing uncertainty at the moment, so employers are looking for staff who can roll with the punches and overcome challenging situations. This means resilience is a crucial attribute right now.

Sam says candidates can turn negative experiences, such as being made redundant, into a positive for their applications if they can demonstrate how they bounced back. For example, how did you use the time between roles to upskill or look for new opportunities?

Similarly, if you’ve worked in an organisation that went through a big restructure, talk about how you looked for areas where you could add value to the business.

3. What advice would you have for candidates looking at jobs in an industry they haven’t worked in before?

Covid-19 means that many Kiwis are looking for roles that are quite different from what they’ve done before.

If this is you, Sam recommends tweaking your application to highlight the aspects of your current experience that are most easily transferable to the new sector you’re looking at.

“Don’t try to change too much at once, and be prepared to take a sideways or backwards step until you’re up to speed,” she says.

Sam’s also keen to remind job hunters that there’s no need to go it alone as there’s lots of advice out there, in the form of online resources, recruitment consultants and careers counsellors. As well as helping you to map out possible next steps, they can help you with advice on how to prepare for career change interviews.

4. Will there be any changes to normal hiring processes that job hunters should be aware of?

It’s important to know that some businesses who advertised roles before lockdown may now be on hiring freezes due to the uncertainty of the current market. If you’ve applied, or are thinking of applying to one of these roles, it’s worth checking with the company or recruiter as to whether the position is still on offer.

However, in good news for job hunters, Sam says NZ businesses who are hiring at the moment, have been very quick at adapting to using video in place of face-to-face interactions. Not only has this meant recruiters and businesses can keep the ball rolling, it actually means hiring processes could be more efficient.

“We find that video increases speed to hire for a lot of companies,” she says. This is because video interviews are easier to coordinate, and both interviewers and interviewees can be more flexible with timings when commutes aren’t involved.

Clearly, candidates should be reading up on tips for nailing video interviews as part of their preparation. This is likely to be the new normal for the foreseeable future.

5. What would you say to job hunters who aren't employed and are feeling nervous about their situation?

“At the moment, most people are nervous they won’t be employed for a long time, which is understandable – it’s daunting when you don’t have certainty about your future.

I’d say the most important thing is to connect with as many people as possible, and something will come your way. Broaden your networks, make sure you have a solid and professional online presence and keep up with the latest developments.

This is also a great time to think about what you want from your career. Lots of people decide to upskill, and there are plenty of great online courses that will help you do this.

And just try to stay positive – it will be ok, this situation isn’t going to last forever.”