“Should I continue searching for a job during the coronavirus pandemic?”
With unemployment levels at an all-time high and organisations imposing hiring freezes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s normal to consider putting your job search on hold. The news is currently dominated by stories of employees losing their jobs due to the adverse effects of COVID-19. It’s not just job seekers that are unsure of their next steps – organisations and hiring managers are also apprehensive about whether they should be taking on new employees in the current climate.
However, many life science organisations are still recruiting for business-critical positions. After all, it’s these organisations that are our only hope for combatting COVID-19. In their fight to identify and develop a cure for coronavirus, they require the fresh perspectives of top-talent to alleviate problems, solve challenges and streamline the business. If you can position yourself as a solution to their problems, especially during these unprecedented times, you increase your job search success odds tenfold.
So, instead of wasting precious time weighing up the pros and cons of a job search during the coronavirus pandemic, just start the search. A proactive job search will help you beat the competition that is hesitating. However, it’s worth noting that a reduction in hiring does mean a more competitive search. Therefore, then, it’s absolutely crucial that you demonstrate your unique value and what makes you better than the competition.
Here are some tips to help you increase your chances of job search success during the coronavirus pandemic:
1) Use the time to reflect
While a proactive job search will help you beat the competition, spending time gaining clarity on your career goals and the type of role you’re seeking is no weakness. In fact, it’s incredibly strategic in the long run. Write down your target organisations and job titles. Understand what you want so that you’re more likely to go and get it. The more specific you are, the better.
- Which organisations have you had your eye on for a while?
- What position would you like to move into?
- Where do you want to be in five years time?
- What positions will help you get there?
However, it’s important to be realistic and adaptable. While you’ve laid out your target organisations, some may be on a hiring freeze, and no amount of effort on your behalf will change that. You should reserve your energy and attention to those organisations who are actively hiring business-critical roles that match your skills and experience.
2) Contact an executive search firm
Getting in touch with an executive search firm is an excellent way to hear about what’s happening in the market. Through their vast network and partnerships with life science organisations, executive search consultants can share valuable intel about who’s hiring and who isn’t over the coming months.
By forming a valuable connection with a reputable search firm, you can essentially tap into the hidden job market. In fact, an estimated seventy per cent of jobs are not even advertised. Many executive and senior management roles in life science organisations are confidential. They don’t openly advertise their roles but choose to partner with an executive search firm instead. Their remit is to identify top talent in the market and deliver a shortlist of exceptional candidates to the hiring manager at the organisation. By building strong relations with an executive search firm, you can be rewarded with hearing about desirable positions before they’re even advertised. Forget trawling job boards for weeks on end and instead let the executive search consultants approach you with roles they think you’ll be an excellent fit for.
3) Network, network, network
Now more than ever are people flooding online to combat feelings of social isolation, including hiring managers. An established online presence in which you position yourself as a thought leader will get you on their radar. Posting value-add content and actively engaging with other executives on LinkedIn demonstrates your expertise and could expose you to more opportunities.
Failing to hit the ground running with your job search can feel incredibly frustrating. When no amount of scrolling through job boards is resulting in anything, this is when your network is best utilised. With just about everyone talking about coronavirus, networking has never been easier. It essentially gives you your introductory topic of conversation on a silver platter. Social isolation, lockdowns and remote working mean that many executives are open to a friendly, online chat. Reach out to members of your network and arrange a virtual coffee break together. Make sure to mention that you’re open to new opportunities. They may be able to offer insight into new opportunities in their current organisation or refer you to someone else who might be able to help you.
In the same line of thought, reach out to former colleagues if you see an opening at their organisation. That organisation is far more likely to hire you if their existing employee can give a robust referral detailing your strengths and expertise.
4) Prepare yourself for online interviews
Interviews for business-critical positions aren’t grinding to a halt anytime soon. Despite lockdowns and heavy travel restrictions, hiring managers are still receptive to speaking with you and finding out what makes you tick. After all, how else will they be able to assess your abilities? While in-person interviews were once the norm, they’re now being replaced by phone and video interviews to prevent the transmission of coronavirus. In fact, the number of organisations using video to interview candidates has increased by sixty-seven per cent.
Here are some tips on how to nail your video interview:
- Practice makes perfect: Not everyone is a natural in front of the camera, so it’s essential that you practice until you’re confident. Familiarise yourself with the software prior to the interview; test that your wifi connection, camera and microphone are working sufficiently. Fumbling around for the first five minutes of the interview trying to figure out why the interviewer can’t hear you won’t leave a positive impression.
- Choose an appropriate environment: Avoid taking the video call in communal or noisy areas of the house where you’ll be distracted or interrupted. Make sure that your background is professional; a white wall or a bookcase will suffice. Either sit in front of a window or to the side of it, rather than sitting with your back to it as this will black out your face.
- Dress appropriately: You’ll feel much more switched on and professional if you treat it like any other job interview. Make sure that you’re wearing a smart shirt, suit or blouse as your upper torso will be in the shot.
- Avoid looking at yourself: Video calls can be a bit overwhelming and confusing for some – where are you supposed to look? It’s best to avoid staring at yourself as you might unconsciously fidget or fix your hair. You can either look directly at the camera lens or alternatively look at their image directly. This will help to facilitate the idea of it being a face-to-face interview.
- Position the camera appropriately: Make sure that your head and shoulders are in the shot and your camera is at eye-level.
Can your job search wait?
Adopting these tips into your job search can help to set you up for job search success. However, is it absolutely necessary that you secure a new position in the next six months? Can your job search wait? If you’re not urgently seeking a new position, perhaps putting it on hold is the best decision. This doesn’t mean that you can forget all about your search, however. You can use the coming months to be truly proactive and tie up some loose ends:
- Update your CV, cover letter and LinkedIn profile with your latest experience and achievements. This can often seem tedious but it’s something we tend to put off until the last minute, which results in a rushed job. If you update it now, you won’t have to worry about doing so in a couple of months when you’re ready to commence your search.
- Get in touch with your referees. Over your career you will have built up a lengthy and robust list of referees, but when was the last time you spoke to them? Are they still happy to vouch for you? Do you have their up to date contact details? Get in touch to inform them that you’re open to new opportunities and use the opportunity to gather intel that could help you in your search. After you’ve caught up, remember to ask for their permission to continue to use them as a referee. Most people will be receptive to you reaching out to them, especially if it’s been a long time. By reaching out to them and consolidating your connection, this might even encourage them to give a more favourable reference.
- Practice your elevator pitch until you know it like the back of your hand. An elevator pitch can help you to answer the dreaded “tell me about yourself” question in interviews and at networking events. A well-honed pitch can work in your favour once normalcy is restored and you commence your search.
It goes without saying that your job search is going to be different during the coronavirus pandemic. However, it doesn’t mean it has to be any less prosperous. With hard work and persistence comes reward, whether that’s in one month, six months or a year. Resilience is key in these unprecedented times, so keep your chin up. The hiring process will naturally slow down, so don’t let this deter you. Although you may not secure a new job immediately, by developing effective job search strategies now, you’ll beat your competition when normalcy is restored.
For more job-search advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life sciences…
* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.