Millions are out of work as the Coronavirus pandemic sweeps the country. In a matter of weeks, unemployment has rocketed from a record low to a historical high. Businesses have shut down, mass layoffs have plagued employers, and the job market has become significantly more saturated.
While many companies are trying to avoid layoffs by implementing hiring freezes, others can’t afford to keep their staff employed. Even some companies that were booming pre-COVID 19 are in dire straits — like AirBnB, which is laying off a quarter of its workforce just months after announcing its intention to go public.
People are nervous about taking job offers right now, and for good reason: As a career coach, I’ve watched many of my clients have offers rescinded, or their start date pushed back indefinitely. And while companies are continuing to interview, hire and onboard new employees every day, it’s unclear how long they’ll be able to keep them.
Job seekers can’t predict the future, but there are steps you can take to feel out how secure a position is before you make a decision. Here’s what to know.
Be intentional in your job search strategy
If you see a job posting that you’re interested in, take note of the date it was posted. If it’s been up for over a month, find the recruiter’s email, or message them on LinkedIn, and ask if the company is still hiring for that role.
This is also a good time to tap straight into recruiting agencies and set up some background conversations. It’s a recruiter’s job to keep a pulse on which companies are planning to hire, and a good one can help you make sure you don’t have to go through this alone.
Do some extra research
Let’s face it, some industries are weathering this storm better than others.
Looking for jobs in travel, tourism or hospitality might not make a whole lot of sense right now. Same goes for jobs in the food and beverage industry.
Staying up to date on industry trends will help you be more strategic with the options you’re considering. Set up Google alerts for the companies you’re targeting in your search. Then look up them up on LinkedIn to see which ones are hiring, and which ones are laying off employees.
What to ask in the interview
It’s important to get a sense of when the company you’re interviewing at is expecting to fill the role. So ask the hiring manager directly what the onboarding timeline looks like, as well as the start date, and if there’s a chance those dates might change.
Asking clear-cut questions eliminates any gray area. And if you do it in person or over the phone—rather than in an email—you’ll be able to hear their gut reaction, and whether there’s any uncertainty in their voice.
You’ll also want to ask how the pandemic has impacted business operations so far. If the company has a strong response plan that’s been communicated to employees from leadership, that’s a great sign.
Connect with potential coworkers
Everybody knows that relationships are key in the job search game. But right now, they’re a lifeline.
Get a connection at the company you’re applying at on a Zoom call, and talk about any changes that have occurred since the pandemic first started. Were employees able to easily transition into working remotely, or did it take time for the company to figure things out? Did external hiring efforts shift to internal employee engagement and crisis management? What priorities got pushed down?
Building social capital and tapping into your network will facilitate connections that can become trusted resources — especially now.