In this article, our recruitment experts outline what job seekers need to know as they broach job hunting in the post-pandemic world. For the complete guide on how to find a job (including resume and LinkedIn templates), check out our new eBook.
Resumé gaps will be treated differently
More than half of Gen-Zers surveyed by US job site Monster worry that their resumes don’t accurately represent what they can bring to the table, especially COVID-related resumé gaps that could ‘taint’ their application.
It’s easy to see why this thinking prevails - despite almost 40% of employers in the same survey disagreeing that pandemic career gaps will be interpreted like hiring ‘red’ flags of the past. Traditionally, resumé gaps challenge the model of career progression that employers look for, or act as indicators to larger concerns and patterns that can impact someone’s potential employment. Perhaps there was a chunk of time where a candidate took an extended ‘sabbatical’ because he felt unsuited to corporate work, or more commonly, a candidate was employed at the time but was dismissed on bad terms so opted to omit the experience entirely.
Ultimately, the general consensus among recruitment consultants is not that resumé gaps are outrightly bad, but that the lack of explanation behind it is the red flag itself. This means that it’s more important to explain ‘What have you been doing during the pandemic?’ and related gaps than worrying about hiding, or worse, filling the lull with irrelevant and false employment.
Things are obviously more complicated in the post-pandemic world; job loss is likely to be from big corporate decisions to downsize rather than individual performance issues, some are going through difficult mental health crises, others have had to restructure their working arrangements for safety and personal reasons. Businesses have been hit hard too, so employers are more understanding and unlikely to penalise you for something unexpected. At the end of the day, employers are still just looking for the right candidate with the right skills - and two years proving you’ve survived a pandemic - can actually help your cause.
Our suggestion on COVID-related resume gaps is to address the issue head-on and honestly→ Instead of waiting to be asked, take the initiative to explain the reasoning, and how you filled the time with activities and projects that have attributes related to the role. For even more certainty that you won’t be overlooked, declare the gap strategically with something like ‘dismissed due to the pandemic’ next to the last role on your CV or mention it briefly in your cover letter. Adding references from mentors or past managers can also supplement experience.
There is more to the number on your paycheque
It’s not surprising that the pandemic has brought a general dip in salaries, especially as the supply of junior talent proceeds to outnumber the available jobs on the market. Reserves of both fresh graduates and redundancies in the past year are vying for the same jobs - for example, in the AdTech and Digital world, many firms with the capacity to train are offering lower salaries to this group in return for short-term placements and traineeships.
That’s not the say that the future is bleak. Recent findings from Willis Towers Watson suggests that employers in the Asia Pacific region plan to give the highest salary increases in the upcoming year (5.3% in 2022) compared to their North American and European counterparts. This is directly related to strong foreign investment in high-tech companies, manufacturing, and the pharmaceutical/health science industries of Singapore and parts of SEA. Furthermore, participating in alternative forms of employment like traineeships or contract work is beneficial to bridge the skills gap and establish new networks that can put your foot in the door.
Our suggestion regarding salaries → Keep your options open. There is less of a pay gap between organisations at the moment, so look beyond the zeros on the sheet and consider how other benefits may line up (ie: stock options, a commission component, flexible work model...) and whether you will gain transferable/marketable skills from the position to utilise when hiring picks up.
If you’re still not content with the amount on your paycheque (or are struggling to find a salary at all), consider taking up gig work or a side-hustle that may supplement additional income. The pandemic has solidified that we are the gig generation - with 1 in 3 Americans having a side-hustle and numerous young Singaporeans following suit while juggling a full-time job.
More people are looking within to find the right fit - and employers value it
Data confirms that hiring managers pre-pandemic were already more likely to hire candidates based on their genuine interest in the role they applied for rather than their answers to interview questions or the extent they met the role requirements. This is only amplified in the post-pandemic world, where many employees have taken the time to reassess their priorities and values and make that clear to employers - asking for promotions as part of their clarified career plan, switching roles completely when they realised their job was not making them happy, or adjusting working hours to avoid burnout.
Forward-thinking employers are keen to embrace the post-pandemic world as the start of something new and are willing to appease candidates on similar wavelengths. Ask yourself how you’ve engaged with changes in the world in your mindset, career aspirations, or even ideas of ‘work.’ When you’re applying for a job, really think about why you want the role and why the employer would want you. You may find that there are certain skills the role requires you really enjoy and want to invest in (even if you didn’t get this specific job per se) or discover you’re eager for new opportunities (like a leadership component or better development paths). There is extra room for employers to be flexible now, so you’re actually likely to obtain some things you want or at least be rewarded for your assertiveness and self-assurance.
Our suggestion to finding the right fit is being intentional → What excites you about the role is likely where you will capitalise on your strengths and best value-add to the employer. Getting to know yourself and what it offers to your professional life will not only ensure you’re better focussed during your job search but have more range to explore strategies with confidence. Finally, remind yourself that communications with your potential employer (in the interview stage or otherwise) is never a 'test' but an authentic conversation for both you and the employer to see whether it'd be a good match.