Can graduates and postgraduates be hired during the pandemic?

The exceptional circumstances that arose from the explosion of the pandemic have not left any area of ​​society without being impacted to a greater or lesser extent.

Therefore, it is entirely understandable that final-year undergraduate students, but also those who are completing a graduate degree, are experiencing a justified level of anxiety in the face of uncertainty when it comes to their job prospects, as they will graduate during the coronavirus pandemic.

That is why we are interested in highlighting the opinion of an expert in graduate recruitment such as Dan Hawes, co-founder and marketing director of the Graduate Recruitment Bureau, who I will reply to in this contribution today.

The objective is to be able to convey to all graduates what they can do to improve their employment prospects during this time of pandemic, bearing in mind that the job application process for any interested party, be it undergraduate or graduate, is quite likely , is affected by the health crisis that has brought about a colossal economic crisis.

A clarification: the word candidate includes both graduates of careers and those who complete postgraduate programs.

The first question is whether companies are currently hiring graduates.

From what Hawes argues, there is a difference with the financial crisis of 2008-2009, because at the current moment of the maximum geographical effect of Covid-19, companies are still hiring these types of candidates.

While those that correspond to sectors such as hospitality, tourism and leisure are not currently hiring, candidates should not lose hope of betting on other sectors.

This is the case for logistics, healthcare, medicine, and some retailers (particularly online retailers) that are booming and actively looking to hire graduates.

What Hawes advises is that candidates have to have a proper plan, which leads them to do more research and try to discover these companies because they may not be advertising widely.

What impact will COVID-19 have on a graduate’s career?

A series of webinars are currently taking place on the impact COVID-19 is having on career plans and how candidates can adapt to these changing demands.

Taking advantage of time during confinement

What Hawes describes as “acquiring new skills during the confinement to which we have been forced to comply.” In other words, make the best use of that “free time” that was generated during the quarantine.

The question is that when faced with a possible question from a recruiter about “what have you done during the confinement” and even, “what are you doing now that the quarantine is over”, you can demonstrate that it is both at that time and in the present, has been able to take advantage of time, studying, doing online courses, attending webinars, etc.

What Hawes defines as “a great way to get ahead of the game.” But it even recommends candidates to do a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) to identify their personal ones both in terms of what they feel strong and secure in or what aspects are causing insecurity, as well as the opportunities that you think you may have in the workplace at that time (to which you are opting for an improvement in your professional qualification) or on the contrary, if you believe there are threats.

From our perspective at the AEEN, we believe that it is not at all unfortunate for candidates to adopt this mechanics of the use of SWOT, because it is a way of self-control over the aspects that must necessarily be corrected or what topics within the curricular components of the program to which they have assisted, they are difficult to apply or have not been able to experiment with them directly.

The situation that has been imposed on us in response to Covid-19 seems to be without having proposed it, a mechanism of self-discipline of study and search for applications of knowledge.

Therefore, we have two levels that emerge clearly from Hawes’s position:

1º) Regarding the aspect of personal knowledge and expertise

Thanks to SWOT, it is then that candidates are clear about the skills they need to improve.

2º) As for what interests the recruiter

Given the big question that the interviewers will ask, such as what did you do during the confinement? or another very logical – given the circumstances – what did you do that put you in a better position? To qualify for this position, the candidate must necessarily have a ready and coherent answer, which supports the weight of more questions. Because if you have actually used the time, you can see that immediately, as well as the opposite.

This personal self-knowledge varies from one candidate to another, but without a doubt, it should be reflected in the CV. And the important thing is that it will show potential employers that you have done something constructive with your time throughout this pandemic period.

Because we agree with Hawes that candidates must make sure they “have a reason to do what they are doing during this time, otherwise they will be very out of focus.”

In addition to finding work directly on company websites, there are many other places where students can search for work.

Selection agencies
Using recruitment agencies job boards, such as the Graduate Job Search on the Graduate Recruitment Office website, is an effective way to narrow down your job search.

LinkedIn is also a great place to look for work, according to Hawes.

He advises creating a profile, even if you don’t have much to put into it.

This will mean that when recruiters Google your name, your LinkedIn profile will appear first.

When to apply for jobs
Hawes affirms that it must be taken into account that large employers have a very defined and limited staff selection and search agenda, both in terms of profiles and time.

As for SMEs, there is greater flexibility and they tend to hire throughout the year.

Therefore, it advises (it is also our suggestion) that the sooner candidates apply can improve their opportunities and possibilities of access to a job.
It is often believed that a certain situation arises, which is that in the fall a person looking for work has to wait until the following year, a very widespread thought but which becomes a myth in the midst of a pandemic.

In the current circumstances, everyone, companies, recruiters and opportunity seekers want to show that they are in the market, that they are setting an example of adaptation to an exceptional and unfortunately too long-lasting moment, so you do not have to lose concentration or the minimum opportunity to connect good candidates with companies that have the opportunity to remain in the market, that have not closed their doors and that have resisted the challenge of Covid-19.

What is observed is that many recruiters of postgraduate personnel to apply to companies of a certain size, although they have postponed the processes, none cancel them.
When it comes to postponed graduate plans, Hawes suggests (we too) keep an eye on company websites as they will make announcements when the graduate plans reopen.

Online interviews and assessment centers
The digital transformation had already caused ex ante Covid-19 that most employers were changing their hiring process online.
But these days it is critical that companies have a strong online presence when it comes to hiring, as many candidates no longer have the option of attending an in-person interview.
Almost all interviews, assessment centers, and psychometric tests are now done completely online.
This means that companies can recruit students and graduates without breaking lockdown rules.

Candidates can take training through mock online interviews, because it will help them feel more comfortable, as well as ensuring that the camera angle is correct and that there are no distractions in the background.

In short, it is a question that any candidate if he takes these tips into account, can apply with some advantage in the large number of options that are going to be presented in certain sectors of the economy, mainly retail, services in general and from now on technology start-ups.

Antonio Alonso, president of the AEEN (Spanish Business School Association) and general secretary of EUPHE (European Union of Private Higher Education).