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Job hunting under coronavirus

Job hunting during the coronavirus pandemic: what you need to know

Find out how to deal with – and plan for – applications and interviews when the coronavirus pandemic has thrown so many things up in the air.

As well as getting yourself camera-ready, keeping the possibility of being called to a face-to-face interview or assessment centre in mind will mean you’re not caught out.

The UK government has implemented some extraordinary measures in an exceptionally short period of time to counter the spread of the coronavirus. Needless to say that social distancing measures, regional differences and national lockdowns has made it difficult for companies to plan, and disrupted workflows, events and normal hiring practices.

If you’re looking for a job over the next few months, being ready for video interviews over platforms such as Zoom or Skype (while still preparing for the possibility that you might be asked to engage with recruiters face-to-face), being aware of your rights and keeping a few alternatives to full-time work in mind should help you to keep all bases covered. It might also be a good idea to be prepared for job hunting during a recession, and you can find out advice for this by taking a look at our article on the topic once you've read this one.

Following up on applications: patience is a virtue

It may be a good idea to be a bit more restrained with follow-up emails, although how long you wait should depend on the role you are applying for. Many HR professionals and graduate recruiters will still be working from home and decisions that may have taken place quickly through a meeting or a chat in an office may take longer if video calling or email is used. Furthermore, as the number of people searching for jobs rises, many recruiters will have more applications to look through.

Judging exactly when to send a follow-up email is an art, not a science. It depends on what your aims are: are you wanting to check that your application has been received (because you received no acknowledgement) or are you checking where you are in the process because you haven’t heard anything? If you have had confirmation that your application has been received, it will also depend partly on whether the organisation has communicated anything about how and when it will get back to you – and whether it will get back to you at all if you have been unsuccessful. Use any information they provide you as a guide.

  • If you have not received a receipt of your application – and many employers nowadays do send an automated acknowledgement – there is no harm in contacting them perhaps a few days after the deadline (but check your junk email first).
  • If the organisation hasn’t given you any information beyond an initial acknowledgement, use the nature of the job to gauge when to contact them. Is it an immediate-start or temp job (which the employer would want to fill quickly) or is it for a graduate programme that is likely to have multiple stages with more recruiters involved in decision-making? If the former, you can follow up more quickly than the latter (we would suggest around a week after the deadline for an immediate start or temp job, and maybe a few weeks for a graduate programme – but as we say this isn’t an exact science).
  • If you are submitting an application via a recruitment agency, you could check in with the recruitment consultant a few days after your application has been submitted for the job, as recruitment consultants tend to get quick responses from their clients.

For advice on the earlier application stage, take a look at our article on filling a coronavirus-shaped gap on your CV.

Interviews and assessment centres: be flexible but don’t compromise your safety

If you reach the interview stage, it is likely that you will be conducting this via an online platform. This may well be the case for assessment centres, too. It would be a good idea, therefore, to familiarise yourself with some of the most popular platforms (such as Zoom and Skype) and to follow some of the expert tips for video interviews found in our article.

As well as getting yourself camera-ready, keeping the possibility of being called to a face-to-face interview in mind will mean you’re not caught out. Some employers have staff in their workplaces and might not want you to miss out on the chance to get a feel for the working environment, especially if you are applying for a role as a keyworker.

You could consider how you will stay socially distanced while coming across as friendly and professional. You might decide to knock elbows as an alternative to shaking hands, for example, or practise speaking clearly in a facemask before an interview.

If you wouldn’t be comfortable with a face-to-face meeting for any reason, you should not be afraid to request a video interview or alternative arrangements. It’s likely that employers will consider your request carefully, especially if you or someone in your immediate circle is classed as vulnerable.

Alternatives: part-time work and volunteering

You may decide to tide yourself over financially at the same time as picking up some CV-worthy skills by taking on part-time work. Some supermarkets are planning to restrict certain items in order to prevent another round of shortages brought about by hoarders; so, they might again start recruiting for temporary shop floor jobs – as well as warehouse and delivery driver roles. It might seem an obvious point, but do consider whether a job such as this, which brings you into contact with thousands of people on a daily basis, suits you in light of the pandemic.

There are also some predominantly social media and local council-led volunteering opportunities available at the moment. Such experience would look good on a CV. However, you should make sure you can carry out the work required safely (for you and those around you) before committing.

While keeping away from any kind of in-person interaction with others remains a high priority, take a look at these career-friendly activities to carry out while social distancing.

Your right to claim benefits

Full-time students are not entitled to job seeker’s allowance (JSA). However, there are circumstances in which some students can apply for universal credit, such as if parental support is limited. For more information, take a look at the guidance provided by GOV.UK here.

If you have finished your university course and are unemployed, you may be able to apply for financial support from the moment you graduate. In order to receive the ‘new style’ JSA you will need to have worked and, generally, to have paid class one National Insurance contributions in the last two to three years. If you are not in this position, the chances are you will be eligible for universal credit.

You should be able to carry out appointments with work coaches over the telephone, rather than visiting a job centre. If you are in any way concerned about your finances while job hunting under social distancing measures, find out more and check your eligibility via the GOV.UK website here. The Debt Advice Foundation also provides advice on its website, as well as a free helpline for advice and information about debt during the week.

Your rights while renting

As a result of the pandemic, the law has been changed so that eviction notices in England cannot be served until 11 January at the earliest. There are few exceptions to this rule, including where the tenant has shown antisocial behaviour and where they owed more than nine months’ rent before 23 March 2020. Furthermore, in many cases, you will be entitled to a six-month notice period.

In Wales, those whose eviction notices were served after 28 September 2020 will have six months before a landlord can begin court proceedings to evict. That is, unless your notice is a result of anti-social behaviour or domestic violence. Take a look here for more information from the Welsh government.

In Scotland, aside from exceptional circumstances, those whose eviction notices were served on or After 7 April 2020 will have to give six months’ notice. In Northern Ireland, the notice landlords must give to tenants before ending a tenancy has been increased to 12 weeks as a result of the pandemic. For more information, you could read the advice provided by the governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

If you have concerns about your accommodation, try to work out an agreement with your landlord for late payment or a payment plan and check the above section to see if you are eligible for benefits. There are slightly different processes for lodgers, but homeless support charity Shelter has published a good guide on its website. The Citizens Advice Bureau also provides information about benefits and renting during a pandemic.

Some students are facing difficulties with renting. This might be because they are paying for accommodation they are not living in. Alternatively, many have returned to campus but feel that this shouldn't have been encouraged by the university (eg as their accommodation is in lockdown), and so are unhappy with paying full rent. The Citizens Advice Bureau has information on your rights and responsibilities as a student in both university accommodation and private rented accommodation.

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In Partnership

This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

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