How has job hunting changed in the age of COVID-19?

Zoom meetings in pyjama bottoms are the new normal. I have been looking for work in the creative industry for about six months, and I am trying desperately to stay motivated to keep applying for roles during the pandemic.

The interview process has evolved in recent months, but what has actually changed?

First of all, the most obvious point to make is that we now meet our prospective employers via videocall, and you would think that this might take away any pre-interview anxiety you’d otherwise feel before a face-to-face. I am truly sorry to tell you that the absence of this feeling just gives way to a whole new pot of worries. I usually get quite nervous before interviews, as most people do, and the fact the process has moved online hasn’t dispelled these feelings, but my nerves manifest in different ways. Now, I tend to feel mentally calm, but my body breaks out in horrible red hives (ouch) from the anxiety that I am quite clearly experiencing. I find videocalls to be really awkward anyway, even outside of a professional environment – the audio sometimes isn’t quite right, you’re delayed, crackly, and worst of all: you can see yourself. These things can be really off-putting. On top of that, you can’t read any nonverbal cues that you’d be privy to in real life, so, unless your interviewer is constantly beaming at you, it’s quite hard to tell how well you’re doing. One of the best ways I’ve found for dealing with this issue is to ask for feedback on my answers and not being afraid to make notes or ask them to repeat a long question. People are generally nice, and they will allow for you to forget the third part of a triple-pronged question from time to time. (I am putting together a more comprehensive list of ways to deal with videocall anxiety in the coming days.)

Secondly, in lieu of real life meetings, I feel like the application process has been extended by multiple stages. Many applications I’ve done in the past generally ask you to do a phone interview and a face-to-face interview, after which a decision would be made. I’m noticing more these days that employers are asking applicants to do lengthy assignments as an extra round, prior to the video interview. I know these measures had been around for a long time before coronavirus, but in my experience, it seems to be a lot more common nowadays. I’ve done more interview tasks than I have fingers and toes – the saddest part of which is thinking about how much time I’ve spent doing them, and the best part being how much practice I’ve had ready for the real deal (that’s what I keep telling myself, anyway). I think it is equally difficult for employers now, too, because they can’t read our body language either. They’re taking a chance on someone they’ve never met, so it’s hardly a surprise that they might have increased the difficulty of the application process.

I have also noticed a small number of companies now not responding to unsuccessful applicants – although, I might only be noticing this now since I have the time to ruminate on the whole process. While I completely understand companies not having the capacity to reply to every CV application they receive, once an interview has been completed, it is expected that you will hear a decision one way or the other. A lot of companies will now offer feedback to those who get that far, which I think is commendable, I interviewed once for an internship at CNBC and they offered detailed positive and negative feedback to everyone who made it to the final stage. There’s no reason big companies with recruitment departments can’t do this as a rule. However, one thing I will mention is that many of the businesses that don’t contact with a rejection for progressed applicants are often made up of smaller teams. Perhaps they simply don’t have the time and resources to contact everyone to say “thanks, but no thanks.” Then again, if you are going to ask people to give up their own time to provide you with a lengthy post-interview task (which, incidentally, provides your company with free creative content), I think you should be willing to provide feedback in return. You win some, you lose some; every task completed is more preparation for the job you finally land.

Having said all this, it’s really not all bad changes – it is a lot easier to prepare for online interviews, cues and notes can be on hand in case you stumble on a question. While I always take a notebook into interviews to take notes (and show interest), taking your own notes in to read from is a big no-go. You can kind of bypass this in a video interview, and although I don’t recommend reading from a script, there’s nothing wrong with having a cue or two nearby.

Third year NTU student, Teegan Buxton, has found the experience of job hunting during the pandemic to be extremely positive:

“The pressure has been on with meeting deadlines and seeking career opportunities amongst the madness, I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited for two online interviews in which they have been great experiences so far. Comparing the online experience to the physical ones I’ve had before, I’ve felt a greater sense of establishing more personal connections during interviews. I believe both interviewer and interviewee being based in their home environments and connecting through a zoom call has allowed vulnerability on both sides but in a positive way to create more genuine connections.”

Teegan Buxton, Fashion Communication & Promotion, NTU

A lot of anxiety that comes with doing interviews stems from uncertainty; entering strange and unknown territory. Being situated in your home environment does bring with it a comfortability during the interview that you won’t experience otherwise. One might argue that the process has humanised both parties, who are likely sitting in their makeshift home office, surrounded by familial belongings.

While it might seem hard to stay motivated during this time, it’s good to remember that there are people in jobs that are being directly and badly affected by the virus. The saving grace in this is that we don’t have to worry about bringing a deadly virus into the lives of our loved ones purely because of our job. The creative industry is a tough nut to crack, but most of the work we do can be done from home and, right now, this is a privilege. It does feel rubbish to get rejection after rejection, and you are allowed to feel annoyed by this. Just as long as you don’t feel defeated. 😊



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How’s everyone finding lockdown? Let me know anything you want covered in the comments!

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