DirectlyApply interview

At a time of economic hardship, job seekers are in an especially precarious position. There are unquestionably fewer jobs available than there were pre-pandemic, making many roles much more competitive than they otherwise would be. There is less money to go around, too: even if you do get the job you want you may not be remunerated to your satisfaction. Add to this unappetising cocktail the profound and widespread psychological problems that come about during a pandemic, and it is clear that for those hiring, a little sensitivity and a light touch might be necessary.

But the fact is that the job market is different now, and the rules of the game have changed.

Vision matters

There is something about spending a lot of time by yourself that forces you to interrogate the choices you have made in your life. There will be many young people between jobs, or dissatisfied in their current jobs, who have made a promise to themselves to find work that gives them a greater sense of meaning. This will not be universal: there are many young people who simply need work. But employers need to be alert to the possibility that some of the most talented job seekers around want more from their work than they might have done previously. They need to be able to articulate their personal vision for their business in a manner that underscores the role an ambitious jobseeker will play in its realisation.

Have one eye on the future

No one wants to get a new job only to lose it shortly afterwards. This will be a fear for some job seekers, and in particular those who lost seemingly safe jobs last year. If a jobseeker does not have a sense of a company’s direction of travel and resilience in the face of ineluctable change and global turbulence, the role in question will suddenly seem much less attractive. In conversations with job seekers, hiring managers and building owners must show they have one eye on the future and the ability to overcome adverse conditions built into their models. They must show themselves to be ‘future-proof’.

Take nothing for granted

Clarity is a potent tonic at a time of great uncertainty. For the last 12 months, many people have been in a state of constant anxiety about their health, the health of their friends and family, their finances and their work. This should remind business owners who want to bring in the best possible job seekers to take nothing for granted and be absolutely clear in their expectations for themselves, for their businesses and for anyone who joins. Those who appear to lack a concrete plan or leave room for ambiguity are unlikely to seem especially appealing a year like 2020. It is always better to over-explain than under-explain when a cloud of uncertainty hangs low over much of normal life.

Be prepared to give your ethical credentials

No doubt the pandemic shed light on environmental damage and the urgent need to reverse or mitigate it, but in a more general way, businesses are expected to conduct themselves ethically and to be able to prove that. Paying attention to diversity and inclusion, parental leave, the health of the supply chain, and the general health and happiness of the team is not the preserve of B Corp-certified companies, but something expected by especially young people entering the world of work. 

A light touch is good for business

But all this is to say that the way employers treat prospective recruits in the post-pandemic age, at least in the short term, must evolve. There has to be a degree of sensitivity to the struggles many endured last year—not merely the decent thing to do, given the widely reported struggles of especially young people, but the smart thing to do if you want to attract the best talent.

Though there will be those who have lost their source of income and will be happy to accept whatever roles come their way, there will also be many people itching to bounce back from the torpor of 2020 and sink their teeth into something new and exciting in 2021. This energy, enthusiasm and optimism, reflected in the news that Britain’s economic prospects look far brighter than they did just a few months ago, is something business owners and hiring managers should want to harness. That starts with thinking carefully about how to treat job seekers.