Coronavirus and the impact on hiring

I write this as the coronavirus continues to worsen across Europe and the United States. This is an unprecedented situation for our generation, and will certainly have profound effects, not only on health and populations, but on economies. The subject of today’s blog is the impact on hiring.

It is often said that one of the first signs of a recession is not that companies start firing people, but rather that they simply stop hiring. This is what I think is happening right now.

The initial reason is that we cannot conduct any training or bring new people into a risky environment where they could potentially get infected. For example, Goldman Sachs London just cancelled its spring internship programmes. The cancellation of all summer intern programmes is not far away, probably to be announced in the coming weeks. Of course, this will have a very significant effect on the people who are holding summer internship offers – but it is also an opportunity for those who don’t.

You should expect to see job offers being rescinded. Many readers are not familiar with this situation and may think “How could a company possibly take away an offer that they have given?” The answer – easily. I first saw this happen after the initial “.com bubble” burst back in 2000. In 2001 and 2002, I watched as hundreds of job offers from financial services organisations in London, Hong Kong and New York were rescinded. This happened again after the 2008 credit crisis. Corporations have absolutely no compunction about cancelling internship programmes and postponing or cancelling graduate training programmes. It’s a matter of survival.

All of the usual networking that you might be conducting is less effective now. When there is a real possibility of the death of a family member, professionals are not focused on hiring, which truly is close to the bottom of their list of priorities.

What can you do?

Well, you can plan for the hiring situation to deteriorate further by improving your skillsets. Think about what qualifications you could take to make yourself more marketable. What technical knowledge could you acquire to show that you have more technical knowledge than other candidates. After all, based on my extensive experience, at final round interviews or assessment centres, where everyone is hard working, smart, articulate and well-prepared, it’s usually the person with the best technical knowledge who ends up getting hired.

Doing nothing is a bad idea, even though the results of your job search activities will be less than they usually are. You could spend your time now planning your networking campaign – including which companies, which senior professionals you plan to target, what you’re going to say to them, what questions to ask, what other emails and phone numbers, and so on. All of this can be planned so that you are ready to start your campaign when the worst of the coronavirus is behind us.

Thank you for reading. Wishing all readers and their families health and safety over the coming months.

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Peter is a true careers expert, and a leading authority on getting hired. He has worked for some of the world’s most prestigious employers including Goldman Sachs, McKinsey and Deloitte. At Harrison Careers, he runs an elite team with a 15+ year track-record of helping clients to win thousands of job offers from the world’s leading companies in Technology, Finance, Banking, Consulting, Accounting, Law and other industries. When he’s not coaching clients, he’s giving presentations, running, biking, or hanging out with his 5 teenage kids.

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