Hey 300H readers – I hope you are all keeping well and staying safe.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing lockdown in various locations globally has certainly made job hunting trickier than it already is. If you are looking for a new job during this chaotic period, here’s a master guide on how to do it effectively and maximize your chances of a job offer.
Best of luck!
How COVID-19 Has Impacted Job Postings Globally
For US, the trend in job postings — a real-time measure of labor market activity — is 39% lower than in 2019. As you can see in the chart below, the trend in job postings was roughly in line with last year’s until mid March, and the slowdown accelerated until end of April. There are some initial signs of improvements of this trend in May.
Interestingly, job postings are down across the board, even in sectors not directly impacted by COVID-19 and where many jobs likely could be done from home. For example, software development postings are 36% below last year’s trend, and management job postings are down 39%.
Whilst Indeed did not release specific information on US Financial Services job postings in particular – if we were to make an educated guess based on the benchmarks of other sectors given – the US financial services online job posting decline should to be in the range of 25-40% vs May 2019.
Over the same time period, other countries around the world registered a fall in online job postings as well, although the extent of the decline depends heavily on the work-from-home potential of the jobs.
Job postings trends have generally declined more in countries where a higher share of employment was in occupations with lower work-from-home potential, such as hospitality, tourism, retail and personal care services.
New postings in the US — those on Indeed for a week or less — were down 35% for the same time period. On the bright side (as you can see in the chart below), it is a big improvement vs. 1st May, when new postings were 45% below last year’s trend. That said, the trend in new postings is more volatile than that of all postings.
8 Job Hunting Tips & Strategies During This Pandemic Lockdown
It’s fair to say that the average finance job search in 2020 will take longer than 2018. While there may be a shorter-than-average time-to-hire for those companies that are recruiting temporary and/or part-time staff to meet pandemic-specific demands, most companies will experience a slower hiring process over the next several months.
However, there are initial signs that things are slowly picking up as the world’s economy tries to reopen, although many employers would probably exercise more caution during this unprecedented times.
If you’re looking for a finance job now, here are 8 useful tips to bear in mind in during your job search:
#1. Manage Your Job Search Expectations to the New Normal
When looking for a new job, this means that we have to:
- Be patient with the longer lead times from job applications. But that doesn’t mean you forget to follow up after 1-2 weeks.
- Be prepared to work remotely, and have the setup and equipment to do so. Having a separate room where you can close the door to work or have video interviews quietly is extremely helpful.
- Be mindful of work life separation for productive work sessions. This can be especially hard if you have a family with young children, so try to ensure you can manage this flexibly around childcare.
- Remember that our job is to look for a job. It can be challenging to look for a job whilst still working for another (but it is a good place to be), or tempting to chill and play video games instead in your spare time. Which brings me to the next point…
#2. Start Now. Be Organized. Spend Your Time Wisely.
- Start your job search now: You know a recession is coming. You know the job search lead times are longer. While it is really tempting to use this lockdown “downtime” (for some of us) to relax, things may not look so rosy a few months down the line and it is best to start practicing your interview skills and reach out to all potential leads, now.
- Organization is key: Use a spreadsheet to track your job hunting progress, so you can keep tabs with follow up timeframes, who you’ve applied to, etc. This will pay dividends down the line as you can update and tweak your approach as you progress and receive feedback about the market.
- Spend your time wisely: The pandemic affects us all differently. It can be difficult to see other friends or family members chilling during this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime worldwide lockdown, when you have to double the workload with work, family and job hunting commitments. While it is necessary to set aside some time for yourself for mental health during such crazy times, if looking for a new job is a serious goal, it could be an advantageous time to zig when everyone else zags.
#3. Update Your CV and Cover Letter
Remember to save a master version of each, as you would need to tailor to individual applications (or industry).
Here’s a few helpful guides we’ve written on updating your CV:
- How to Correctly Display Your CFA Program Status On Your Resume
- How to Write a Killer Resume That Gets You Hired
- Or if time is tight, leave it to a professional CV writing company like Topresume – Mike has personally paid and used this company’s service and found it useful.
#4. Enhance Your Digital Presence
This means that, it is time to:
- Update your LinkedIn profile to make sure it is aligned with your CV and your CFA status is done correctly. Consider an updated professional photo of yourself too, and request for skill recommendations that you would like to highlight to potential employers and recruiters.
- Clean up your other social media pages, basically removing anything you don’t want a potential employer to see. A simpler move may be to adjust your privacy settings to make everything private.
#5. Search For Jobs Effectively
Given such extraordinary times, here are a few recommendations to improve the effectiveness of your job search (in order of priority):
- Prioritize recently posted roles: It may sound obvious, but do pay particular attention to jobs posted after mid March, as a sign that there is a role to be filled currently. Job ads posted earlier than that may no longer be valid or are delayed, so it is worth double checking with the company whether it is still active before you spend time with the application.
- Diversify your search sources: After you’ve gone through the typical online job sites of your preferred industry and LinkedIn, it is worth considering directly checking a particular company’s website to send a direct application. It may be that there are more up-to-date information and job listings there, given the chaos human resources departments are experiencing right now. Networking online is also a great, alternative source (see Step #6) to do concurrently.
- Be more open about your ideal job: In this less-than-ideal world situation, it may pay off to be more open-minded about the industry, job type and/or contract length. For example, let’s say ideally you would like to apply for permanent equity research roles in top-tier investment banks covering the pharmaceutical sector. But in an extreme case, if an opportunity appears for an investor relations role of a large, listed pharmaceutical company on a contract basis, it could be a great career path to explore at this stage, as it is a useful experience to add on your resume/CV when you revert to your preferred career path job search later on. Having a job (and income) in the current climate is always better than unemployment.
- Consider alternative jobs if things are difficult: If you’re currently unemployed, or if financial situation is tough, it is worth considering alternative jobs altogether as a stop-gap measure. Whether it is part time work, contracting, supermarket or delivery jobs (assuming it is safe for you to do so) – every little helps in alleviating the money stress and it does show resilience during such difficult times.
#6. Embrace Online Networking
The good news is:
- it is not too different from ‘normal’ networking, it’s just that any coffee meetups will be done virtually;
- it is a matter of practice and getting used to this new medium of communicating;
- your contact may be quite keen for a chat for after being locked down for so long anyway, which may make things less awkward and more fun.
To do this, start by looking at your first and second degree connections on LinkedIn, prioritizing those who currently or previously worked in the industry or company you’re keen on. Then, reach out – via email, InMail message, text or a call – to the person to touch base for advice (more networking tips here).
Another strategy worth executing concurrently is to personally seek out the hiring manager of a particular company on LinkedIn for opportunities in your area of interest – they are more likely to respond to a direct message. Don’t forget to follow up after a week or two, and if there aren’t any suitable roles at present., do ask them on tentative dates of future hiring plans so you can follow up again soon.
#7. Master Telephone & Video Interviews
On the other hand, video interviews are probably something rather new. Sure, you’ve had video conference calls before, but it’s probably not for such a long time with you as the primary focus, so there is a little bit of pressure there to get used to.
Here’s what I recommend for video interview preparations:
- Control your environment: aside from the usual job interview preparations, now you have the added challenge of preparing the right space within your home for this important meeting. Find a quiet, clutter-free and well-lit space in your home, preferably a room which you can close the door and focus.
- Download and test video call software beforehand: Download the latest versions of any software you need ahead of time and test the equipment with a friend to ensure your lighting, audio volume, and the positioning of your camera is perfect. Make sure your internet connection is working smoothly beforehand too.
- Have a backup plan: In case there is a technical issue, share your contact details before the interview or meeting as a Plan B. That way, you can swiftly rearrange or move to a telephone call – and continue the interview calmly without panicking!
- Most importantly, treat it like an in-person interview: This is probably my pet peeve, but the same rules apply for a video interview as they would during a face-to-face interview. This means:
- Dress appropriately (including your bottom half!) as if you’re physically at the company’s office.
- You still need to connect with the interviewers, even though they are not in the same room as you. Be mindful of your tone, mannerisms and “eye contact” through the monitor. Start by asking them how they are doing, we are all experiencing difficult times after all!
- Prepare some real questions to ask during the interview. Questions around the company’s response to COVID-19, or how it impacts them and the industry is a good example, as it shows your concern about the stability of the company and are evaluating them as a potential employer seriously as well.
- Ask about suitable follow up timing and when you expect to hear back before the interview ends. In absence of that information, I would check in once every 2 weeks.
#8. Upgrade Your Skills
If you find yourself having some spare time during this lockdown period, after covering your job search/work/family/life commitments, it is time to consider whether you can upgrade your skillsets and qualifications.
Here are a few useful qualifications to consider besides the CFA exams:
- Top 10 Alternative Online Courses To Complete During This Lockdown
- CFA Investment Foundations Certificate: A Beginner’s Guide
- IMC (Investment Management Certificate): A Beginner’s Guide
- CAIA (Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst): A Beginner’s Guide
- FRM (Financial Risk Manager): A Beginner’s Guide