Toronto marketing manager Teresa Harris was devastated when she was let go from her job in late March. The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on her company’s revenue resulted in the layoff of all but one member of her marketing team, along with members of the sales staff. “It was a dream job for me,” she says. “It was definitely a blow.”
Ms. Harris is one of thousands of Canadians who were laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she didn’t stay down for long. “I’m a very pro-active person, partially fuelled by anxiety,” she says. “I am more comfortable doing rather than sitting back and waiting to see what happens.”
So Ms. Harris jumped into action, brushing up her résumé and cover letter. She applied to six openings on her first day of job hunting and has already heard back from one company. “I was pleasantly surprised by the opportunities that are still out there, but it’s certainly less than usual,” Ms. Harris says.
While the uncertainty of the pandemic has resulted in some companies freezing hiring and rescinding prior job offers, there are still many companies actively recruiting new candidates, according to Toronto career coach Peter Caven. “There are other areas that have not been significantly affected as yet,” Mr. Caven says. “There are some areas where they’re hiring aggressively, like the delivery world.”
Mr. Caven says that some of his clients, who are mostly recent graduates and young professionals, are still getting interviews within the banking sector as well. “Many large organizations have not yet been as adversely affected,” he explains.
While accounting software company FreshBooks has just fewer than 400 employees, it’s hiring for 30 roles at its Toronto headquarters. Roles span across different departments including sales, product development and general administration.
With social distancing in place, FreshBooks has shifted to a fully remote hiring process. “We already have the capability to interview applicants remotely because we have remote locations in Amsterdam and in Raleigh [N.C.],” says Sue DiPoce, chief people officer at FreshBooks.
After a screening phone call, candidates now go through three video interviews, typically with a hiring manager, a potential peer and one of the company’s co-founders. This is all in place of in-person meetings. “It actually speeds up the hiring process by a few days,” Ms. DiPoce says. “Logistically, it’s easier for someone to get on a phone or Zoom than it is for them to find time to come in.”
Ms. DiPoce say there has been a higher rate of interest in open roles at FreshBooks. “We are looking at more applicants,” she says. “In terms of the tech sector, there have been a lot of companies that have been strongly impacted [by layoffs].”
Mr. Caven says that applicants should be prepared for greater competition. “The current situation requires that you have an A-double-plus résumé and that your LinkedIn profile be A-double-plus,” he says. “You don’t have the ability to make a personal impact so people are going to revert to secondary sources.”
With a heavy reliance on video interviewing, Mr. Caven advises job seekers to optimize their setup in advance. “Have the camera at eye level,” he says. “Put your laptop on a pile of books or something. You don't want people looking up your nose.”
If available, Mr. Caven also advises using a better camera and microphone than what comes with your laptop. “Have your notes, or whatever you need for the interview, attached to the side of the screen so that you can see them without having to look down.”
For phone interviews, Mr. Caven suggests the use of an external headset. He also says that some job seekers benefit from standing up while talking on the phone to feel more animated and confident. “Just make sure you don't wander too far because you can lose the signal,” says Mr. Caven.
Ms. DiPoce says applicants shouldn’t be afraid to follow up after an interview or submitting an application. “A lot of people don’t want to be a pest,” she says, but a follow-up after a week is appropriate. “I think five days to a week is absolutely fair.”
In her recent applications, Ms. Harris has reached out to hiring managers on LinkedIn to let them know of her interest. “One person said they'd be pushing my application forward,” she says.
Ms. Harris has also used LinkedIn and Facebook to share her personal experience and the impact of being let go, alerting her network to her new job search. “The number of leads I’ve gotten [through LinkedIn] is incredible,” she says.
While Ms. Harris admits she is feeling a bit worried about her job prospects, she calls herself a “relentless optimist."
“I’ve been trying to stay positive and pro-active, which I find is a really good way to cope,” she says.
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