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COVID-19

Is it worth applying for a job right now?

Jana Kasperkevic Apr 20, 2020
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Last week, another 5.2 million Americans filed for unemployment — about 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last four weeks. Taking into account contractors, new graduates and others who might not be eligible for unemployment, the numbers could be even worse.

To help make sense of a never-before-seen labor market, we’ve tried to answer all the hiring and firing questions you might have but are too afraid to ask.

Is anyone hiring? Is it even worth applying for a job right now?

With millions of people applying for unemployment and millions more being ordered to work from home, it might feel like there are no jobs out there. A recent Gallup poll conducted from March 30 to April 2 found that 40% of workers said their employer has frozen hiring and 33% said their employers cut hours. Considering all this, should you be looking for jobs right now? 

“Yes, there are opportunities out there for those on the job hunt and it is still worthwhile to stick to your search,” said Alison Sullivan, Glassdoor career expert. “You may have to adjust aspects of your job search as things change during the coronavirus outbreak. For instance, the types of opportunities and abundance of them will look different, depending on the industry you’re in.”

Job seekers could use this time to do research and identify industries and companies that are currently hiring, customize their application materials and proof read everything carefully. “Also, don’t forget to tap into or build your professional network. Even if you haven’t found the right job, signaling you’re looking can help you find opportunities in the future,” she said. 

According to LinkedIn, some of the most in-demand jobs right include store associate, health care specialist, warehouse manager and delivery diver. However, many of these jobs require in-person attendance and for workers to interact with others throughout the day. Considering the risks of contagion, people who can afford to stay at home might decide to put off their job search for the time being. 

If however you can’t put off your search, LinkedIn reports that companies with most open jobs in the U.S. include Army National Guard, Amazon, Lowe’s HCA Healthcare and Whole Foods. Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, suggests looking at these large companies as well as others like Walmart and CVS, who have said they would hire thousands more workers. 

“This is in response to the rush of pantry building and purchases of cleaning and sanitizing products, among others, by consumers as they reacted to the unfolding coronavirus crisis,” he explained. “There’s been some scaling up of health care/medical staffing as well for obvious reasons.”

I am not laid off or furloughed but I don’t like my job. Should I use this time at home to look for other jobs? 

“If you feel ready for a new job, it never hurts to be on the lookout,” advised Sullivan. But she also notes that “because today’s hiring landscape is shifting, you shouldn’t leave a current role until you’ve secured another job.”

In addition to not quitting your job before finding a new one, make sure your dissatisfaction isn’t affecting your current output as that could put you at risk of losing your job at a time of high unemployment, Hamrick said. 

Many employees at my job were furloughed. Will everyone be hired back? 

A furlough is an unpaid leave. With shelter-in-place orders in effect in many states, companies have furloughed their workers rather than laying them off. Unlike laid off workers, furloughed workers remain on the company’s payroll and are expected to return to work as soon as the company has enough work for them again. Or, in this case, as soon as offices are able to open again. We don’t know yet whether all furloughed employees will be brought back.

“Many employees who have been furloughed will have opportunities to return to work,” said Hamrick. “It remains to be seen how long-lasting damage to the economy will persist helping to dictate future levels of unemployment and, conversely, employment.”

Wouldn’t this be the perfect scenario for companies to get rid of bad workers? 

Bad performers are likely to be the first to be let go — but that’s true at any time, not just during a pandemic.  

“If someone is a poor performer and demonstrably so, they were probably at risk of losing their job before the crisis emerged,” said Hamrick. “Certainly, if a firm has experienced a decline in revenues and needs to shrink its workforce, poor performers are at increased risk of being let go.” 

My company ignored social distancing recommendations. What should I do? 

If you are worried about getting sick at work, you are not the only one. According to Indeed, the number of people concerned about contracting COVID-19 at work rose from 46% to 53%. Sullivan recommended discussing the situation with your manager.

“Doing what you can to prioritize your personal health and safety is the best thing to do,” she said. “Good options to consider include speaking with your managers about working from home or ensuring you have protective masks and coverings that adhere to current health policy guidelines.”

A majority of states have ordered non-essential workers to stay home. A poll of workers conducted by Gallup from March 30 to April 2, found that 57% of workers have been offered flex time or remote work options. This could have a lasting effect on the way we work long after the quarantine is over. Three in five U.S. workers who have shifted to working remotely during the pandemic would like to keep working from home after it is over. Just 41% would like to return to their office and work as they did before the virus.

Is it appropriate to ask how a company handled COVID-19 in a job interview? 

You might’ve seen a version of this tweet going around: a candidate at a job interview asking the interviewer about the precautions their company took to protect their workers and how it handled the COVID-19 pandemic. The American workforce is unlikely to forget what happened to them during this crisis — whether it be being laid off, furloughed, having their hours cut or asked to keep working and potentially expose themselves to COVID-19. As such, it’s not unreasonable that they might want to know how their employers plan to handle a similar situation in the future. 

 “For years, we’ve seen that many employees and job seekers want to work for companies that prioritize workplace culture and that have great leaders,” said Sullivan. “Actions in a time of crisis can speak volumes. Companies should be prepared for this question or expect that candidates have done their research on how a company responded to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Candidates who plan to discuss this in their interviews should think about the best way to approach this, warned Hamrick. 

“I’d be careful about putting an interviewer on the defensive about the handling of the coronavirus outbreak,” he explained. “At the same time, it would be reasonable to explore how things have changed, including how managers and workers have adapted as well as considerations for the future with respect to securing worker safety.”

How do you network while social distancing? 

“Thanks to technology, there are still avenues to network and expand your professional network while hunkered down at home,” said Sullivan.

“Many professional organizations offer virtual events or happy hours, which can help you connect with peers and fine-tune your video communication skills. Plus, there are plenty of ways to meet and make new career connections via professional networking platforms. A new professional acquaintance may be more open to email correspondences or a virtual coffee or drink during a time when many are craving social interaction and have a more open calendar.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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