Searching for a job is tough enough without a global health crisis bringing everything to a halt.

ABC10 spoke to Jessica Bagger, professor and chair of the management & organizations department at Sacramento State, about the current job market and what industries people should look to if they’re on the job hunt.

This Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

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How does a pandemic affect people’s job prospects?

Obviously, we are expecting an impact from the pandemic on the job market. In addition to actual job numbers being reported, there are predictions about high levels of unemployment as we go through and come out of this pandemic. Only jobs that are essential or that can be performed remotely are still underway. 

Health care and pharmacy, freelance and gig work, financial services, grocery stores, delivery drivers, cloud-based services and technology, and online wellbeing services are in higher demand. Hospitality, airlines and restaurants are on hold and will not be hiring.

Are companies less likely to bring new staff on?

It depends. In times of uncertainty, it’s harder for companies to plan if revenue is down or nonexistent, obviously they can’t hire. At the larger level, we would expect demand for human capital to shift. Non-essential businesses are pausing hiring. Essential businesses pick up their hiring.

Is it common for employers to postpone start dates or rescind job offers during an uncertain time?

It depends on the company. Some companies will go through with offers already given, so they would not be rescinding job offers. This would be more likely the case for our larger companies.

The expectation is that small and medium-sized non-essential businesses are hit harder. If they are closing their doors, they will not be hiring. Especially if their positive cash flow is being hampered. They may be more likely to really hit the brakes on hiring given the uncertainty in the situation.

How does social distancing affect the way interviews are conducted?

Companies that are hiring right now will be using technology. Interviews can be done virtually, either asynchronously (recordings) or synchronously (real time).

Of course, internet providers are being taxed right now because everyone is locked at home using the internet, so the connection isn’t always stable. This could impact the quality of the call, which may impact the perception of the job candidates.

Virtual interviews have limitations. They may introduce bias into the process. For example, recruiters may make judgments about the room the person is sitting in or how they handle technology.

What should an applicant do if they're told a position they were interviewing for is now on hold due to COVID-19?

Everyone is in waiting mode right now. In parallel with waiting to hear from the companies you have applied to, now might be a great time to look for other opportunities within those segments that are hiring – go to your favorite job search platform to see what opportunities are open and available.

I wouldn’t necessarily contact the company’s HR unless you feel that their process is failing right now, and they are not getting back to you the way you would expect. At this point, we can assume that HR for most companies are using their bandwidth to deal with challenges in-house, like setting up workers for virtual work, communicating any crisis information, making sure wages and salaries are being taken care of – all those tasks related to the business impact of the pandemic.

What can job hunters do to stand out among other applicants?

Really understand the position, the company and what they are looking for. What is the vision and the values of the company – are those a great fit for you? Show the company why you would be a great candidate and that you are excited about them as an employer. Highlight what you bring to them that would be valuable to them.

Generally, you should continuously assess personal strength. Make sure your competencies, skills, and abilities stay fresh. If you have free time on your hands right now,pick up a new skill or learn something new -- enroll in a course, read some books, join virtual conversations. Learn that skill that you always wanted to learn.

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