In today’s world, jobseekers are greeted with a virtual handshake over Zoom, instead of the usual face-to-face interview.

This new virtual experience can be daunting for both jobseekers and employers, so we asked the recruitment experts how best to deal with the challenges that arise.

What challenges are facing employers? 

Ten months ago, the recruitment market was facing a significant skills shortage in areas such as technology, specialist finance and analytics.

Fast forward to the end of the year, and there has been a significant shift in the balance between available jobs and available candidates, as Kieran McKeown, Managing Director of Matrix Recruitment explained.

Kieran McKeown, Managing Director of Matrix Recruitment

“The challenges being faced by employers as a result of the pandemic are very far removed from those they were facing at the start of the year.”

While the number of people searching for jobs has increased significantly, Mr McKeown said attracting the right candidates is still a challenge.

“Many employees who feel reasonably secure in their jobs are reticent when it comes to actively seeking new roles in an otherwise turbulent employment market,” he said.

With in-person interviews being avoided during lockdown, employers have been forced to use online platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to virtually meet candidates.

This presents a whole range of challenges, as Mr McKeown explained.

“Barriers such as internet connection problems, delays in transmission timings and difficulties in building rapport, have all made for a tricky recruitment process,” he said.

However, Mr McKeown believes the shift to virtual recruitment has resulted in some positive changes, and has helped many companies innovate and modernise their recruitment processes.

“We have all had to come to terms with the new remote-working reality, and employers now need to come to terms with the online recruitment process – it is about being able to adapt,” he said.

How can jobseekers stand out from the crowd? 

Employers will be faced with a huge volume of applicants for all vacant roles at the moment – especially jobs with a remote element.

As a result, candidates will need to work harder than ever to make a good first impression.

According to Karen O’Reilly, Founder of recruitment firm EmployFlex, jobseekers should perfect their CV and make sure it is updated.

“The CV is still the most important marketing tool and will be the reason why you land an interview – or don’t land an interview,” she said.

Karen O’Reilly, Founder of recruitment firm EmployFlex

“Ensure your CV portrays you in your best light and always remember that recruiters and hiring managers will only scan your CV for a few seconds.”

“If your pertinent experience for a particular role is not highlighted up front of your CV, you risk being thrown on the rejection pile,” she said.

If you haven’t got a LinkedIn account, Ms O’Reilly said she would advise all jobseekers to set one up.

“Let people know you are seeking a new role by adding the ‘Open to Work’ badge on your profile, so that everyone in your network knows you are available for work,” she suggested.

While it can be challenging to network during lockdown, Ms O’Reilly said it is possible if you use social media cleverly.

“Use social media platforms to connect with people in companies where you would like to work and arrange a virtual coffee meeting where possible.”

“There is no shame is stating you are seeking employment – everyone has been there at some stage.”

“Irish people are the best networkers in the world and in general, will try to help, but you have to ask first,” she said.

The types of job opportunities available have changed 

While the pandemic has changed the way employers interview and recruit new candidates, it has also led to a complete upheaval in the make-up of the jobs sector.

According to Kieran McKeown of Matrix Recruitment, jobseekers should be open to contract and temporary roles.

“This time last year our books were full of permanent roles.”

“Now, we have far fewer permanent roles to fill and a rapidly increasing number of temporary and contract positions.”

“We also have a very high number of skilled candidates looking for jobs, many of whom are faced with the frustration of there being so few permanent posts available,” he said.

Matrix Recruitment has seen a 61% drop in the number of permanent job positions on offer compared to this time last year.

“Many companies can’t and won’t commit to hiring permanent staff, such is the uncertainty of the market right now, which is understandable.”

“While that may seem precarious to jobseekers, there are other exciting opportunities out there in the contracting world – they just need to be open to them,” said Mr McKeown.

Got the job? Now, how do you settle in? 

If onboarding is not executed correctly, there is a risk that companies will lose high quality talent to a competitor, according to Karen O’Reilly of EmployFlex.

“This is a desperate waste of time, money and resources.”

“We have seen this a few times, where companies assume that a person is happy at their remote desk but in fact, they feel isolated, out of touch and not part of any team.”

“It is so important to invest in a robust two-way onboarding system that makes someone feel warm and fuzzy and invested in the company culture,” she said.

How to get noticed as a new employee 

For some employees that have started new roles since the pandemic hit, career progression is proving to be an issue.

Kieran McKeown of Matrix Recruitment, said it is likely that new staff members who are remote working will have to work twice as hard just to get noticed.

“Learning from senior staff, picking up tips, the nuances of client engagement are all important development skills that are difficult to learn on Zoom.”

“In the professional services industry, there is no substitute for ‘shadow learning’ and this can only be fulfilled properly in a workplace environment,” he said.

How do employers deal with redundancies during a pandemic?

Unfortunately, many businesses have had to let staff go over the past few months.

Some employers have met with employees virtually, while other have opted for face-to-face meetings where possible.

According to Mr McKeown, there is no one size fits all approach.

“It really has been and continues to be a tumultuous year for most businesses in Ireland.”

“I can only encourage those in the unfortunate position of having lost their jobs, to take the first step and get in touch with a recruitment expert, even if you feel your jobs prospects are low.”

“You’d be amazed at the transferable skills gained from different industries and an expert can help you figure out the best route for you,” he said.