In an unprecedented year where labour market statistics reflect employment levels falling, unemployment levels rising and fewer jobs available in the market, there have inevitably been an unparalleled set of challenges for candidates seeking opportunities.
With competition being high, not to mention new potential ways of having to look for roles and adapt to new recruitment processes, there is much advice out there offering tips and support on how to land that perfect job.
For this article, VWA has revisited and reflected on the journeys of Lauren, Jo, Ollie and Nathalie who are candidates VWA supported and placed in the pandemic and who have kindly shared their insights in overcoming the challenges, and some ‘candidate to candidate’ advice.
"Take time to research the industry and learn as much as you can... the hard work pays off at the interview stage." - Ollie
Focus in on your Search
Meet Ollie – a 2019 Economics Graduate who joined an Investment Management firm as a Client Services Associate within the Operations team. Having graduated pre-pandemic, Ollie was taking a year out and started fulling focusing on his search in April of 2020 – at a time where he was also up against the class of 2020, and competition was particularly fierce. His biggest challenge was to ‘identify an industry and job and really hone in on it’. Ollie networked with friends and family he knew in the investment management space and utilised LinkedIn to connect with relevant individuals in the industry, asking questions and exploring further to ensure he was going to be suited to roles he was interested in – ultimately this enabled him to really focus on his search.
Given the market, it is naturally tempting to apply for any and every role available, however being selective up to a point will give you the time to really concentrate on the roles you have a genuine interest in and to make quality applications.
Meet Jo, an Executive Assistant who secured a 1-year contract with a boutique investment firm. In her approach she says she ‘stayed picky – you feel you can’t be picky but if you apply for something you are not interested in it will come across’.
Also meet Nathalie, whose background was in Travel Coordination. She was looking to make the change to a PA/Officer Manager position, when applying for roles, she commented ‘I also tried the (what I now know is called) “Spray & Pray” approach - firing out hundreds of applications in a desperate Redbull-infused frenzy after a horrible day at my old job - and with hindsight, one relationship with a good agency - incidentally, that was VWA - got me much further much quicker than those hundreds of applications.’
"Find a consultant who takes the time to get to know your background and what you are looking for. Be super prepared for your interview with a list of questions/ answers. Try not to let it get you down if you miss out on a job you really wanted. A better one will likely be around the corner!" - Lauren
Being open in communication and building a strong working relationship with a consultancy has proved to be invaluable for many candidates.
Meet Lauren - An Executive Assistant who was a returning candidate to VWA and joined a boutique PE firm. Lauren commented ‘My Consultant placed me in a previous role so she knew my background very well. We spoke frequently during my job search and when I was actively interviewing, we were constantly exchanging feedback at every step of the process. Lauren went on to say ‘on top of the standard job-description, the consultant’s ability to provide additional insights into the company, culture and their expectations was exceptional.’
In her search, Lauren continued to follow up on every opportunity and built up relationships with key consultants. She said ‘their feedback and insights into what they were seeing gave me comfort that employers were still hiring, albeit on a smaller scale’.
Nathalie felt that by having conversations getting to know her and her search ‘really helped, and meant that I wouldn't be confronted with interviews for jobs that I wouldn't really want’.
Ollie saw staying in touch and communicating with his consultant throughout the process as a real opportunity to demonstrate how ‘passionate’ he was about the role and ensured he stayed ‘attentive and listened’ to the advice given.
"It´s a cliché but: don´t rush it, it doesn´t happen overnight." - Nathalie
Feedback in a Process
At VWA all candidates are prepped fully prior to interviews again adding another layer to focusing in on the role, company and industry. For Jo it gave her ‘confidence at time when so any people were going for the roles’ and it felt like she wasn’t alone in her search for a job.
Open feedback following the various stages of interviewing when working with a Consultancy has always been key to any success in a search. For Nathalie this support proved ‘invaluable’ and for Ollie the briefing and discussing feedback after each interview stage certainly provided the added value in his search and also for him to demonstrate how passionate he was about the opportunity.
"Don´t give up. Don´t apply for everything - only apply for roles you want. It´s hard out there, stay positive and be prepared for the virtual interviews - then nerves won´t be too bad and remember: everyone is in the same boat with virtual interviews." - Jo
As a Consultant and Recruiter of many years, it was hard to ever image a time where an entire interview process would take place virtually – but this year saw that all change! Candidates and clients alike had to adapt quickly and found themselves navigating their way through Zoom, MS Teams and/ or other web-based packages.
While initially this new way of interviewing may have felt daunting there were some definite positives – time and cost efficiency being one and as Lauren commented ‘in-person interviews can take up a lot of time and money when you are travelling back and forth to various offices. All of my interviews were conducted via VC - the process was incredibly time-efficient!’
When Nathalie was in an existing role, ‘it definitely made it easier when trying to fit in an interview’ and for Jo and Ollie the pros were that they were in their ‘own space’ and which really helped.
There is always the risk of a technical glitch or connection problems with a VC, which can add to nerves. Although it sounds obvious the candidates always ensured they were in a quiet room with no distraction, dressed as they would for an in-person interview and made sure they left plenty of time to set up prior to the call.
In this virtual way of meeting it can also sometimes be difficult to gauge interviewer reactions, body language and facial expressions cannot always be seen as they would in person. Jo also felt that ‘not meeting in person you miss on the initial ‘pleasantries’ – I would make a point of making ‘small talk’ at the beginning to get my personality across’.
Prep Prep Prep
With fewer roles in the market and higher numbers of candidates looking for opportunities the competition and pressure is high. Once securing an interview, a common theme overcoming this challenge for all our candidates was doing plenty of research and preparation.
Nathalie usually prepped a couple of hours at least a day in the days before her interview, and Lauren always ensured she researched the company and had a list of prepared questions she wanted to ask. Ollie also focused spending time on the industry and relevant sub-sectors, learning as much as he could so that his knowledge on interview was strong.
By Manjinder Kang