How Graduates Can Get Hired During the Coronavirus Pandemic | Top Universities

How Graduates Can Get Hired During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Chloe Lane

Updated Updated

Final-year students are understandably experiencing a lot of panic and uncertainty when it comes to their employment prospects, as they will be graduating during the coronavirus pandemic. 

We spoke to Graduate Recruitment Bureau co-founder and marketing director, Dan Hawes, to find out what students can do to boost their employment prospects during this time and how the graduate application process is likely to be affected by the crisis.

Are companies hiring graduates now?

Are companies hiring graduates now?

“Unlike during the 2008 financial crisis, companies are still recruiting graduates,” said Hawes. 

Although companies in some sectors, such as hospitality, tourism and leisure, aren’t currently hiring, graduates shouldn’t lose hope. Logistics, health, medicine, and some retailers (particularly online retailers) are booming and are actively looking to recruit graduates. These are the industries graduates should be focusing on applying to.

Hawes said: “Graduates need a proper plan. They need to do more research and try to unearth these companies because they might not be advertising widely”.

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Gaining new skills in lockdown

Using your time in quarantine to your advantage is a great way to get ahead of the game, advised Hawes. He recommended that students complete a SWOT analysis, identifying personal Strengths and Weaknesses, and the Opportunities and Threats in the workplace at the moment. Only then can students have a clear idea of which skills they need to improve. 

“The big question interviewers will ask is ‘What did you do in lockdown?’” said Hawes. “Much like taking a year out, employers will want to know ‘What did you do that’s put you in a better position?’”

What you choose to do will vary from person to person, but you should focus on building your CV. This might be through volunteering or developing your skills in an online course in topics such as Microsoft Excel or SEO. This will show potential employers that you’ve done something constructive with your time. 

“Make sure you have a reason for doing what you’re doing during this time, otherwise it will just look very unfocused,” said Hawes.

Where to look for jobs

Searching for jobs

Other than finding jobs directly on company websites, there are plenty of other places students can look for jobs.

Recruitment agencies

Using recruitment agencies’ job boards, such as the graduate job search on the Graduate Recruitment Bureau's website, is an efficient way to narrow down your job search.


LinkedIn is also a great place to look for jobs, according to Hawes. He advised creating a profile, even if you haven’t got much to put on it. This will mean that when recruiters Google your name, your LinkedIn profile is what will appear first. 

Speculative applications

Hawes revealed: “I’m a big advocate for speculative applications because so many employers don’t advertise. There are just so many companies that go under the radar for students and graduates, so it’s definitely worth doing some research.

 “Go on Google Street View and have a look. You’ll see at the entrance of a business park, there will be a list of all the companies that are based there. 

“Alternatively, you could look at associations and the members within those associations. If you’re looking to get into procurement, for example, go on the CPS website and find the members on there. Then create a spreadsheet, find the decision-makers on LinkedIn, and drop them an email. 

“Follow the same process as you would with a university project: focus on your research, fire out your applications, and then go one step further and give them a call.”

When to apply for jobs

“We always advise graduates to start applying as early as possible,” said Hawes. “Usually big employers have quite rigid timetabling, whereas smaller companies tend to hire all year round.

“It’s a myth that if you don’t have a job by the autumn you’ve missed the boat and have to wait for the next round of recruitment. Even if you get to the autumn and haven’t got anything, keep going – that’ll be the key time.”

While this applies to direct entry jobs, lots of graduate scheme recruiters are choosing to defer recruitment: “Most are postponing, but none have canceled” said Hawes. “We’ve had clients who have had start dates this month and next month and are still honoring them.”

Hawes explained that these graduates had been welcomed to the company online and posted a laptop so they can start working remotely.

When it comes to postponed graduate schemes, Hawes suggested keeping an eye on the companies’ websites, as they will make announcements when the graduate schemes reopen. You should then put together a spreadsheet with the jobs and the dates for applying.

Online Interviews and assessment centers

Woman doing an interview

Most employers are switching their recruitment process online. Before the pandemic, many larger companies were either already beginning to make the switch or considering it. Now it’s crucial that companies have a strong online presence when it comes to recruitment, as many students no longer have the option to attend an in-person interview.

Nearly all interviews, assessment centers, and psychometric tests are now conducted entirely online. This means that firms are able to recruit students and graduates without breaking lockdown rules.

“Students can prepare themselves for this by doing mock online interviews,” said Hawes. “This will help make them more comfortable, as well as making sure that the camera angle’s right and that there are no distractions in the background”. 

Find out how to further prepare for a virtual interview here.

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