What your chances are of getting a job during a pandemic – and how university graduates can adapt

Portrait of a group of students on graduation day
Portrait of a group of students on graduation day
People Images/Getty Images
  • There have been a lot of changes to the job market and to the way employees are recruited that few could have predicted.
  • Some firms have stopped recruiting while others are hiring those with skills critical to their business.
  • As the market gradually reopens, job seekers should stand ready and continue using the resources at their disposal.

Many entry-level jobs don’t allow for virtual recruiting or for employees to work from home. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed a lot, including the state of the job market, with many homes in crisis as workers are retrenched.

This is a scary time for graduates who’d long hoped their new qualification would help them land jobs in their desired field. It’s even scarier for those graduating with qualifications in sectors hard-hit by the pandemic, like the tourism industry.

DRUM speaks to graduate recruiter and social entrepreneur Buhle Mbele about the state of recruiting during the pandemic and how graduates can best adapt.

This is new for everyone, recruiters and job seekers alike. “We’ve had to be agile and think about how to go about recruiting during this time in a virtual playfield. How we can attract young talent using the resources we have. This is the same for recent graduates. A lot has changed but a lot has stayed the same as it’s business as usual in some firms, not only nationally but on a global scale,” she says.

Read more | 8 tips that will help you ace your next job interview


“As a graduate or job seeker you need to understand the market you’re entering,” Mbele says. “Ask yourself: ‘Is this considered a critical skill or occupation, or am I going into a role that’s been put on hold?’ 

“I always encourage young graduates to prepare for the worst-case scenario. This is certainly the worst one, even more so because it’s on a global scale,” Mbele continues.

“Last year, recruitment was mainly dictated by graduates and driven by their qualifications. This left many of them with two or three options for jobs they could start their careers in. Now the roles are reversed, and the recruiters have some sort of upper hand. Graduates have to settle for just one offer, for the sake of employment.

“This pandemic has forced us to rethink the way we do things. Gone are the days of dropping off your CV and leaving it at reception. As it is now, it must always be ready and concise, detailing who you are, the experience you have and a motivational letter. It’s also a good time to get on LinkedIn if you aren’t already on it, and make sure it looks professional. This is a huge resource as many organisations scout on this site, looking to hire people just getting into the corporate world and who they can cultivate.”

Read more | 4 ways to get your CV perfect for your next job application


“This is a really good opportunity and time for recent graduates and those in the job market to do their research and see what is on the market, what else is out there and also how you as an individual can better yourself to be suited for those roles,” Mbele says.

“If your desired field is hiring, don’t put it off. For many it’s business as usual, so go for it. This may not be the case for all graduates, and others need to use this time to do the groundwork. Prepare your CV, read up on interview tips, do some interview roleplaying and start envisioning yourself in the spaces you want to be in.

“Another key resource could be using this time to find people in your field you can have open and honest conversations with. They are the ones who will provide insight and can help suss out what you see in the news and provide you with information of what’s really happening in the market.”

Read more | 5 ways to make your side hustle work for you

Salary expectations

“When it comes to salaries, it’s important to do your research, see what the market is offering and do your math,” Mbele says. “It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into. The basic rules still apply, don’t bring up the question of how much a job is offering, ask for one that is market related, give it a range and know that the organisation may go anywhere on the scale. Even at a time like this, I’m against people short-changing themselves or putting themselves at a disadvantage.”


‘Know your worth, know how to speak up for yourself. You will appreciate yourself for it. You know what you bring to the table – be realistic with your terms’


Mbele believes many careers are going to be born from this pandemic. “There are seeds being planted, foundations being laid – use that as fuel to stay positivity. Most importantly, when doing all of this, make space for the opportunities,” she adds.

“One thing to also keep in mind is that rejection is still a part of this process. The first interview might not land you the job – even though this is not always the case – this doesn’t mean it won’t work on your next attempt. Do each interview to the best of your ability and stay true to your authentic self. If anything, try to take each interview as a blessing as it puts you one step closer,” Mbele advises.

“If possible, always try to ask for feedback and where you might have gone wrong – this will help you prepare for the next interview. It’s really all in the small things. Time and time again, try to go in there with a positive attitude. As long as it’s critical and well-articulated feedback, work on it and decide how you’re going to play it next time.”

Buhle says that even during a pandemic it’s important to know that “there is always hope and that small acts create big opportunities”.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24