We called on two recruitment specialists to discuss the impact COVID-19 will have on jobs and salaries and how you can up your chances to secure your ideal position.
The impact of COVID-19, together with being downgraded to junk status by Moody’s, has caused a significant negative impact on the South African economy. National treasury predicts that between three million and five million jobs will be lost. As part of SAICA’s ‘Leadership in a Time of Crisis’ webinar series, David Mitchell, the Jobs Guru and managing partner of OI Global Partners for Southern Africa, and Megan Prosser, Manager Financial Services at Robert Walters South Africa, shared insight on how you can stand out, be visible and get noticed in order to significantly improve your chances of getting that ideal job.
A competitive market
‘Unfortunately, we know business confidence is down, and we are seeing circa 70% fewer roles being posted than would be expected at this time of year,’ says Prosser, who puts this down to companies shifting from a growth strategy to survival strategy.
What this means practically for job seekers is that the market is going to become more competitive and to secure the role you want, you have to really be on top of your game.
Mitchell, however, believes that a well-planned job search campaign can help you find the job you are looking for. ‘Currently we are seeing many people who have lost their jobs go into panic mode, update their CV and shoot it into the market,’ he says. ‘You need to rather develop a planned approach, know exactly what you want to do next, understand your own capabilities and competencies, and make sure you are responding to the right adverts.’
For Mitchell, it is essential that your CV be aligned with the particular job you are applying to, even if that means having many different CVs. And just as important is being prepared for the interview. ‘You only get one chance, so you need to understand the company, research their recent performance, their strategic direction, and the role and requirements for the role,’ he says. ‘Think about the questions that could be asked and prepare answers for those,’ he advises. ‘A good candidate should be able to predict about 95% of answers, and if you have prepared your answers you will come across really well.’
The truth about salaries
In real terms, salary increases year-on-year are between 2% and 6%, according to Prosser, who says that even before COVID-19, recruiters were not predicting massive increases in salaries. ‘Unfortunately, now we are seeing salary cuts, or at the very least, bonus cuts,’ she says. If you are battling with the question of whether to stick it out or look outside to another company, Prosser suggests speaking to an experienced consultant, as they can help you hash out some of those ideas.
On the important question of whether to lower your salary expectations, Prosser’s overall advice is that if you are looking to move, can manage on your current salary, and really want that job, consider a flat move. ‘Don’t let some idea of what a suitable increase is stop you in this market,’ she says. ‘That’s not to say don’t look for an increase but know your “walk-away” point going into negotiations.’
Which industries are best and worst affected?
Prosser believes that in the short term, we will see the following industries surviving and thriving: pharmaceuticals, healthcare, e-commerce, logistics, hedge funds, asset management, telecoms, online education, online training, and corporate finance firms that deal with distressed debt and business rescue. ‘These are the kinds of places I would be looking to if I was searching for a job,’ she says, while also reminding us that larger firms with bigger balance sheets are less likely to make cuts.
Industries that are struggling are of course hospitality, hotels, online hotel booking services, restaurants, leisure, beauty, luxury goods, property, manufacturing, construction and infrastructure. ‘That’s not to say you should avoid these industries as a blanket rule or that you should be worried if you are working in them, as each company is different,’ she says.
In terms of social media, LinkedIn, being the single biggest global marketplace for job seekers and recruiters to meet, is the most appropriate medium for job seekers. ‘If your profile is visible, up to date and you indicate you are looking for new opportunities, there is a good chance you will be found,’ says Mitchell. He adds that a 100% complete profile is rated much higher on searches, so it is essential to work on and complete yours.
‘You also need to build your network in the sector you are interested in, so join groups, network with individuals, follow companies and so on,’ he says. ‘You can indicate you are looking for a job but don’t put your CV up, as recruiters will find you. When they do, rather ask for a description of the role they want to fill and then tailor your CV for that role.’
Finding your why
‘I strongly believe the people who follow their passion and real interests are the most successful in life,’ says Mitchell. ‘For them, work becomes pleasure and not a day-to-day slog.’
Based on this belief, he advises you really think hard about where you want to work and what roles you are interested in and then develop your skills base in order to align yourself with this vision. ‘It’s all about uncovering and understanding what you’re interested in and passionate about,’ he says.
What does the future look like for finance professionals?
As the world changes, so the recruitment industry looks for disruptive thinkers. ‘We are always looking for someone who brings new ideas and who can influence others to listen to those ideas,’ says Prosser. ‘That said, you also need to be able to bounce back and go with someone else’s ideas if yours aren’t picked.’
Prosser says recruiters also test to see if candidates are following future trends. ‘Are you constantly trying to improve your technical skills and thinking about what your job will look like in 10 years’ time?’ she asks. ‘We can all remember the beginning of the Internet, where are you going to be when the next massive shift comes?”
For Prosser, it comes down to having a curious mind. ‘Make time in your life to read, upskill yourself and be curious,’ she says. ‘If you are open to what is coming, you will be able to call on examples in an interview that show you are a thinking member of society, and that is what will really give you the edge.’