Recruitment or hiring concept with icons of candidates made from paper standing on an open newspaper under a magnifying glass.
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How Covid-19 is impacting recruitment in Ireland

24 Mar 2020

Are there still companies hiring in Ireland? Which sectors should jobseekers look to? We spoke to Donal O’Donoghue of the National Recruitment Federation to learn more.

It feels as though we’re surrounded by news of job insecurity and losses right now as businesses take action in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Some industries are suffering more than others, however there are still some areas where hiring efforts have actually increased.

Shipping and delivery, for example, are areas in need of additional support at the moment. Last week, Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 new full and part-time staff in the US for its fulfilment centres and delivery network.

Glassdoor has said that coronavirus-related job postings in the US have spiked in recent weeks. According to the job posting site, government, biotech, pharma, healthcare and the non-profit sectors have all tripled their hiring efforts in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The top five roles with the most coronavirus-related job openings include registered nurses, communications associates, social workers, project managers and technicians, according to Glassdoor data.

But what’s the situation in Ireland? Last week, the HSE launched a major recruitment drive to boost the ranks of healthcare workers here. Minister for Health Simon Harris, TD, described the recruitment drive as “unprecedented in its scale and speed”.

To learn more about how recruitment in Ireland has been impacted so far across various industries, we spoke to Donal O’Donoghue, president of the National Recruitment Federation and managing director of Sanderson Recruitment.

Donal O'Donoghue is smiling into the camera and a black and white headshot.

Donal O’Donoghue

What does the current landscape look like for recruitment in Ireland?

The labour market has been hit hard over the past week. Tens of thousands of jobs in the hospitality sector were first to feel the impact of Covid-19. The restaurant sector has an estimated 70,000 people unemployed and the pub trade has reported over 50,000 job losses.

The hospitality, childcare and travel sectors have been hit the hardest, given the impossibility to work from home and regulate social distancing. Service sectors including retail, hairdressing, beauty and fitness are predominantly closed, with little scope for the practitioners to offer those services safely.

Further job losses will result on account of businesses forced to close through the need for social distancing, although many businesses are implementing innovative alternatives in a bid to keep their doors open.

Depending on the duration of this pandemic, there will be hiring and recruitment freezes, reduced working hours and implementation of voluntary leave options.

However, in jobs where people can work from home, many business and employees are doing their best to adapt to the new working norm. There have been encouraging signs from many businesses that can facilitate remote working.

This pandemic could be the catalyst to start a remote working revolution, which could see the revitalisation of rural Ireland, less traffic congestion and access to affordable accommodation and housing outside the traditional commuter belts. It certainly highlights the need for a robust and functioning national broadband infrastructure as a key priority.

It feels like we’re surrounded by news of job losses at the moment. Is there anything positive happening?

Sectors such as food retail supply chain, logistics, procurement, healthcare, insurance and insolvency have seen an increase in job vacancies to be filled.

Professional services functions, including accounting, technology, and sales and marketing remain stable. Sectors such as travel, hospitality and aviation have taken a big hit, especially routine operational roles within them.

Which industries can jobseekers look at during this time?

Healthcare, technology, insurance, banking, FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods], pharma and medical devices are all hiring.

We are in a new landscape, where new starters are doing their first day in their new role from home. There are challenges in getting IT equipment such as laptops and phones to new starters. The crisis has created serious demand for IT equipment that facilitates remote working.

We’ve noted that with many firms we’ve spoken to, candidate nervousness about accepting a new permanent role in the current climate is a more pressing issue than the number of job vacancies on the market.

Do you think this will last for the next while or will recruitment taper off?

It is difficult to forecast in unprecedented times, but economic activity will have to continue in this new normal of social distancing.

We are encouraged by some sectors which have pressed ahead and continued to recruit and onboard new employees remotely.

Do you have any tips for people job hunting right now?

People who have held down a job have core skills they are not even aware of, like customer service, dealing with telephone enquiries, with money, with technology, schedules and paperwork, for example.

They need to analyse what their work experience to date has entailed and pull out absolutely every skillset to identify what another employer will need. Certain individuals can look at what they originally qualified in from college.

There are people qualified in accountancy or healthcare, for example, that then went on to start their own small business. If that’s not viable right now, look at what’s available in your original profession. There are recruitment firms out there who will be delighted to hear from you now!

It is also a time to think about upskilling and online courses that are available. Many of them are subsidised now through learning networks like Skillnet.

Do you have any tips for preparing for remote interviews?

Preparing for a video interview is similar to a traditional interview: know the role requirements, research the company and be clear on the value that you would bring to the role.

Additionally, you have to think about staging the scene. Choose your background carefully. Make sure the lighting is bright. Place your laptop on a stack of books so that the camera is at face level – no unflattering up-the-nose angles! Use the laptop speaker and microphone or discreet wired headphones with a mic. Avoid big clunky headphones or Bluetooth headphones which can lose connectivity.

Do a test call, if possible, on whichever brand of video interview platform the company has suggested. Skype, Zoom and WebEx are often used. Many of them allow you to test your headphones and microphone settings beforehand.

The test call will also allow you to see if any desktop app needs to be downloaded to enable the call. Don’t leave it until two minutes before the call for your laptop to start downloading updates.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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