A Pandemic Shift. What are Employers Looking for in their Next Employee?

Temporary and permanent closures of businesses along with daily news headlines as a result of COVID-19 have made it hard for the ripples in the local labour market to go unnoticed. Saskatoon’s labour market has seen a harsh decrease of 17,300 jobs since the month of March. Among the biggest losses were positions within the service producing sector including accommodation and food services, wholesale and retail trade and educational services.[1]

However, the economy is opening up, right?  The jobs are coming back.

Well yes, but it is not that clear cut.

Employers are facing new realities during the pandemic and businesses who had to close their doors are still grappling with recovering from the loss of revenues amidst reopening. Government restrictions imposed on how different industries can operate, and when they reopen, have guided how employers are moving forward with recruitment and retention strategies. Although re-entry into the local labour market looks different across sectors, the underlying theme is that there are employment opportunities!

What does this mean to you, the job seeker?

In May 2020, Quint surveyed local employers, hoping to shed some light on what their hiring process would look like in this new COVID-19 era. First off, there are jobs! 55% of survey respondents identified that they are currently hiring with an additional 20% preparing to hire within the next month. SaskJobs is also reflecting the reopening of the economy, and is currently sitting at 900+ jobs within a variety of industries. Simply put, if you are looking for work, there are options.

Do not lace up those job-searching shoes yet, it is a new race and you need to train for it.

Raise your freshly washed hand if you had to hand sanitize or wear a mask prior to entering a business.  What about standing on markers on the ground to ensure that you are social distancing?

Welcome to our new reality. 95% of surveyed employers have incorporated COVID-19 related protocols in order to keep employees and the public safe. Therefore, as a job seeker, entering the job search race during the pandemic era, requires you to bring with you new (or slightly dusty) skillsets in order to secure employment.

Crossing the finish line with these top 5 skillsets.

How can you create a resume that tells the employer you are up for the job? How do you respond to interview questions so you can then secure the job? The first step: know what the employer is looking for.

Here are the top five skillsets that the employers surveyed are looking for in a candidate:

1) Being adaptable and flexible – able to adjust work duties as directed

This is not a “new” skillset, flexibility and adaptability have always held high importance on the work site, except this time they take on a new meaning. As an example, 50% of employer respondents require staff to work remotely, 40% of which said remote work is new to their organization. Employers are looking at candidates to provide context on their ability to flex and adapt to emerging changes to maintain and/or expand business operations. 

2) Safety conscious and can demonstrate attention to detail in following cleaning guidelines

This skillset ranked a close second with 75% of employers agreeing that they need qualified staff that care about the health and safety of not only the public, but also their fellow coworkers. Although it may not be directly listed in the job ads you are scanning, demonstrated health and safety practises on the work site is a key qualficiation that is now being assessed during the recruitment process. It is more about conveying to an employer your ability to be detailed, providing concrete examples, then it is the ability to do the task itself.

3) Being innovative in their approach to work and/or the service delivery of the whole organization

There is a reason why people are describing this pandemic as unprecedented times. There is no rulebook on the right steps or next steps as we navigate our way to a post-pandemic era. Employers want to hire a creative team player; a person that is able to bring solutions to the unique problems the business is facing to improve customer experiences and employee productivity.

4) Emotional Intelligence – ability to manage their own emotions and the people around them

Employers want employees who will contribute to a healthy work environment. The ability to recognize and manage your own emotions, along with being able to empathize with coworkers as we navigate different comfort levels during the pandemic and beyond is key in creating a positive work place culture. A supportive environment helps a company to perservere through challenges based off of a level of trust built within their team.

5) Able to demonstrate digital skills and navigate new technologies that may (or will be) implemented into the business

The largest single month increase in registrations for Canadian online business domains in 20 years happened during the pandemic.[2] Companies have had to diversify current business models in order to connect customers to their products and services, and this has largely been done through online platforms. Employers will require candidates with the digital skills to continue to manage and build off of these tech platforms to increase company revenue and productivity.

What are the next steps? How do you put these skills into action?

Start with learning about how the business you are applying with has changed during the pandemic. Has the business started offering delivery or curbside pick up? Do customers have to pre-order or book an appointment to be able to go into the store? This will help you better translate the value you bring to an employer both through your resume and your interview. Not sure where to start? The Core Neighbourhoods at Work program is here to help you navigate your job search during this new COVID-19 era and help you land the job!