The implementation of the Movement Control Order since March 18, 2020, in curbing the spread of COVID-19 has impacted the workforce like never before. According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), in April 2020, the number of people who are unemployed in Malaysia increased by almost 50% compared to the same period last year. The unemployment rate for the same month was 5%, increasing from 3.9% the month before1. The Social Security Organisation’s (Socso) Employment Insurance System (EIS) has also reported that job losses can be expected to accelerate from April 2020 onwards, with job losses increasing by 50% to 200% year-on-year for each subsequent quarter in 20202.
Gan Bock Herm, Country Manager of JobStreet Malaysia.
Witnessing the escalating number of layoffs and job cuts, how would eager young minds who have just graduated and are ready to start their careers be affected?
“No doubt, the current job market is challenging for both experienced workers as well as fresh graduates,” Gan Bock Herm, Country Manager of JobStreet Malaysia stated frankly.
However, Gan confided optimistically, “Though we have seen a decline in job postings of up to 70% in March 2020, this has since recovered to about 50% since the easing of the lockdown. We expect that the job market will continue to improve as the economy opens up.”
He further stressed that fresh graduates should remain hopeful and be proactive in securing employment. To emphasise his points, Gan cited the outcome of a recent survey conducted by Jobstreet and said 25% of the employers surveyed will be looking to hire again in the next six months and this will include fresh graduates.
Echoing this, Ben Ho, Chief Executive Officer of Talentbank, a corporate body that focuses on producing career-ready candidates from all disciplines, said, “We foresee that it will take an average of six to nine months for fresh graduates to land a job. Following our digital career festival that ran throughout May and June 2020, we noticed that employers are still hiring fresh graduates as there were more than 800 vacancies listed throughout the event.”
“My company is still hiring for junior positions and we are open for fresh graduates to apply,” said Chandra Segar, Regional Employee Relations and Human Resources Operations Manager of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., an American multinational semiconductor company which has a chapter at Bayan Lepas, Penang.
Besides the Science and Technology sector, as Jobstreet’s research indicates, the top 5 industries that are still taking in new staff amidst the pandemic include information technology, food and beverage, government, and health and safety.
While waiting for an ideal job post-MCO, there are some competencies and attitudes that graduates should acquire to help them stand out in their job hunt.
Gen Z talent has easy confidence and skill with new media, therefore form a critical part of any organisation.
An experienced recruiter, Chandra opined that those who have just entered the job market should adopt a very open mindset. He said: “They should start with securing any job that is available in the market presently as there are plenty of things to learn in any profession such as stakeholder management, the ability to work with and influence others, time management skills, and so forth.”
Ben Ho concisely laid out some facts about the present job market, “There is never going to be a position that you want 100%. You have to be flexible and adaptable to various vacancies or environments. You have to be a ‘jack of all trades’ to survive and focus on growing your capabilities over the next five to 10 years. So please stay hungry, stay curious and stay humble. You have to be very resourceful no matter which position you are in. However, if you wish to be a subject matter expert, it is always good to find your niche and go in-depth,” he advised.
Though inexperienced, young job-seekers have their advantages. Gan elaborated: “According to JobStreet’s Laws of Attraction survey, Malaysia has a multigenerational workforce. While Gen X and Gen Y form the mainstay of talent with experience, Gen Z talents are also critical due to their easy confidence and skills with new media and technology, which adds value to an organisation.”
In addition to their insights, these leaders also shared the following tips for fresh graduates who are hoping to get hired during this critical period.
“Look for similarity and stay ahead of the curve,” stated Chandra, and he gave an example, “A fresh graduate could take up a marketing role although he is holding an HR degree, as this could help him understand consumer behaviour which is similar to employee concerns in HR. In most jobs, new employees usually spend their first two years to understand people, systems, processes, business trends, laws and regulations, and so on.”
“To land a job fast, instead of applying via multiple job sites, try to contact employers or business founders actively via LinkedIn and offer a voluntary internship or apprenticeship. Once accepted, graduates could request for a permanent role after three to six months,” explained Ben Ho.
He also advised fresh graduates to always initiate self-learning and pick up skills like digital marketing, basic programming or other IR4.0 capabilities.
“To increase their chances of getting hired, fresh graduates should look into overcoming the challenges of online interviews during this new normal. This includes minimising internet connectivity issues, to be presentable in front of the webcam and practising good digital mannerisms,” said Gan.
By doing so, the candidates could help employers to ease the pains of conducting online interviews.
Gan has also suggested practical tools that Jobstreet offers, including:
1. Jobstreet’s COVID-19 Jobs and Resources Hub which is available through https://bit.ly/JSCovid-19; and provides access to on-demand jobs.
2. The #WorkNow feature that assists jobseekers to stand out and connect with potential employers. They can also indicate their immediate readiness to work.
Gan, Chandra and Ben Ho also provided the following tips to help fresh graduates ace potential interviews:
1. Customize your resume for each application and avoid using a standard template.
2. Take interview opportunities seriously, research about the company, the vacancy and how you can contribute to the role.
3. Wear the right attire even though you are being interviewed online, and be mindful of the time arrangements.
4. Minimise the likelihood of any internet connectivity issues; practise your mannerisms and responses beforehand using a webcam.
5. During the interview, highlight your “unique value”. This might include experiences of managing a project within a short time, organising an event, soft skills acquired, and abilities gained while studying which are suitable for the job.
6. Never ask about salary and working hours during the interview, only negotiate on this when the recruiter gives you an offer.
7. Thank the recruiter at the end of the interview. Follow up with the recruiter via email on the agreed time. If the recruiter doesn’t send you a reply, do not assume that you are not getting hired. Provide them some time to come back with their feedback.
8. Fresh graduates can also post questions on www.asktalentbank.com.
“This is a particularly difficult year for fresh graduates everywhere, but it is also an opportunity for them to experience how the job market and hiring process has changed due to COVID-19. We are grateful that many of our industry partners are continuing to guide our students during this time and developing their awareness of what the future workplace will look like. Collaborations between education institutions and industry are more important now than ever before to help students and graduates onto the right track to their future careers,” concluded Tan Lin Nah, CEO, INTI International University & Colleges.