Getting Hired During COVID-19: The Employer’s Perspective

Dana Guterman
Updated: May 7, 2020


There’s no denying that COVID times are tough. Businesses are closing their doors, both literally and figuratively, and unemployment is skyrocketing. But here’s the good news: Many industries are still hiring.

To navigate your internship or job search during the coronavirus pandemic, you’ll need to be patient and persistent. You’ll also need to be savvy, and that means refocusing your search on growing industries and companies that are actively recruiting. At the same time, you’ll want to take advantage of proven strategies to up your odds of success. Here’s how.


The employer’s perspective: What to expect in the weeks ahead

To start, it helps to understand where employers are coming from. SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) has released a detailed report on how employers are reacting to COVID-19. We’ll share some highlights here.

When it comes to hiring interns and entry-level employees during the pandemic, employers are thinking about their bottom line. According to SHRM’s report, 34% of employers didn’t have an emergency preparedness plan before this, and over 50% of those with a plan didn’t factor in communicable disease. Employers are figuring things out day by day, just like the rest of us.

Right now, many employers’ main goal is staying afloat. Right now, over one in ten employers is facing a total shutdown. In industries that have been most impacted by COVID (hospitality, food & beverage, entertainment, wholesale trade and transport, retail, sports, etc.), companies are laying people off en masse. A lot of these businesses run on thin profit margins, so they can’t wait this out, and they won’t be hiring again for quite a while. Almost across the board, these employers are canceling internships.

Other employers are on shaky ground but moving forward with adjustments, such as moving to remote work or shifting their business model. They’re thinking more about employee morale. This means they’re often furloughing people (employees stay on the payroll, even though they aren’t working). Alternately, they’re giving employees (often substantial) pay cuts or decreasing hours in an attempt to employ as many people as possible.

In these sectors, some employers are moving to remote internships while others are canceling internship programs outright, particularly if they’re paid. For businesses that have made COVID-related adjustments, 50% are no longer hiring or delaying start dates. These employers want to protect their current workers first.

At the same time, some employers are thriving. According the SHRM, 14% of employers are hiring additional employees because of COVID. What are those industries? Read on.


Industries that are hiring during COVID-19

Despite everything, plenty of companies are still hiring—and that means they’re still hiring interns. In terms of general trends, you’ll probably have a better chance with larger employers, particularly when it comes to paid internships. That’s because larger organizations tend to be more resilient.

These industries are still hiring:

  • Tech companies: Larger companies that create digital products are still flourishing, and some are actually doing better than before. They’re already well-equipped to transition to remote work, and they want interns who are tech-savvy and ready to hit the ground running. Employers like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all are all taking their internships online.
  • Healthcare: COVID has been a huge strain on our doctors and nurses, but healthcare supply companies, as well as research roles and data specialists, are in high demand.
  • Education: More time at home means more time to learn. All those memes about learning a new language during quarantine have resulted in a huge uptick in online learning, so many online education companies are going forward with their internship programs.
  • Digital entertainment: The flip side of the at-home productivity coin is the at-home entertainment industry. Streaming services, video games, and other forms of online entertainment are still open for business.
  • Nonprofits: Nonprofits always need help, and many are currently experiencing a huge surge in people (or animals) in need of their services. While you’re unlikely to get paid, nonprofits provide a great opportunity to learn new skills and make a difference.


Tips to increase your odds of getting an internship during COVID-19

Once you’ve refocused your search, here are a few tips to help you connect with employers.

  • Up your networking game. By some estimates, a whopping 70–80 percent of job opportunities aren’t even posted publicly. If you want to get an internship, it’s always smart to network. In the current climate, it’s crucial. Reach out to family friends, professors, fellow students, and other contacts.
  • Take the initiative. Many employers are swamped right now, so your best bet to get their attention is to take the initiative and reach out. But don’t just email them asking if you can lend a hand; pitch your services so they know what you can do right off the bat. Maybe that means emailing a restaurant to offer your web design services as they transition to take-out only. Maybe it means running social media for a nonprofit. Think about how you can add value during this unprecedented time.
  • Consider short-term opportunities. Maybe an employer can’t afford to hire you for a full summer, but you can support them on a one-off project. Think outside of the box, with a focus on opportunities that require less of a commitment from already stressed-out employers.