Job seeking in lockdown

Posted on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 by GoodJobsNo comments

If you are looking for work at the moment, either because you need / want to move jobs or because you have been made redundant, it's really tough. The number of jobs out there is less and the process of applying and interviewing can be very draining.

Here are some top tips shared by Glen Manners and Philippa Bryant of Charity People during our ‘job seeking in lockdown’ clinic, run in partnership with Utopy. It includes tips about searching for a job, applying and interviewing but also advice about things you can do to stay positive and use the time well. Looking after your mental health is so important so please take a break and be kind to yourself.

You can view a recording of the session and lots of accompanying resources via the Utopy website. It is free to sign up.


1. Adapt your search

It's a tough time to be looking for a job in the charity sector. There are more applications and fewer roles. If you are not already in the charity sector, it is a hard time to get in. If you are already working in the sector though, your CV will shine brighter.

What are the factors affecting your job particular job hunting? Maybe you are an events fundraiser or work in front-line services. You may be facing any or all of the following:

  • no suitable vacancies
  • fewer opportunities (and more applicants)
  • personal uncertainty about your next career move.

If jobs in your area of specialism just aren't there, you may need to look outside the sector. Widen your job search. Find alternative options. Spend some time thinking about your worst-case scenario, and work back from that. You may have to look for a sideways or downwards move at the moment rather than the next step up the ladder. 

Search for roles in other places and through other channels. The usual recruitment sites can be expensive so charities may not currently be able to afford them. (Look at GoodJobs - we're free for small charities and low-cost for others!). Follow #CharityJobs / #CharityJob on Twitter and LinkedIn. Use your network. 

Don't waste time applying for roles where you don't match the essential criteria. It's not worth it. The chances of being shortlisted now is less than before. Use your time well.

2. CVs and covering letters

You're going to be up against hundreds of other applicants. Recruiters will spend on average six seconds looking at CV. Make sure yours is well formatted so it stands out.

CV golden rules:

  • clear, legible fonts
  • consistent layout
  • no gimmicks
  • no photo (unless asked to)
  • short and sweet
  • proof read before you send.

What to include: 

  • name and contact details
  • personal profile
  • work experience
  • education - if you have a degree, include this but not high school.
  • additional sections
  • LinkedIn profile (and make sure the information in both is the same).

Make sure your covering letter is concise and enthusiastic. Use it to market yourself, give examples and don’t ramble! Use problem - action – result to describe relevant experience. Say why you want to work for the charity and show that you understand their cause.

  • Address hiring manager by name
  • 1st paragraph: grab the hiring manager’s attention
  • 2nd paragraph: show what you’ve got to offer
  • 3rd paragraph: prove that you’ll fit in

Don't worry if you have a career gap or have had to make a downwards steps or take a filler role. Employers will understand this covid time in your employment history. Much like in the recession.

3. Interviews and tests

Charities are still recruiting at the moment. People are getting interviews. Here's how to stand out.

Interview tips:

  • look your best – dress for an interview
  • think about your location – tidy up your background, optimise your frame and lighting
  • minimise tech issues – practice before and have a mobile phone alternative on standby in case you have wifi or connection problems
  • eye contact / body language
  • read the signs – ask if the interviewer wants you to give more detail
  • enthusiasm is key!

Everyone is holding a lot on their shoulders at the moment. It is hard. But if you can be enthusiastic and positive, this stands out. Even in the small talk at the start, be positive.

Be energetic. This is infectious! If the panel is flat, try not to mirror this. Still try and be enthusiastic.

Top tip - hide the video of yourself. You don't need to watch yourself. This can be really distracting.

Interview tasks are still happening. Maybe the next day rather than straight after the interview. Give yourself plenty of time to do them. Some are there to stretch you so don't worry if you don't finish the task. Proof read. You might be penalised for mistakes.

Be transparent with the employer. Ask for reasonable adjustments if you need them.

4. Staying positive

It's natural to find job hunting hard at the moment. Here are some tips to stay positive, build resilience and keep going.

  • Keep to a daily routine - eat breakfast, get dressed, go for a walk.
  • Set measureable goals.
  • List your achievements.
  • Set yourself a volunteer/ fundraising challenge.
  • Focus on the things you can control.
  • Take a step back.

Use your time well:

  • develop skills and knowledge - online learning, webinars, self development
  • network, network, network - it’s often who you know
  • find or become a mentor - both options equally beneficial. 

Don’t give up

It’s really hard to be looking for a job at the moment. We understand that. There are lots of things you can do to present yourself in the best way and to use this time well. Most important is that you look after yourself and use all the resources you can. GoodJobs and CharityPeople can both help: 

  • Sign up to GoodJobs for free to access current vacancies and more. We offer training bursaries and a regular prize draw of a £200 training grant to support job seekers.
  • CharityPeople is a recruitment agency specialising in charity roles. Find out how they can help you find and secure your next role.

Best of luck!


Here's the thread of tweets from the session in case you want to share any of the tips.


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