Does COVID-19 affect contract staffing needs?

Ivy Kwan
April 21, 20204 mins read

It is always the traditional hot season for job hunting after Chinese New Year here in Hong Kong. But this year, unfortunately we had it disrupted by the massive outbreak of COVID-19. Yet, if you are still keen to look for new opportunities, a contract job might be a wise choice.

Morgan McKinley conducted a survey across Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore 2 weeks ago, to understand how our clients have been doing and seeing amid coronavirus.

The good news is, we are finally seeing the situation getting better locally, having less and less newly confirmed cases of COVID-19. However, business-wise it is still true that quite a number of corporates are either undergoing a hiring freeze, or even trying to reduce their headcount, mainly due to the negative impact COVID-19 had on the business revenue so far. But don’t be upset - this doesn’t mean there is no chance for you! With permanent roles put on hold, we have actually witnessed more activities within the local contracting recruitment space. 

Click to view the full results of Morgan McKinley's Impact of COVID-19 Survey:

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In Hong Kong we have seen a relatively consistent demand in hiring contractors. In Q1 when most of us in Hong Kong have been remotely working and seeing a spike in confirmed cases of infection, our Morgan McKinley contracting team still placed 29 contract starters with 10 corporates. The demand for contract staff is particularly strong in the technology, compliance and financial services operations spaces - mostly from financial services firms.

While it is always exciting to see new opportunities, it is not surprising that some candidates would come back to us asking why these companies managed to continue their hiring despite the situation. We did come across a few cases where clients were unable to obtain permanent headcounts due to stricter cost control, hence changed it to temporary headcount. But in general, most companies continue to proceed with urgent and necessary hirings nowadays. We see a lot of contract positions still in normal hiring mode, as contractors are usually needed to support ongoing projects or for urgent covers (i.e. maternity leave or sick leave), though candidates should expect a general slowdown in the interview processes. 

Specifically, my team and I have witnessed an increase in the number of contract openings, especially for roles such as Business Analyst, Analyst Programmer, Python Developer, KYC Analyst, Compliance Manager, Assistant Relationship Manager and Administration Assistant. Employers are generally looking for candidates who are immediately available to start and are able to commit throughout the full contract tenure.
 

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Now that you have identified an exciting contract opportunity, and you are geared up to shine in the upcoming interview. Just as how cautious you (and everyone else) should be in keeping yourself sanitised, as a contracting recruiter I would also advise you to keep in mind the following: 

  • To ensure a safe social distance, over 80% of the interviews have been changed to phone or video interviews. Some of the corporates would even conduct 1 to 2 interviews via video call and proceed to offer the most suitable candidates directly. Hence it is important to stay abreast of current videoconferencing technology - Zoom and Skype for Business would be the most popular choice for video interviews we see. 
  • Once you are given video interview opportunities, make sure you have installed and tested the software, your microphone and webcam before the call actually takes place. Minor technical errors could affect employers’ impressions of how well prepared you are! 
  • For those of you who are new to contract work - the interview process for contract roles is normally way faster than that for permanent jobs, typically all settled within 1 to 2 weeks. So treat each and every interview opportunity seriously - make sure you do all the necessary preparations beforehand. A good way of doing it would be to speak to your recruiter in order to learn more about the employer and the corresponding team background. 
  • There's always good or bad taking up a job - just make sure you are aware of them before you commit to anything. You may want to spare a moment to read another article from us about the pros and cons for taking up a contract job!

 

Living under the current global economic downturn compounded by COVID-19 is somehow disappointing, but the good news is: if it is a job that you need, the job market in contracting is actually still more competitive than you expect! Good luck in your job search, and most importantly, stay healthy.

Ivy Kwan's picture
Associate Director | Contracting Recruitment
ikwan@morganmckinley.com

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