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How to handle a hiring freeze when you're trying to find a job during coronavirus

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This is a difficult time for lots of job-hunters. Millions of workers have been laid off or furloughed, in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the process of applying and interviewing remotely — all while there's an uptick in competition from other job-seekers — can make the situation feel very challenging.

Fortunately, plenty of companies are still hiring. In fact, the biggest 100 employers in the U.S. have more than 650,000 open positions, Hannah Morgan, a job search strategist at Career Sherpa, recently told Grow.

Other employers, though, have put into place a policy that can complicate your job search: a hiring freeze.

How a hiring freeze can slow your job search

A hiring freeze usually means that a company puts all nonessential hiring on hold for an indefinite period of time. It's a way for employers to cut costs in the short-term as they navigate a complicated but hopefully temporary economic situation like one brought about by the pandemic.

By the end of March, 42% of large North American companies had frozen or reduced hiring, according to a survey from risk management and advisory firm Willis Towers Watson. Freezes are being used by companies of all sizes, too. Even big tech firms, like Google, have said they are suspending hiring.

VIDEO5:1205:12
What is a hiring freeze? And what to do if you encounter one

 Video by Courtney Stith

Typically, a hiring freeze means that no matter where you are in the application process — whether you just sent in your application, were already interviewed, or have even been offered a position — the employer is suspending any new onboarding, Morgan says.

"In essence, a company has available jobs that they need to fill, but they're not able to until the freeze has been lifted," she says. "You could be the first person in line" for a job offer, she says, meaning you're the preferred candidate, and a hiring freeze could prevent you from getting the offer.

What to do if you're frozen out

As a result of hiring freezes, many job seekers who were already deep into the hiring process before the pandemic — those who had interviewed numerous times, or who were even in the process of negotiating an offer — now find themselves starting from scratch and competing with scores of newly unemployed people.

That's frustrating. Still, experts say the best thing to do in that situation is to keep searching

Reach out but move on, says Brie Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs. "Follow up with that employer maybe once a week or once every couple weeks, depending on the information that you've been given," she says. Don't wait on the employer, though.

"In this case, especially with a hiring freeze, you want to make sure that you are continuing to apply to other positions," Reynolds says. "It's really hard to tell what is going to happen in this whole situation."

In this case, especially with a hiring freeze, you want to make sure that you are continuing to apply to other positions.
Brie Reynolds
Career development manager, FlexJobs

Morgan agrees: "Nothing is a sure thing." Employers can rescind an offer and, in some cases, they may eliminate positions entirely due to the economic climate.

So it's wise to push forward in your job search with the assumption that an offer you were given before the pandemic isn't going to be there once a hiring freeze is lifted. Expect the worst but hope for the best.

"Even if you think you've found your dream job," Reynolds says, "keep applying."

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