The coronavirus epidemic has rattled the planet. The world economy has taken a $3.6 trillion hit. Supply chains out of China have ground to a halt, the stock market has tanked, corporate revenues are getting decimated, hundreds of thousands of flights have been canceled, borders have been closed, and entire cities are under quarantine – with no relief in sight. McKinsey has predicted a global slowdown for 2020 and US lawmakers allocated $8 billion in emergency coronavirus funding.
You have to ask yourself – how safe is my job offer?
I’ll compare today with what happened in the early 2000s – the tech bubble, the stock market crash, and the 9/11 attacks. I was working in Harvard’s career services office at the time. Employers started balking on job commitments. Internships were canceled weeks before students were scheduled to start. Full-time job start dates were pushed back a year, a one-time cash payment as a buyout of your employment contract was offered.
COULD THE MBA JOB MARKET BLOW UP?
Will this be the early 2000s all over again? Back then the world wasn’t quite as integrated, not everything came from China. We knew things would eventually get back to normal. The uncertainty level was tolerable. Not so much today. If the virus isn’t under control by May 1st and the economy hasn’t picked up steam do recruiters have plans to push back start dates? Will internships be canceled? If so, when will the students be notified? Will they be compensated? What plans do the companies have in place? Are career services offices preparing a contingency plan? You’d be foolish to think that every company is not having a conversation about the impact of the virus across every aspect of its business, including hiring.
The hiring at the large recruiting powerhouses, the companies and firms that hire a “class” every year shouldn’t be affected. Keith Bevans, Bain partner and head of global recruiting said, “We remain committed to hiring the best talent and we tend to think of our talent pipeline on a longer time horizon and we hire accordingly. We’re a strategy firm and we’re taking a long-term view of what our business needs would look like.” Bevans added, “Just like we did in the three prior downturns that I’ve seen, the dotcom bubble, the financial crisis, and the real estate bubble we hired right through those periods of turbulence because when the downturn ends, or when this crisis passes, we do need people who’ve been here and know how to do the job.”
If you have a job offer from one of the top consulting firms, investment banks, or technology companies you should feel confident that come summer your job will be waiting. While those organizations will be monitoring the situation, it would take a lot, on the level of a zombie apocalypse for their hiring to be curtailed.
GREATER CONCERN FOR MBAS HIRED BY SMALLER FIRMS
If you have been hired by a smaller firm that only hires a few MBAs each year, I might be concerned. If their supply chains have shut down if they don’t have a strong balance sheet, if the foresee a potential cash flow problem, or if they are in a particularly hard-hit industry like airlines, hospitality, manufacturing, or retail I’d be concerned.
“Recruiters have not expressed any concern that the virus will impact their talent acquisition needs,” says Maureen Carpenter, Assistant Dean of Career Services at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. “A few students seeking roles in China have found that the recruitment processes have been delayed but expect that hiring will restart shortly.”
While I might sound like Chicken Little or Winston Churchill fearmongering, it is because I’ve seen it before and I know the consequences of not considering and preparing for the possibility and the havoc it can it bring. Because of all the uncertainty, firms are unwilling to admit any potential hiring clawbacks and you might not find out about the change in your employment status until April or early May. So, if you have an unsigned employment contract sitting around, you might want to sign it and submit it right away. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Marc P. Cosentino is CEO of CaseQuestions.com and author of Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation.