Navigating Startup/Tech Recruiting in the Time of Coronavirus

Juliette Lim
3 min readApr 9, 2020


You’re looking to recruit for tech and startup jobs.

Unfortunately, it’s April 2020, and the country is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The economy is in a downward spiral, companies are downsizing, hiring freezes are in place, and uncertainty abounds.

What do you do?

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

At Opus, an increasing number of candidates are reaching out to hear our thoughts on the market today. In the spirit of transparency, here’s what we are seeing:

  • 1/3 of recruiting business has gone away entirely: These are either companies in industries that have been hit particularly hard by the crisis and don’t believe they will recover anytime soon to be in a position to hire (i.e., in the travel space), or roles that need to be re-evaluated due to changing business needs (i.e., growth marketing roles)
  • 1/3 of recruiting business has paused recruiting temporarily, or is interviewing on a much slower timeline: These are generally companies that believe they will still be around for quite a while and that there will still be a need for a select position, however, in light of the uncertainty, want to take things slower. This number also includes a portion of business who are still interviewing but have stated that they probably won’t be extending offers until they get to meet candidates in person.
  • 1/3 of recruiting business is recruiting as is, maybe even thriving: Often, these are with companies in industries less affected by the lockdown (i.e., telemedicine, food delivery).

Other observations:

  • The bar is getting higher. Given the level of candidate supply in the market today, there’s a lot more people competing for a few number of available jobs, so hiring managers are in a position to be more selective, and we’ve seen that play out in a few scenarios.
  • Companies in comfortable financial positions are taking advantage of this time to recruit selectively. Now is a generally good time to try to poach the top tier talent you’ve always wanted, and we’re noticing that more and more companies that are operating from a position of strength today are opening up their doors to ‘luxury hires’ (not urgent hires, but will highly benefit the company once they find them).

As a candidate, you can expect that the hiring market will move a little slower. However, there are still a few things you can be doing to enhance your recruiting efforts during this time:

  • Networking. This is one of the best times to have intro calls with people (everyone is at home, schedules are generally a little less hectic, people don’t have to deal with logistics of finding a private room to take call from, etc.). Reaching out to your network is also an easy way to surpass the masses in terms of applications. You might not see any immediate return, but this is about planting the seeds, and getting in front of the companies you’re interested in — such that when they are hiring more actively, you’ll come to mind
  • Spend time refining your search. Now’s a great time to pause, take a breather, and really think through what you want in the next steps of your career. Having a good story to tell when you interview is now more important than ever, especially since there’s increased competition in the market.
  • Improve / refresh your skills (i.e., SQL, Tableau). This extent that this might be benefit your search depends heavily on the type of role and tenure that you are at, but if you know you’re applying to roles that may have a little bit of a technical component to it, or even a technical test of sorts in the process (i.e., some biz ops roles have SQL tests), you might want to spend some time brushing up.

Opus is a boutique search firm that helps strategy, finance and operations professionals get connected to opportunities in the startup and tech space. For more information, feel free to reach out to us at