Which Job Seekers Are At a Disadvantage During COVID-19?

employee interview

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to challenges for job seekers. However, within the context of the pandemic, do certain job seekers hold advantages over others? New research (Koopmann et al., 2021) examines how health risks and concerns may affect job search strategies. 


The researchers recruited 228 active job seekers through multiple online research participant pools. Participants completed a total of three surveys that were each separated by one week. The researchers were particularly interested in understanding how a new variable—COVID-19 invulnerability—affected their job search attitudes. COVID-19 invulnerability is when people perceive that they are at low-risk from COVID-19. 

The study found that when people had higher job search constraints due to the pandemic, they were less likely to be hopeful about the job search process. This reduction in job search hope subsequently predicted higher distress over the job search process. However, this relationship was weaker for people who were higher in COVID-19 invulnerability. This means that people who were less concerned about COVID-19 felt more hopeful about the job search process. 

Additionally, for people who felt more COVID-19 invulnerable, job search constraints due to the pandemic contributed to more positive job search thoughts. These positive thoughts include thinking about self-presentation skills or analyzing interviews. Positive job search thoughts predicted feeling more hopeful about the job search process, which subsequently predicted receiving more job interviews. 


The results from this study indicate that those with poorer health or at higher-risk for COVID-19 (both themselves and family members) are at a disadvantage in the job search process. Organizations can help these disadvantaged job seekers by promoting the organization’s adherence to CDC guidelines, offering virtual application materials and interviews, and by promoting or offering continued remote work options. 


Koopmann, J., Liu, Y., Liang, Y., & Liu, S. (2021). Job search self-regulation during COVID-19: Linking search constraints, health concerns, and invulnerability to job search processes and outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(7), 975–989.