One job, 500 applicants: How Covid has left the job market more competitive than ever

Words and video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

The past three months have seen more people made redundant than in any quarter on record.  

What we saw in a café in greater London will perhaps then come as little surprise.

A new part-time barista position on the minimum wage saw more than 500 people apply almost immediately.

So overwhelming was the response, the advert had to be taken down within 24 hours. 

"People who are very highly skilled, who could earn a lot more by doing what they used to do or do what they are trained in are applying to a coffee shop" owner Dewald Meiring told me.

"It just shows you how desperate people are," he continued.

Operations Managers and IT consultants were among those to get in touch, from as far away as Bristol.  

Daniel Wisniewski was successful in his application and interview, but then the second lockdown hit. Credit: ITV News

One of six applicants that made it to interview was 22-year-old Daniel Wisnieski.

He is a victim of the seemingly endless cuts to the hospitality sector.

Daniel was made redundant from Gourmet Burger Kitchen one week earlier.

"I was surprised," Mr Wisniewski said.

"The restaurant had been doing well with Eat Out to Help Out.  

"I didn’t see it coming and within one hour, I had lost my income and was being told my career was being terminated.

"I am fearful and sad, having worked there for four years.

"Now I wake up and don’t know what to do with myself."

Erin Dartnell was meant to start as British Airways cabin crew in the spring, but that role never took off.  

"Within 48 hours it all came crashing down," she told me.

She has applied to hundreds of jobs, and so far this is just her third interview.

"It is demoralizing, not to put any shame on the coffee shop, but I used to have different ambitions.

"I'm only 23 and had this whole idea of what would happen upon moving to London and it’s not what I imagined at all."

Anupama Nellan is out of work for the first time in her life. She worked for Heathrow’s VIP lounge until it shut its doors abruptly. 

She is worried about providing for her seven-year-old son.

"What money is left now, day by day, it is decreasing. Everyday there is stuff to buy, bills, food and Christmas is coming.

"My son has even given me his piggy bank, with £35, and told me to buy his presents with that.

"He also now asks me – Mummy, when are you ever going to work again?

"It’s very stressful.” 

Erin was overjoyed to hear she'd been offered the job:

So impressed was he, that in the end Dewald hired both Erin and Daniel part-time, but he wishes he could have offered more.

But both started work just as England went into a second national lockdown and so the café is now closed for all but takeaway.

Already, their hours have had to be reduced, with the owner admitting that those positions can’t be guaranteed without certainty.  

And even if a Covid-19 vaccine is rolled out soon, the economic scars will deepen for a long time yet.