As the world marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines are beginning to roll out widely and there is hope that some normalcy will return to our everyday lives. But there is little doubt that some things have changed forever. Among those lasting changes are the way that we work – and the way that we look for work.
Statista reports that the number of Americans working from home increased from 17% before the pandemic to 44% during the pandemic. As part of this shift to remote work, the trend towards digital recruitment and hiring accelerated.
For those who have been working at home during the pandemic, online networking, Zoom meetings, and virtual training have become commonplace. But if you’re one of the 10 million Americans who is currently unemployed, you might not be as looped in on virtual work life.
That can make things tough as you step back into the job market. Sure, you may have used online job boards and submitted job applications electronically prior to the pandemic. But it’s possible that you haven’t established a strong presence on LinkedIn or that you’ve never had an online interview. If you’re gearing up to return to the job market in the post-pandemic world, it’s important to be prepared for a virtual job hunt – and the possibility of remote work once you’re hired.
Since we’ve been facilitating hires throughout the pandemic, we’ve gained insight into the remote hiring process from the perspective of both the candidate and the employer. Read on for our best tips on how to navigate the job market as the world shifts from a pandemic to a post-pandemic framework.
Start Your Job Search Now
Finding fulfilling, meaningful work with a great company always takes time. Prior to the pandemic, it could take up to six months to find a position that you would be happy to accept. Now, it can take even longer.
Traditionally, it has been a little easier for those in the engineering and information technology (IT) fields to find work. While the national unemployment rate was 6.3% in January 2021, the unemployment rate for the engineering sector was 2.7%, and just 2.4% in the IT sector. These numbers reflect historic trends and, additionally, growth had been projected for both fields until 2027.
However, the pandemic has greatly disrupted business and the economy. Some companies had to slow down or halt production of their products as they grappled with implementing COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. Others saw significantly decreased demand for their products or services and had to pivot in order to stay afloat. Still others have simply delayed new talent acquisition, preferring to wait until the economy fully recovers. As a result, even though unemployment remains low in these fields, hiring is stagnant.
In addition to unusually low recruitment and hiring numbers, the virtual hiring process can take longer than traditional in-person hiring. Everyone is still adapting to working online and human resources (HR) professionals are no exception. While HR teams may have used some virtual hiring tools prior to the pandemic, many have had to test, choose, implement, and become proficient with additional tools over the past year.
For all these reasons, it’s important to start your job search now.
Be Flexible About Your Immediate Career Goals
In the pandemic’s uncertain job market, you may need to be more flexible about the positions you apply for and consider, particularly if your current income is unstable or non-existent.
As Jane Kellogg Murray explains in a piece at Indeed, job seekers should:
- Consider short-term positions, particularly if income is needed;
- Consider pivoting to a niche area that needs your skills but hasn’t been heavily disrupted by the pandemic;
- Always take benefits into consideration when considering job offers, since a hefty benefit package can compensate for a lower salary;
- Remember that many employers find currently-employed candidates more appealing than unemployed candidates;
- Keep in mind that any job can be a stepping stone to more opportunities; and
- Be willing to consider flexible work options, such as half-time on site and half-time remote.
At the same, Kellogg Murray cautions against taking positions that are an obviously bad fit. For example, if a job offer doesn’t come close to meeting your income needs (even with a benefits package), if it will make it difficult for you to keep your long-term goals in sight, or if it poses a health risk to you or your family, you should turn a job offer down.
As the world shifts from a pandemic to a post-pandemic framework, flexibility will be key to a successful job search.
Review And Refresh Your Resume
Whether you’re in the early stages of your career or an industry veteran, it’s always a good idea to take a critical look at your resume before embarking on a job search. Standards for formatting a resume change frequently. As well, even if you’ve been unemployed or underemployed due to the pandemic, it’s possible you’ve completed online training or workshops, or gained soft skills, that could be added.
We encourage you to take a look at our blog on updating your resume, which provides a number of in-depth tips. But, in summary:
- Stick to standard, recognized formats for your industry;
- Review for conciseness;
- Remove dated information (including the phrase “references upon request”);
- Optimize with relevant keywords;
- Use active, quantitative language; and
- Emphasize your soft skills.
No matter how experienced of a writer you are, it’s always a good idea to have a second set of eyes review your work, especially for a document as important as your resume. While friends and family members may catch errors and inconsistencies, hiring a professional resume writer is an option you may wish to consider as well.
Maximize The Potential of Online Tools
Prior to the pandemic, many job seekers used some online tools, such as job boards. However, as the recruitment and hiring process shifted online, a number of virtual tools gained considerable importance and should be part of every job seeker’s toolbox.
With today’s social distancing and gathering regulations, in-person networking can be difficult if not outright impossible. But networking is still key to a successful job search.
Reach out to your established contacts to see if they would be willing to meet you for a virtual chat about your job search, possible opportunities, and trends in your field. Don’t forget to send a thank you message afterwards. In today’s web-based work environments, virtual meetings may be physically easy to attend, but Zoom fatigue is a real phenomenon. Expressing gratitude for someone’s time and attention remains important.
You can also establish new contacts by joining Facebook groups targeted to your industry or area of specialization; joining online industry organizations and signing up for relevant notifications; and attending virtual networking events and job fairs.
LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful resource. A piece by Ronda Suder reports that 87% of recruiters use the platform to actively seek out candidates. Maximize the potential of LinkedIn by:
- Using guides like the one offered by Austin Belcak to optimize your profile;
- Asking for testimonials or recommendations;
- Dedicating time on a daily basis to connecting with others on the platform;
- Creating posts of your own as a way to share information, resources, or your own written pieces;
- Commenting on relevant posts;
- Joining groups as a way to expand your network;
- Seeking out and engaging with people in your industry; and
- Taking advantage of training opportunities.
With over 500 million users in over 200 countries, the reach and potential of LinkedIn is enormous.
Online research is a terrific way to find out about a company’s culture and determine if an employer would be a good fit for you. Delve into a potential employer’s website to find out more about their values and priorities as well as information specific to the position you are interested in.
As well, by researching employers, you will be able to target your job search towards those that are experiencing shortages or growth, so that you know they are in a strong position to hire and offer new employees competitive compensation packages.
Training and Upgrading
The amount of educational material available online is staggering. Whether you work towards an advanced degree, take classes to obtain a certificate, or simply attend free webinars about topics of interest, you are engaging in professional development that shows employers that you are keen to learn and that can further your career.
Track Your Job Search
Although you should focus on the quality of the potential jobs you apply for, rather than the quantity, tracking your job search can be helpful even if you only have a few job applications under consideration.
In a piece at The Muse, James Mayr suggests using a spreadsheet to track:
- Which companies you’d like to work for;
- Job applications that you’ve submitted;
- The dates of follow-up emails that you’ve sent;
- Interview details (date, time, interviewers’ names);
- Whether you sent a thank you note; and
- Any extra information about your application or interview process, such as proficiency tests taken, or questions you’d like to ask at the next round of interviews.
Each job application goes through several steps and you may interact with different people at each stage. Keeping track of all the fine details like names and deadlines and interview dates can get overwhelming if you don’t have a place dedicated to tracking. It would be terrible to miss out on your dream job because you showed up late for the interview.
Prepare for Video Interviews
Even if you aren’t already working remotely, you likely have the technology in place for online video chats, as a way to stay connected during the pandemic. We have an in-depth guide on our blog, but briefly, to prepare for web-based interviews:
- Test out the different live video platforms so that you’ll be comfortable with whichever one an employer chooses to interview you on. Popular platforms include:
- Google Hangouts;
- Microsoft Teams;
- SparkHire; and
- Make sure that you have reliable and fully charged hardware, as well as back-up options in case of hardware failure.
- Set up access to a wired internet connection whenever possible, to avoid lagging or freezing video.
- Create a professional and tidy interview space.
Being prepared for technology glitches and presenting a professional workspace to your potential employers demonstrates the adaptability and organization needed to successfully work from home.
Follow Up With Empathy
Many people are struggling on both a professional and personal level. They may be weary of the pandemic, isolated, overwhelmed, grieving, and/or struggling with technology on the day you connect with them. Always project kindness and understanding while still expressing enthusiasm for the job opportunity.
According to a survey reported by FlexJobs, about 80% of employers “plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic, and 47% will allow employees to work from home full-time.” Remote work is definitely here to stay – and it’s safe to assume that all aspects of remote work, including the recruitment and hiring process, will continue into the post-pandemic era.