Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the unemployment rate hitting 3.9% in December 2021, the lowest it has been since January 2001, the COVID-19 pandemic is surging with the advent of the new omicron variant, and many Americans remain jobless. A good number of those are by choice, with 4.2 million people quitting their jobs in October 2021 alone. The pandemic has caused people to reevaluate their work choices, and right now they are picky, as employers are experiencing labor shortages, giving workers the upper hand in job negotiations. Indeed, as of Nov. 30, 2021, 10.6 million job openings were available, with particular opportunity in the fields of accommodation and food services, nondurable goods manufacturing, and educational services.
The good news is that employers want to fill those jobs, and they are optimistic about eventually doing so. An October 2021 survey of 1,100 U.S. employers of all sizes by the job site Indeed.com revealed that “94% of enterprises and 93% of small to midsized businesses (SMBs) say their companies will grow and have even more job opportunities” in 2022.
The key to landing gainful employment in the middle of a pandemic, though, is making some major adjustments to your approach. The fact is that today’s candidates have fewer opportunities to make the in-person connections that were once so key to getting in the door. And when they do land an interview, they may face the difficult task of selling themselves over a Zoom session.
Investopedia connected with several employers and employment experts about what today’s job candidates should be doing to improve their odds.
- Though some industries have floundered during the pandemic, others are prospering. Expanding your search to fields where you may not have previous experience can sometimes help you land your next job.
- Many candidates have gaps in their résumés thanks to the pandemic. Experts say being candid about those gaps and successfully articulating why you’re a good fit for the open position can help you win over employers.
- With more interviews taking place virtually, candidates have to control the image they project onscreen in terms of both physical appearance and messaging.
Rethink Your Search Parameters
“2021 was a year of transformation for the U.S. labor market,” says Andrew Hunter, cofounder of the job search engine Adzuna. “In January 2021 employers cautiously navigated hiring needs, but by November employers had turned the taps on and were looking to take on a flood of new staff.” Salaries are also rising, with 24 out of the 30 jobs with the biggest hiring increases offering higher pay in November than they did in January. Of course, all this was right before the arrival of the omicron variant, which could temporarily put a brake on the proceedings as 2022 starts up, at least until the arrival of a tailored vaccine booster shot.
According to Hunter, the two professions seeing the biggest hiring booms in 2021 were the logistics and warehousing industry and the IT industry. Other jobs with noticeable upticks included warehouse workers, delivery drivers, data scientists, developers, and hospitality and catering staff, with the last having thousands of openings for restaurant managers and cooks. One notable side effect of this employment surge was a large increase in the hiring of headhunters. “With more people moving jobs than ever before, more recruitment specialists are needed to help fill urgent roles,” explains Hunter.
“After reevaluating their work-life goals, many Americans are switching jobs in the Great Resignation,” says Hunter. “Job seekers looking to change company, role, or career have a wide array of options.” Still, some industries are going to bounce back stronger than others, so adaptability is a useful attribute when considering a career change. “Job seekers should adapt to this reshuffle by focusing on growth areas and avoiding pigeonholing themselves to one career path,” advises Hunter.
Finally, because COVID-19 has weakened the link between white-collar workers and the physical office, Hunter says candidates may want to widen their search outside of their hometown. “An increasing number of roles are now fully ‘work from home,’ effectively opening up the entire U.S. labor market for savvy job seekers,” he says. “Geography is no longer the barrier it once was.”
|The 30 Jobs Increasing Most in Demand Over 2021*|
|Job Title||Advertised job vacancies Jan. 2021||Advertised job vacancies Nov. 2021||Change in advertised vacancies||Average advertised salary Jan. 2021||Average advertised salary Nov. 2021||Change in average advertised salary|
|Customer Service Associate||12,363||47,678||285.65%||$32,831||$32,298||-1.62%|
|Sales Support Assistant||57,146||139,157||143.51%||$41,396||$39,438||-4.73%|
|Full Stack Developer||5,630||13,590||141.39%||$137,201||$137,345||0.11%|
|Medical Administrative Assistant||11,009||25,512||131.74%||$34,520||$36,437||5.55%|
Be Sure To Network
Yes, many candidates find great positions through popular job boards such as Indeed and Monster. However, those employers often receive a barrage of applicants for each position that they post—particularly in fields where the supply of candidates exceeds demand.
It’s often the personal connection that can make you stand apart from the crowd or find out about positions that aren’t posted publicly yet. “Having someone in the company who can say that they would love to have you on the team takes a lot of the risk out of hiring you,” says John Philbin, CEO of Spectacular at Work, a Chicago-based leadership development firm, “so make friends and don’t burn bridges.”
Sure, there are fewer opportunities to meet new people, or even reconnect with peers, in person during the pandemic. Still, there are plenty of ways to keep in touch, such as sending an occasional email or text message to former colleagues and family members. “As long as people know you’re looking, they can help you,” says Denise Kaigler, a career coach and the founder of Boston-based MDK Brand Management. “Most people don’t find jobs on job platforms solely. It’s connecting those job platforms with people you know.”
Manage Your Online Presence
Chances are that the companies to which you apply aren’t only looking at your cover letter and résumé when figuring out whom they’re going to interview—they’re probably also sifting through your posts on Facebook or Twitter. According to a 2020 survey conducted by the research website the Manifest, 90% of employers browse their candidates’ social media profiles as part of the hiring process.
Managing your online presence, including your various social media profiles, is imperative to a successful job search. To prevent any potential damage, you should consider closing your personal profiles to the public, suggests Adriana Herrera, founder of Interview Destiny, an interview preparation platform. “Keeping personal opinions and hobbies private ensures no bias, direct or implicit, is introduced to the hiring manager,” she says.
Herrera also recommends performing an audit of your professional profiles—whether they’re on LinkedIn or job sites such as Indeed—to make sure they’re consistent. Each one should paint the same picture of your skills, experience, and professional goals, she says.
Polishing your online persona isn’t only about playing defense, says Kaigler. You also want to establish a personal brand that employers will find attractive. That could mean uploading videos on topics relevant to your career as well as commenting on or sharing other user’s posts.
“Let people know that you’re out there and engaged, that you’re staying up on the news and important trends.” –Denise Kaigler, Career Coach
Companies are acutely aware that many people were laid off after the pandemic, says Talia Friedman, cofounder of WERKZY, a job-search platform for small businesses, so don’t stress about it. Employers typically value authenticity over perfection when it comes to your background. “Be honest about recent gaps in your résumé or why you are looking to take on a position that may not directly align with your experience,” says Friedman.
Preparation is also key when it comes to answering why it is you applied for a particular position. Be ready to answer why the company or position is a great fit, both in your cover letter and during the interview, suggests Friedman. Be sure to mention why you have a passion for the company’s mission or the industry it serves, even if that is implied by your résumé. “Highlight a fact about the company and possibly even the hiring manager that only someone who invested some time would find,” she says.
Make sure to do a dry run before a Zoom job interview to confirm that you have the technical aspects—such as video, microphone, lighting, and background—as you want them.
Master the Virtual Interview
In some ways convincing an employer that you’re the perfect fit for a given role is a tougher sell when you’re doing it through Zoom or Google Meet. Still, that’s the norm right now, and Philbin recommends embracing that dynamic rather than fighting it. “It’s OK to say that you wish you could meet the interviewer in person, which is flattering. But virtual is how we work now, and flagging it as a burden sends the wrong message and is probably just a way for you to express your anxiety about the whole process,” he says.
Talking to a hiring manager virtually can be a more complex endeavor than meeting face to face. In addition to the typical prep work you have to do for an interview, today’s candidates have to worry about technical issues that can quickly make the encounter go sideways. Herrera advises applicants to confirm beforehand that their computer’s microphone works, for example, and that the camera angle and lighting make it easy for interviewers to see you. In addition, make sure there’s nothing in the background you wouldn’t want your employer to notice.
When the interview starts, Kaigler says, you usually only have a few minutes to make a positive impression with the folks on the other side of the camera. You’re more likely to do that when you come in prepared with the story you want to tell about yourself. “The moment you walk into
that room or go in front of that Zoom camera, that employer is sizing you up,” says Kaigler. “Think about how you want your personal brand to show up.”
Philbin suggests hiring a career coach to help with a mock interview, something that’s especially helpful when adjusting to a different format than you’re used to. “Many have a lot of experience as professional interviewers or recruiters, and they can really sharpen your game,” he says.
What Is the Employment Outlook for 2022?
As 2021 ends, job market openings are surging. The top 30 jobs that have seen an increase in employment demand across the year have a change in advertised vacancies ranging from 100% to 350%. Salaries are up as well, with 24 out of those 30 jobs advertising higher pay in November than in January. All of this, however, is before the arrival of the COVID-19 omicron variant, which could complicate matters going forward.
Which Are the Most Available Jobs?
The logistics and warehousing and the IT industries lead the pack, but there are also lots of opportunities for warehouse workers, delivery drivers, data scientists, developers, restaurant managers, and cooks. Even job recruitment consultants are in on the feast, as someone has to help fill all those job openings.
What’s the Best Way to Get Hired?
There is no one fool-proof method. Instead, the answer is in combining the right skill set with searching popular online job boards, regular networking to make that magical personal connection that can make all the difference, maintaining a professional and visible online presence on social media, being knowledgeable about the company and job for which you are applying, and learning the right techniques to master Zoom interviews, which have become increasingly prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bottom Line
The job market is opening up at a rapid pace even as the COVID-19 pandemic is experiencing an omicron variant surge. There are plenty of opportunities, especially for those willing to be flexible in where they go looking for their next stint. Finding ways to strengthen your personal network can give you a big leg up on the competition.