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5 Ways the Pandemic Has Changed Job Hunting

Hiring experts tell how looking for work will be different in 2021

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Looking for a job is never easy, but that process figures to be especially challenging in 2021.

With many businesses still hesitant to hire due to uncertainties about the pandemic, job opportunities can be hard to come by. And older workers — many of whom have not applied for or interviewed for a new job in more than five years — may now have to handle newer twists such as video interviews.

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"Undeniably, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the hiring process for both job seekers and recruiters alike,” said Amanda Augustine, a career expert at TopResume. TopResume has partnered with AARP to provide Resume Advisor, a service that offers free résumé critiques and other job-search services. TopResume recently surveyed 334 recruiters, human resources professionals and hiring managers to learn more about how the pandemic has affected the hiring process.

"Our findings reveal that job seekers may be taking themselves out of the running even before — or right after — the virtual interview because they're ignoring the key factors to which recruiters are suddenly paying attention,” Augustine said.

Here are five ways applying and interviewing for jobs could change in 2021, based on the survey results:

1. Employment gaps aren't a problem.

Many older workers have gaps on their résumés, whether it's because they lost a job, took time off for caregiving, experienced a health issue or another reason. But with so many workers having lost their jobs last year due to the pandemic, recruiters are now less concerned about employment gaps, regardless of when the time off may have occurred. According to the survey, 87 percent of recruiters said wouldn't be worried by an applicant's inconsistent work history, which means 13 percent said they might view unemployment or a lengthy employment gap as a concern.

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If you have a gap in your résumé, job search experts say that rather than trying to hide it, you should briefly say what happened and explain how you used that time to build skills that will help in the job you're applying for. Read this article for tips on how to handle such gaps.

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2. Cover letters mean more now.

Writing a smart cover letter that explains why you are a good fit for the job has long been encouraged, but recruiters acknowledge that many cover letters won't get read, especially with computer software screening applications in the early rounds. But TopResume's survey suggests that could be changing. Nearly half of recruiters (48 percent) said they are now more likely to read a cover letter than they were before the pandemic.

Before writing a cover letter, make sure you research the company so the letter can explain specifically why you are the best fit for the job. You'll also want the letter to include keywords from the job posting. That way, the company's screening software will see you as the right fit. You can learn more about writing an effective cover letter in this article.

3. Remote work could be here to stay.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many nonessential jobs switched to remote work, at least temporarily. Many positions are likely to stay that way for at least the first part of 2021 as the effort to vaccinate millions of Americans proceeds. And some jobs may transition to work-from-home permanently, causing perhaps as many as 70 percent of companies to downsize their office space, according to a survey from KPMG.

Watch: 3 Top Changes to Job Hunting

That means that for many job openings, recruiters will be looking for candidates who can demonstrate they can be successful working remotely. That means your résumé should highlight your experience telecommuting. For example, when describing your previous job duties, specify how often you worked from home in various roles. You may also want to subtly mention which technologies you already have access to at home — reliable high-speed internet, business software, video or audio equipment. See this article for advice on how you can showcase your remote work experience.

4. Your next job interview might be a video chat.

Last April, 86 percent of employers switched to conducting job interviews through videoconferencing technology as one way to still see candidates when they couldn't meet face-to-face, according to a survey from Gartner Inc. With remote work continuing into 2021 for many businesses, brushing up on your video interview skills could be the key to getting hired.

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Interviewing for a job can be stressful, and doing so by video can add a new set of challenges. Do you know how to use the conferencing technology? Where is a good place in your home to set up the video? This article can help you get ready.

5. A little thanks goes a long way.

Whether you interviewed for the job by video or in person, be sure to send a thank-you email to the hiring manager and other key people you may have spoken with. According to the survey, 68 percent of recruiters say that a thank-you note — or lack of one — has become more significant over the past year.

A thank-you note can be a quick way to show you're really interested in the job and explain why you would be a good fit. You can find tips for how to write an effective thank-you note in this article.

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