All your big questions about job searching during the pandemic answered

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It’s no secret that our world has changed dramatically thanks to COVID-19. If you are on the hunt for a new position during this time, you probably have more than a few big questions about job searching during the pandemic.

Maybe you were furloughed or laid off from your previous position due to the pandemic and jumping back into the job hunt right now is necessary. Perhaps you just need a change of pace due to the stress of it all. Or, maybe you’re unhappy with how your current company is handling this trying time. Regardless of your reason, it is completely possible to find a job during the pandemic

During this unpresented time, it might surprise you to know that people are still hiring. Unemployment rates may have skyrocketed, riviling rates from the Great Recession of 2007-2010 and peaking at 14.4% in April, according to Pew Research. But, there are still jobs available if you know where to look.

Has the job market changed due to coronavirus? Absolutely. But with a bit of preparation and some of your biggest questions answered, you can approach job searching during the pandemic with confidence. 

1. Who is hiring?

Although many businesses have been hurt by the pandemic, certain industries and positions are still in demand. Tech companies for one are at the top of the list of potential places to look for a job, as we are more dependent on their services now than ever before. Additionally, government jobs, accounting work, healthcare administration, and customer service positions are all areas where work seems to be available.

Where to look really boils down to what your skills are. For example, if you have experience in customer service, you may be able to find work on the front lines with major retailers, but you could also work from home answering a backlog of emails, taking calls, and assisting clients for a pharmaceutical or health insurance company. 

2. Should I update my resume?

It’s always a good idea to have an updated resume on hand, but during the current state of affairs, it is absolutely necessary to help you land the job. 

Make sure your employment history is up-to-date, your skillset is properly explained, and you’ve optimized your resume for any applicant tracking systems employers might be using to help wade through potential candidates. Having a resume that highlights what any previous remote work experience is a bonus right now for employers looking to hire someone who will work from home

3. How can I connect with potential employers during this time?

Connecting through online networking sites, seeking out headhunters, and scavenging online job postings are all still great ways to seek out potential employers. Virtual job fairs are also becoming an increasingly popular way for employers to find potential employees. 

Despite the current pandemic, companies that are hiring will still be on the lookout for potential new hires and connecting online is the way to go. 

4. Is networking even worth it right now?

Absolutely, networking can still pay off during the pandemic. In fact, taking advantage of virtual connections can yield opportunities both now and in the future. It is always a good idea to stay connected within your industry because you never know when someone you networked with might know of an opportunity that is perfect for you. 

5. Will I be required to work from home?

Even before you’ve actually landed the job, you might already be thinking about whether or not your potential employer will require you to work from home or if going into the office is an option. The answer will likely depend on the industry you’re in and the current restrictions in your area, but many companies right now are completely open to their employees — even new employees — working from home. 

It’s a good idea to add this particular question to your list of questions to ask in your interview. If you have a specific need to stay home, be sure to bring it up in your interview so that both you and your potential employer can set expectations from the get-go. 

6. Will I have to have a video interview?

The short answer here is yes — probably. Although some companies may schedule face-to-face interviews with precautions like social distancing and mask-wearing, it is more likely that a potential employer will want to interview you via video. 

You can prepare for a video interview by making sure that you know how to use the video platform where your interview will take place, testing your microphone and camera, and making sure you have a distraction-free space to interview in. Basic interview rules still apply, too. Do your homework and research the company you’re interviewing with and also make sure you dress appropriately for the interview. (Yes, the bottom half, too!)

7. Are virtual panel interviews something I need to prepare for?

It is possible that a company may want you to go through a virtual panel interview before they’re ready to hire you. You can prepare for a virtual panel interview much the same way as you would an in-person panel interview. 

Because panel interviews involve speaking with multiple people, some companies will do this remotely by having potential hires speak one-on-one via video with different members of the hiring team separately. Some however, will utilize group video chat sessions to have every member of the hiring team present at the same time. You’ll want to be prepared for either scenario. 

8. What interview questions should I be prepared for?

It is always a smart idea to prepare answers for common interview questions regardless of how you’ll be interviewed or when the interview is taking place. But, just like the workplace itself has changed thanks to the novel coronavirus, interviews and interview questions have also changed somewhat. 

Be prepared to talk about your experience with working remotely, how you’ve handled the stress of the pandemic so far, and what access you have to the technology you’ll need for this role. You may also want to prepare to discuss your availability and the company’s flexibility, especially if you are a parent with kids at home during this time.

9. How can I communicate my availability with a potential employer?

It is best to be upfront about how you’ll handle working from home right now. With so many employees working remotely, most employers are doing what they can to manage their staff’s scheduling concerns

Especially for working parents or people who have to share a workspace with a partner or roommate, it will help everyone involved — including your potential employer — if you discuss your availability during your interview. 

10. What if I’ve never worked remotely before?

Have no fear, employers know and understand that working from home is new for many people. You can reassure your potential employers that you are up for the challenge by discussing your home office setup, pointing out how well you have handled the stress of the pandemic so far, and showing off your stellar communication skills

11. How does virtual onboarding and training work?

Companies who are now working remotely have had to shift their communication styles and learn an entirely new way to operate, including how they onboard and train new employees

This will vary from company to company, but it’s a good idea to ask during your interview what your potential employer expects as far as any virtual onboarding and training that will need to be done if you get the job. You’ll want to make sure that you have access to the proper technology needed to get started in your new role, learn the ropes, and settle in. 

12. If I get hired to work remotely, will I have to return to the office when the pandemic ends?

Even though working remotely seems to be the new normal, it is possible that some employers won’t wish to continue allowing remote work after it is safe to return to the office. By September, CNBC reports that more than half of employees of large corporations who switched to remote work during the pandemic are expected to be back in the office.

This is definitely one question that will have to be discussed during your interview. If they don’t bring it up first, it is absolutely acceptable to ask whether or not you will be expected to return to the office post-pandemic. You can discuss any potential timelines, safety concerns, and what a transition back to the office might look like. 

13. How will I get to know my new co-workers if I land the job?

Working remotely can make getting to know new co-workers tough. Everyone is juggling the changes and stress brought on by the pandemic, so understanding that you already have that in common is key. 

Take advantage of the communication tools at your disposal to build relationships in your new role. That could look like ongoing chat via Slack, scheduling a “meet and greet” Zoom call, or even just sending out an email to introduce yourself. Likely, your co-workers will be excited to get to know someone new and your employer might even help facilitate this process during onboarding. 

14. Is it possible to change careers during the pandemic?

Just like many companies are re-evaluating what their priorities are during the pandemic, you might be doing the same. While it is possible to make a career shift during this time, hiring experts recommend putting some serious thought into the idea before making the change right now. 

Once you evaluate what you need and want out of a job, make sure your motivation to change careers isn’t just driven by the current circumstances. If you truly want a change, update your resume and cover letter to highlight your skills, performance results, and accomplishments, and start networking within your desired industry.

15. How long will it take to find a job right now?

Typically, an average job search takes about 5 months, according to a 2018 Ranstad survey. But now, in 2020, things might take a bit longer. 

This really is industry-specific. Certain companies within spaces like technology or shipping may be looking to hire temporary employees to fill in gaps, which usually see a fairly quick hiring process. In some industries without positions that are in high demand right now, you may be looking at a longer lead time. 

16. What can I do to improve my chances of finding a job during the pandemic?

Updating your resume is a great place to start. Networking within your industry to feel out where the jobs are and what companies are looking for in their new hires right now is also a solid step to take. 

If you’re struggling to find openings, you can also use this time to delve into continuing education classes online, complete any online training or certifications that might help you stand out among a sea of applicants.