Job Market Outlook

The COVID-19 pandemic has created strange dynamics in the jobs marketplace. After initially resulting in many businesses laying off workers, it now seems to have a created a labor shortage.

The reasons can be varied and include some people being hesitant to return to work because of the delta variant of COVID-19, while others may have trouble finding adequate child care. Still others may simply be unwilling to go back to the status quo.

“COVID created this pivot moment for everyone at once,” says Gabe Krajicek, CEO of Kasasa, a financial services company. His firm has reduced its office space by nearly 80% since the start of the pandemic and expects remote work will be the norm for most employees in the future. Like other companies, it continues to navigate what the post-pandemic workforce will look like and how it will operate.

While businesses continue to fine tune their expectations, job seekers should know the following things about the current market:

1. The situation isn’t the same everywhere.

2. Skills trump titles.

3. Remote work is here to stay.

4. Resumes should be customized.

5. The interview process may look different.

[Read: How to Change Careers.]

The Situation Isn’t the Same Everywhere

While there are plenty of headlines about worker shortages, the situation isn’t universal. As of August 2021, there were 16 states with seasonally adjusted unemployment rates at or below 4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and workers may be harder to come by here. On the other hand, eight states had unemployment rates of 7% or higher, with the top rate of 7.7% found in Nevada.

Regardless of a state’s unemployment rate, job opportunities may be different than what was available pre-pandemic. “Many firms replaced full-time employees with temporary workers,” says Peter C. Earle, an economist with the American Institute for Economic Research.

For job seekers, the main takeaway is that there is no single national trend guiding the current job market, employment opportunities will differ by geographic location and the job market can be very competitive in some industries. “It’s a buyer’s market,” Earle says. “People should be aware that they may not get what they want.”

Remote Work Is Here to Stay

Kasasa isn’t the only firm to embrace remote work as the future of its business model. Ninety percent of businesses expect to use a hybrid work schedule going forward, a May 2021 survey from McKinsey & Company found. While the details differ, executives expect employees who can do their jobs remotely may only come into the office between one and four days a week.

“Compared to pre-pandemic, remote work policies are becoming much more common,” says Toni Frana, career coach and team lead at FlexJobs and Remote.co.

Not all jobs are conducive to remote work, though. According to FlexJobs listings, remote work opportunities are most common in fields such as computers and IT, project management, sales and customer service, Frana says.

[See: Best Remote Working Jobs.]

Skills Trump Titles

Going forward, businesses may change how they fill open positions. “The workplace is going to (focus) more on skills than roles,” Earle predicts.

This could affect job opportunities at the executive level as companies decide they don’t need, for example, a vice president as much as they need a programmer.

“We’re all looking for real people who can do real work,” according to Krajicek. In addition, employers are seeking people who are a good match for company values. “I’ve been a CEO long enough to know that the thing that glues everything together in tough times is (company) culture,” Krajicek says.

Resumes Should Be Customized

A generic resume may not be enough to land an interview in competitive jobs markets. “People are basically creating a new resume for every job,” Earle says.

This is especially important for remote jobs. Top candidates are tailoring not only their resume to the position in question but also their cover letter, according to Frana.

“Be sure to also highlight the specific skills that make you a good remote worker, such as written and verbal communication, organization and productivity, great time and task management, and having a growth mindset,” she says.

[Read: Work Productivity Tips for Remote Jobs.]

The Interview Process May Look Different

With more businesses using remote work, the interview process is getting an overhaul as well. Relying on tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or other videoconferencing platforms has become commonplace. Even if an in-person interview were possible, companies may prefer to use virtual interviews for remote positions.

“We need to see if, in that environment, they show up,” Krajicek says. On other words, employers are looking to see how well and professionally people communicate using online platforms.

Even positions that may eventually return to the office may use these types of interview methods during the pandemic. That means if you aren’t comfortable using technology such as videoconferencing, now is the time to learn the ropes before you need to start submitting job applications.

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Job Market Outlook originally appeared on usnews.com

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