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By Mallika Mitra
October 8, 2021
Collage of two young professionals working on their mobile devices with a building, money and a newspaper with job posts in the background.
Money; Getty Images

It’s a strange time to be applying for jobs.

Millions of people lost work in 2020 when COVID-19 hit the U.S. Just a little over a year later — amid an impressive economic recovery — employers are now having trouble getting workers back. Businesses are so desperate that on top of the usual perks like more money and flexibility, they’re offering up free college tuition and child-care benefits, and are even eliminating drug tests.

Meanwhile, employees are quitting their jobs in droves during what is being called the “Great Resignation.” A recent report from job search platform Joblist found that 73% of workers are thinking of quitting their jobs. Workers (particularly women) are burned out.

If you quit your job, or are considering it, keep in mind that applying to jobs looks really different now than it did just a few years ago. Here’s what experts say to keep in mind.

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Workplaces are more flexible

In March of 2020, workplaces changed forever. Across the world, companies were forced to introduce remote work in a matter of days and find new ways to communicate. Employees had to figure out how to balance their work and personal lives while bedrooms suddenly doubled as offices.

But now a lot of workers have gotten used to the perks of a more flexible workplace — and they don’t want to let those benefits go, even as offices open back up.

There is now a lot more opportunity for candidates to have conversations upfront about what environment they work best in, says Alison Sullivan, a career trends expert at the employer review site Glassdoor.

“It’s a little bit of a clean slate,” Sullivan says.

Even if a job posting doesn’t specify a role could be remote or hybrid — meaning in an office some days and remote some days — there’s room to ask. A lot of employers are struggling to hire for certain roles, so they’ve broadened their scope, Sullivan says. She suggests that if you want to try to work remotely at a job that doesn't specify that it's possible to work remotely to reach out to a recruiting manager and say, “I think I’m qualified for this role for these three reasons. Would you be interested in a remote candidate?”

While it's no longer common practice to include your full address on a resume, there are benefits to including your location when applying to a job within the same city or region, Sullivan says. Although companies are more open to remote positions and hiring candidates from across the country than before the pandemic, noting your proximity to the office is a helpful piece of information for recruiters and hiring managers, she adds.

Vaccine and testing mandates vary

In September, President Joe Biden said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with more than 100 workers to require employees to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 tests. The backlash was swift, and there will likely be court battles over the requirements. But companies are putting their own requirements in place, like major airlines requiring employees to get vaccinated.

Elaine Lou Cartas is a Los Angeles-based business and career coach who specializes in working with women of color and has many clients who live in intergenerational households, meaning they may have parents or grandchildren at home they need to factor into their decisions.

She recommends clients ask about what protocols companies are taking during their conversations with recruiters, and be open about what they need. For example, she tells clients to explain that they live in a household with parents who are 65 and up, and ask the recruiter for the exact precautions the company is following.

When it comes to your safety and comfortability, no question is off the table.

“Ask all the questions you want,” Cartas says. “It’s not a wait and see. Go ask.”

There have also been conversations around whether or not you should put your vaccination status on your resume. The consensus from the experts we interviewed was no, since it’s definitely not expected of you (as of now) and can be discussed in a face-to-face or phone conversation if necessary.

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There’s a different vocabulary

Less than two years ago, you probably didn’t hear the term “hybrid” so much when talking about workplaces. Now, the word is thrown around all the time. But be sure you and the person you’re talking to are on the same page regarding what it means, says Cincinnati, Ohio-based Sherry Sims, founder and CEO of Black Career Women’s Network, an organization dedicated to fostering the professional growth of Black women.

They may say you can work remotely when referring to a hybrid situation, Sims says, but what they mean is you need to come in two specific days a week, like Monday and Tuesday.

An employer with a hybrid work environment might have specific guidelines around how much employees can actually work from home — hybrid could mean working from home whenever you want, or it could mean just a few days a week. As what exactly they mean by "hybrid," Sims says.

The same goes for understanding specific precautions against COVID-19. A company could be asking employees to fill out a self questionnaire, or they could ask for proof of vaccinations; they could require everyone to wear masks at all times or they could have a more lenient mask policy. If you don’t ask, you can’t ensure you’re comfortable with the policy in place.

Your new skill set is valuable

If a company has recently shifted to remote work or partially remote work during the pandemic, they want to know that you can work in that environment.

“If you’ve worked remotely before and been successful, that’s a good thing to point out during the interview process,” says Paul Wolfe, head of global human resources at job site Indeed. You could even put remote in parentheses by a previous role you’ve had, he adds.

This can help, of course, if you’re applying to a job that includes remote work, but it also shows that you can be flexible if an office has to close again.

“Putting out there either on your resume or in the interview process how you work, the way you’ve done work best before and how you’ve been successful in different scenarios is really important in trying to portray your full self to the hiring manager or recruiter,” Wolfe adds.

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Everything is (still) in flux

Some companies — maybe even most companies — don’t have all the answers. For example, the delta variant of COVID-19 has caused companies like Facebook and Google to delay their return-to-office plan numerous times.

Still, be transparent with your needs and seek to understand what a company's plans are, Wolfe says. You don’t want to spend time preparing for four or five interviews before you find out that a company has no plans of allowing you a flexible schedule, especially if that’s one of your top priorities.

This comes to talking about money, too. Some companies are deciding whether working remotely will have an impact on your salary — as in, if you’re working in Virginia will you make less than someone working in New York City? This is an ongoing conversation, but if the company has made any final decisions on the topic, you certainly want to know, Wolfe says. Don't be afraid to ask whether working remotely will impact compensation for a specific role.

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