How to win in the hottest job market ever

Search for jobs based on your skill set instead of looking for companies solely in your area.

Myelle Lansat


Myelle Lansat

Myelle Lansat

News Editor

Myelle Lansat is a news editor at Policygenius, where she writes the Easy Money newsletter and covers insurance and personal finance. Previously, she was a personal finance writer at CNBC and Acorns, and a reporter for Business Insider.

Published August 11, 2021 | 4 min read

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Job applicants are starting to flood the market as expanded federal unemployment benefits are set to expire Sept. 6. Job openings hit 10.1 million at the end of June, the highest figure ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, 6.5 million people are looking for a job.  

Monster saw a 40% spike in job postings from April to May, says Vicki Salemi, a career expert for the site. The pandemic has changed the kinds of jobs being posted. Many employers are looking for candidates in wider geographic areas and offering flexible or fully remote work, Salemi says. 

If you’re looking for work, that means you have more options outside of your immediate area, though you likely won't get a chance to tour your office or meet your potential coworkers in-person. Here’s how to look for work in the biggest job market ever. 

Look beyond your area code

The pandemic forced a majority of the workforce to ditch the office and work from home. Many employers are considering making the change flexible or permanent. This means you can start searching for opportunities outside your immediate area, Salemi says. Rather than looking for jobs based on location, you can search based on skill set on job sites like LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, or ZipRecruiter. 

“Think outside your ZIP code,” she says. “[Employers are] opening the search nationwide, creating more opportunities for the employer and in turn for the job seeker.”  

If you’ve always wanted to relocate, now is the chance to find work that will accommodate that wish. Many employees are considering moving. 80% of workers said they would relocate during the pandemic according to a survey released in April by Graebel, a relocation services provider. If you want to relocate, you may be able to negotiate housing assistance from your potential employer. 

Explain the gap in your resume

Whether you lost your job or took time off to start a family, employers will likely understand a recent gap in your resume, says Tracy Timm, a career coach. According to Policygenius’ 2021 Parents & Money survey, 23% of parents say they or their partner scaled back or quit work to take care of their child during the pandemic. Still, you should be prepared to talk about how you filled your time and connect it back to why you’re the best candidate for the role. 

“The goal is to show that you never stopped being a professional by trying to grow and better yourself,” Timm says. 

During an interview, don’t wait for an employer to bring up the gap in your resume, Salemi says. 

“Pivot into how you got clarity during your downtime and why that makes you the best asset for them and the job you’re pursuing,” she says. 

For example, if you had a child, be honest about the valuable time you spent being a caregiver and how you miss leveraging your professional skills. You want an employer that views you as a person first and a worker second, Salemi says. 

“In turn, employers are looking for people who can connect [with them] on a deeper level,” she says. “The pandemic humanized all of us.”   

From there, you can mention your working preferences. Employers are eager to hire and may be able to accommodate you. If you found out during the past year you were more productive working from home, say that. For example, you can say: “I’m a stay-at-home parent and it's important to me to work remotely, so I can have the flexibility,” Salemi says.  

Understand the pandemic-era workplace 

It’s important to understand a company’s COVID-19 policies before accepting an offer. That includes remote or return-to-work options, company culture, and any benefits that may have been paused or extended because of the pandemic.

The pandemic is a changing landscape, and some employers may not have a definitive plan to reestablish certain work perks, return to the office, or remain remote, Salemi says. It’s important to ask your potential employer specific questions: 

  • What are your COVID-19 office policies?

  • Do you have a return-to-office requirement? 

  • How has the team maintained company culture?

  • How has the transition to remote work affected morale?

  • What does the remote workflow look like?

If the company you’re interviewing with paused certain work perks because of the recession, like 401(k) matches, you may want to factor that into your negotiations. You’ll also want to ask if there are any additional benefits in wake of COVID-19, like telehealth options. 

It’s important to have plenty of options during the job hunt. There’s no need to settle for a company if it doesn’t meet your needs. 

“Even if you're interviewing and things are going really well, continue applying,” Salemi says. “It’s a really great time to be looking for a job, so it’s important to continue searching, stay focused, and be positive.” 

 Image: svetikd / Getty Images