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How to job hunt virtually

The pandemic has made in-person networking difficult if not outright impossible. Here’s how to make it happen anyway.

Now that we’re a full year into the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of us have become very experienced at converting in-person activities into virtual ones — whether we’re ordering groceries online, helping the grandparents and the kids connect over FaceTime, or checking in with coworkers on Slack and Zoom.

But not all of us have had the experience of looking for a new job during COVID. How does virtual job hunting work in 2021, and what should today’s job candidates do to stand out from the crowd?

Mason McSpadden, Vice President of WELD Recruiting, believes that the pandemic has permanently changed the employment landscape — and that today’s job-seekers should be prepared to adapt. “There have been such monumental changes to every industry and every business,” McSpadden explains, “that different skills are going to be required to flourish in the pandemic economy and beyond.”

What are these skills, and how can today’s job seekers apply them? Here’s what you need to know about getting hired in 2021, why this might be a good year to change careers, how to ace your next interview (whether virtual or in-person), and how to build a professional network when you’re working from home. Read on to learn about the ins and outs of virtual job hunting.

In this article:

What job-seekers need to know to get hired in 2021

If you are a job seeker looking for open positions in 2021, McSpadden has one piece of advice: “Put as much time, thought and effort into the interview process as possible.”

Why do you need to put extra effort into your interview strategy in 2021? Not only will you be competing with numerous other candidates, but you may have the disadvantage of only being able to interview over phone or videochat — which is not only more challenging than an in-person interview, but often provides less opportunity to make strong personal connections with hiring managers or team members. (Plus, there are so many ways for Zoom interviews to go wrong, from microphones not working to kids interrupting the conversation.)

How does McSpadden suggest you overcome these obstacles and stand out from the competition? “Know the ins and outs of the company’s mission and work — and know what you can contribute.” If everyone else shows up with a generalized job search strategy and you make yours as specific as possible, your research and prep work will help you stand out — and that extra effort just might help you get hired.

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Why 2021 might be a good year to change careers

If you’re thinking about changing careers or switching industries, the post-pandemic period might be the perfect time to do it. “According to a survey commissioned by Amazon, about 61% of U.S. job seekers are looking for roles in new industries,” McSpadden explains. “That can definitely be used as a selling point in your job interviews.”

What else should you do if you’re trying to sell your career transition to a potential employer? The answer is simple: Make the connection between the work you’ve done before and the work you’d like to do next. “Use your previous background, role and industry to provide a fresh take, new process, or innovative idea for the new job and industry you’re looking to enter,” McSpadden advises.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re transitioning into an industry that has room for growth. “While some industries are scaling down and laying people off,” McSpadden explains, “others are booming and going on hiring sprees.” Keep that in mind as you decide where to make your next career move.

How to stand out during the virtual interview process

If you want to make a good impression during a job interview — whether you’re completing a first-round phone screen, setting up your webcam for a Zoom interview, or putting on your most professional mask to interview in person — McSpadden suggests focusing on just one thing: Letting your potential employer know how you can help them.

“If you want the job, then the entire goal is to make the hiring manager — or whoever the person on the other end of the phone is — very confident that hiring you will make their life and job better,” McSpadden explains.

If you’re interviewing from home, what are the biggest virtual interview dos and don’ts? Standard Zoom interview advice includes wearing professional clothing (on both halves of your body), making sure the room you’re interviewing in is brightly lit (and uncluttered, if possible) and testing your microphone and video quality in advance.

McSpadden offers one other thing — and one that might take a bit longer to implement: “Whether it’s a virtual or in-person job interview, the biggest ‘do’ is your research.”

In other words: While demonstrating that you understand both Zoom etiquette and your industry’s professional standards is an important part of job-seeking, it’s even more important that you understand what problems your potential employer is hoping to solve by filling this position — and how your skills and experience make you the perfect person to help solve those problems.

What to do if you were laid off during the pandemic

It’s easier to get a job when you have a job — and multiple studies, including one by the New York Fed, have run the numbers to prove it. What does that mean for workers who were laid off during the pandemic, or who temporarily stepped away from their careers to care for their children as schools and daycares shut down?

McSpadden suggests taking the same tactic as you would if you were currently employed: Focus on how you can make a potential employer’s life easier.

“Don’t worry if you have an inconsistent work history,” says McSpadden. “If you do the work to prove you’re an asset to the company, that will matter much more than if you are re-entering the workforce after a period of unemployment.”

Yes, it might be harder for some people to find jobs if they aren’t currently employed. On the plus side, if there’s one thing employers in 2021 should understand, it’s how many people experienced career fluctuations during 2020 — and the best employers will keep that in mind when making hiring decisions.

How to build a professional network while working from home

Many qualified candidates benefit not only from a strong application, but also from strong recommendations. Whether you’re looking to find job openings,, move up in your current career or transition into an entirely new industry, the people you know can help you get where you want to go — but what should you do if you don’t already have your professional network in place? Is it possible to bond with coworkers and build industry connections in a world without happy hours, conferences and after-work softball games?

The good news is that you can build a professional network while working from home. As many freelancers and remote workers have already discovered, there are many ways of making connections with the people you work with — even if you never see those people in person.

The bad news is that it might be harder for your coworkers to see you as a person if they only communicate with you through email, Slack and videochat. “Working remotely makes it difficult to connect with others on a personal level,” McSpadden explains. You no longer have the opportunity to walk by someone’s desk and have a conversation about a shared interest, for example — or to form the kind of casual friendships that develop when a group of coworkers regularly go to lunch together.

What’s the solution? McSpadden suggests building the foundation of your professional network by developing a reputation as a person who works hard and solves problems. “Focus on making your manager’s and your coworkers’ lives and jobs easier.”

From there, begin to share work-appropriate personal details in a way that also makes your coworkers’ lives more enjoyable — and encourage your coworkers to do the same. This could be something as simple as choosing a personal emoji to display next to your name on Slack, or (with your manager’s approval) creating a Slack channel to discuss pets, sports or how you spent your weekend. “This will show that while you are dedicated to your job and the company’s growth, offering innovative and valuable ideas, you are also a team player that people like having around.”

And that’s really what a potential employer wants to know, right? That you’re a person who is both dedicated to your work and fun to have around. Start building those skills and reinforcing those attributes with the people you currently work with — whether you’re working in person or working remotely — and you might find that they’ll be more than happy to recommend you for a promotion or connect you to your next job.

Just make sure you do the same, when it’s their turn to start job hunting.

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate,, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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