Learn how the pandemic has shifted hiring managers' priorities so you can get hired faster.

By Maggie Seaver
November 09, 2020
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The pandemic has left no corner of life untouched or unchanged—including the job market. Since the start of 2020, millions of Americans have lost jobs; brand-new roles have surfaced out of necessity; remote work is more highly coveted than ever; and the process of job hunting and recruiting has become a whole new ball game. Finding a job during a global health crisis is no easy task, but, believe it or not, there are some silver linings to the strange times we’re in.

Just as job seekers have had to change their strategy for landing a role, hiring managers have shifted their priorities and expectations when looking at applicants. The more you understand what catches their eye in a stellar resume or candidate, the easier your search becomes. A new study from TopResume, the world's largest resume-writing and career guidance service, reveals how the pandemic has changed which key factors recruiters care most about when reviewing job apps—and which former deal-breakers aren’t such an issue anymore. 

Probably the best news of all: Gaps in employment don’t set off alarm bells like they once did. In TopResume’s survey of 334 U.S. recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals from across the country, only 13 percent said long unemployment gaps remain a red flag on a job seeker’s resume. But an overwhelming and very encouraging 87 percent answered they were “unfazed by an inconsistent work history.” More than ever, recruiters seem to sympathize with the rampant employment and financial struggles of late, and know that resume gaps aren’t always indicative of work ethic or unreliability. If it looks like a great candidate was out of the game for a length of time, that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker anymore. 

Now, for what the pandemic has moved hiring managers to care more about—and they’re much less complicated, and much more attainable than you might expect. Cover letters seemed to have increased in significance for impressing recruiters, so put in the extra effort to write a cover letter that’s clear, authentic, and thoughtfully tailored to the exact position you’re interested in. Almost half of survey takers (48 percent) said they’re more likely to read and consider cover letters since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak. Only 18 percent disagreed, or said they’re less likely to worry about cover letters, and 34 percent didn’t feel strongly either way. Don’t shrug off the cover letter portion of any job app—it could be the deciding factor that bumps you to the top of the pile.

Finally, recruiters are putting more weight on thank-you notes. What might seem like an obligatory pleasantry your parents, teachers, or career counselors have always nagged you to do is actually a make-or-break detail for many hiring managers. According to TopResume, 68 percent of survey-takers agreed with the statement that, since the pandemic, a thank-you email or note—or lack thereof—takes on greater significance when they’re evaluating a candidate. A small 20 percent said the importance of the thank-you gesture hasn’t changed in their opinion, and only 12 percent believed a written or digital thank-you was less important to them now. When it seems like unnecessary overkill to send a thank-you email after an interview, informational meeting, or other professional interaction, don’t let that small, extra effort slide. Recruiters are humans, too. They value genuine human connection, gratitude for lending you their time and attention, and proof that you’re excited and appreciative of the opportunity. It speaks wonders to your character and can be the final boost that sets you apart in a competitive job market right now.