I wanted to share something I'm hearing from recruiters for industrial jobs who have been recruiting at [major research university] this fall. They are getting fewer applicants than in previous years, and really want to hire. In talking with some students/postdocs here, we think that people are worried about applying because they lost a year of productivity to COVID, so they don't think they will be competitive. If any of your readers are feeling this way, they should definitely apply: they aren't competing against the graduates from before COVID, they are competing against everyone else who also lost a year.[redacted sentence] There are definitely other reasons for the worker shortage (raise wages!) but there is probably some self-filtering happening even before the salary negotiation stage.
I broadly agree with the professor, but I have a different angle to why I end up in the same place (i.e. "now (early fall 2021) is a good time to apply." The annoying part of applying to positions isn't the Black Hole of Not Knowing After Applying, it's the time and emotional investment of writing all the stupid stuff that you need to write, i.e. a cover letter, a resume, a research summary, etc., etc. That part takes time, and to have an investment of time with an unknown payoff can be daunting.
However, so far as I can tell, we really are in a period of time where the entry-level barriers to being hired in the pharma/chemical industry seem to be shifting/falling, and I feel your chances of landing a job (especially without a postdoc) are higher for the last 2-3 years than they've been in a very long time. I make no guarantees as to what Fall 2022 will be like, and anyone who tells you they know is guessing as well. So I agree with MRU professor - apply now.
Best wishes to all those applying.