Recruiting Trends and Predictions to Keep an Eye on in 2021

Recruiting Trends

The year 2020 was a groundbreaking year in a lot of ways. A world forever changed by a global pandemic is just one background factor. Millions of people lost jobs and have either chosen to pursue entirely different careers, live on savings for as long as they can, or shift their focus to freelancing, starting a new business, or working from home. As such, the landscape of recruiting has changed as well. Some trends kicked up in early 2020 and are nearing their end, while others seem to be here to stay.

Let’s look at what the year 2021 and beyond has in store for the world, the economy, and the future of work.

Freedom to Choose

The pandemic has left millions of people without work, many of whom aren’t very interested in returning to the industries that they left. There is absolutely no shortage of candidates in the world at large, so recruiting agencies, staffing firms, and companies looking to hire have the advantage.

Candidate Selection

This varies dramatically by industry. Many front-line industries such as retail and especially hospitality have lost large numbers of employees and need to fill the gaps, but interest in those service jobs has dropped due to the risks involved. When the pandemic is finally over, this may change, but for the moment, there’s a huge employment gap.

From CNBC:

“Most of the hiring decline came in the hospitality industry, which saw a drop of more than 300,000 to 777,000. Within that group, arts, entertainment and recreation accounted for a decline of 82,000 as the hiring rate tumbled from 7.8% in November to 3.5%.”

All in all, every industry will need to examine its trends in hiring and staffing. The service industry and hospitality are struggling, while more flexible and resilient back-end industries are thriving. One thing that has seen companies through above all else is flexibility; the ability to adapt to quickly changing circumstances has seen many businesses through a hard time that would have ruined them if they did not adapt.

Emphasis on Employer Branding

It was also a year of stark political and cultural clashes. Many of those conflicts continue today, and it’s not all centered around politics and personal opinions on social issues. Major companies are having to take a stance, with neutrality seen as a sign of weakness or, worse, a sign of supporting something awful.

Company Culture

From Jobvite:

“According to the 2020 Job Seeker Nation Report, 81% of workers think company culture is somewhat or very important in their decision to apply for a job. Job seekers care about a company’s values and what they stand for. Long after this crisis is over, employees and job seekers will remember how you treated them. [An] organization should ask themselves, “Is the brand I have today, the brand I want tomorrow?”

Employers need to be aware of the employer brand and reputation that they are building, through both their actions and their inactions. How employees are treated, how diversity is emphasized, how employees act and are treated according to their expressed opinions, and even factors such as the CEO’s contributions to political campaigns can all be factors in whether or not a talented candidate even applies to your company. Building the wrong kind of brand can come crashing down, suddenly and harshly.

It’s equally important to make sure you’re enacting real policies, real actions, and real change. Companies that pay lip service to diversity but maintain a 90% white male employee roster, for example, can and will be called out for it. Even major corporations are not immune: take for example Activision Blizzard, and the controversy surrounding their rejection of diversity rules.

Emphasizing Remote Work

Perhaps one of the biggest changes 2020 brought to many industries is the shift to more remote work. Remote telecommunications infrastructure allows for distributed teams to work more efficiently than ever before, and modern tools have facilitated a nearly unprecedented shift in how work is performed. Working from home went from a rising trend as a benefit to certain roles, to a near-necessity for the health and safety of your employees.

Luckily, this isn’t a new trend. Work from home was already on the rise before the pandemic, and it was expected to continue to grow already. Companies that can facilitate and focus on work from home are going to have an easier time navigating the next few years to come, as more and more job seekers list it not as an optional benefit, but as a requirement for their accepting an offer.

Remote Work

Support is not thin on the ground. From FlexJobs:

“A Gartner survey of company leaders found that 80% plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic and 47% will allow employees to work from home full-time. In a PwC survey of 669 CEOs, 78% agree that remote collaboration is here to stay for the long-term.”

Many of the traditional arguments against remote work have fallen flat in new studies and surveys. It was once thought that an office is a better, more focused place to work, but research has shown that workplace distractions cause businesses to lose $600 billion annually in lost productivity. It was once thought that without a manager to oversee workers directly, people would work less and less efficiently, but the reality is that productivity is the same or higher.

Adapting to New Interviewing Technologies

Modern technology has already been shifting companies towards a more tech-focused interview process. Paperwork is on the way out; employee profiles maintained by ATS, virtual interviews conducted by video call rather than phone, and remote-proctored skills testing are all part and parcel of a modern interview process. These trends were accelerated by the shift to remote work and the notable danger of in-person interviews and travel, but were, like remote work, already growing.

Video Interview

From Amerit Consulting:

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“Technology will always evolve each year and it [helps hiring] managers to be able to test their candidates to ensure what they say they can do is accurate. With the rise of virtual interviews, hiring managers will lean on these skill assessment technology tools to help vet out their candidates.”

There are a variety of ways to assess candidates using remote technologies, including:

  • AI/machine learning-powered analysis of resumes and CVs, lending an unbiased assessment of skills and qualities to push the best candidates to the top of the pile.
  • Online skills testing through distributed platforms that offer realistic representations of common and uncommon workplace tasks, to assess how a candidate will perform in the role they are applying for.
  • The option to offer a prospective employee a trial contract for paid work, to see in real, usable ways how they will perform working with your team and on your projects.

Connecting with prospective candidates and assessing their viability in a given role is less and less reliant on face-to-face contact and personal opinions, and more on tangible skills.

Making Use of Modern Communications

One ongoing trend throughout the younger generations is a shift away from traditional means of communications and into more modern forms. Phone calls and phone interviews have been replaced with video calls and interviews. Emails are more and more going the way of the dinosaur, with low open rates for recruiting emails. Meanwhile, modern forms of communication such as instant messaging and texting have much, much higher engagement rates.

Modern Communications and Chat

Jobvite mentions:

“No surprise here, candidates open and respond to text messages more than email. There is a 98% open rate for mobile recruiting texts vs. a 20% open rate for recruiting emails. We’re all tied to our phones – so use text messaging throughout your recruiting process to schedule candidate interviews, keep them engaged, offer jobs, and help them prepare for day one.”

More than ever, keeping applicants engaged from the moment they learn about your job via advertising, through the application process, on to interviews, and finally to either rejection or onboarding, is critical. Job seekers are expecting more frequent, less formal communications, both in tone and in the method. This trend will no doubt continue until the next generation begins to reject older technology in favor of something new and modern.

Side Hustles

More and more people are working side gigs to make ends meet. Gig jobs have increased month over month for years now. Some people choose to pursue them due to their flexibility; others are left with no choice but to find a way to supplement their income due to rising costs of living and stagnant wages.

Working From Home

This presents a growing opportunity for employers, as well as a choice. Do you:

  • Offer flexible hours and a tangible start and end to the workday, to allow for employees to reliably work a second job or a side gig?
  • Offer institutional support for side gigs, including resources to help with handling a business or dealing with freelancing taxes?
  • Offer a higher salary with the understanding that you’re replacing not just the previous job of the candidate, but the income they made from their side gig as well, so you can support them in a modern cost of living?

Different options have different pros and cons, which we may discuss another time. The fact is, a company cannot expect to dominate all of the time or the lifestyle of their employees, and allowing them flexibility or freedom via higher wages is increasingly important.

Taking Advantage of Existing Resources

According to Jobvite, as much a 64% of employees don’t look for internal opportunities to grow in their career. This is due to a combination of historical lack of career opportunities and long-term prospects, and a lack of promotion of those internal opportunities. At the same time, the uncertainty of moving to a new company with an unproven team and untested culture is a strong disincentive for an employee to leave. Money is often the driving factor, especially in the high cost of living areas.

Existing Resources

Internal mobility should exist and be promoted. According to LinkedIn:

“No longer nice-to-have, internal mobility will be a must-have. Partnering with learning and development (L&D) and broader HR, recruiting will have the opportunity to lead/build a rigorous internal mobility program rather than leaving it to hiring managers or ad hoc practices. Companies will aim to catalog employees’ current skills and clearly tie internal job opportunities to relevant L&D resources that will help employees fill any qualification gaps.”

When you have employees on hand who are tried and tested, promoting them to new roles to make use of their skills is a natural boon. It’s often easier to recruit for a lower-level position than a higher position as well, making internal promotions beneficial from all sides of the situation. Employers can spend less and recruit better candidates with the promise of career mobility, proven by the vacancy existing because of career mobility.

Increasing Automation

An increasing amount of the labor performed by a human resources department is automated. Modern applicant tracking systems can skim a resume for salient information and make judgments in an unbiased way, and automatically fill out profiles on an applicant using both resume data and publicly available data gleaned from social media profiles. Verification is necessary, of course, and human oversight will never be totally eliminated.

Automation Process

Likewise, automation can be used for cost reductions, improved efficiency, and better candidate selection at all stages of the process. Skills testing can be automated and assessed remotely. Engagement campaigns to keep applicants aware and engaged are quickly becoming the norm. Virtually everything outside of the interview and the actual hiring decision can be streamlined in some way.

This year is looking to be an interesting year of accelerated trends, spurred on by the end of the pandemic and the recovery of the global economy. The hiring world will be forever changed, but change isn’t necessarily a negative. It simply means your company will need to adapt to stick with the times. While it’s unlikely that 2021 will be as uncertain or as accelerated as 2020, there are still many factors at play that can change the world in dramatic ways, from enforcing a higher minimum wage to the presence or absence of additional stimulus packages, to laws regulating gig workers. It pays to stay aware.

Do you have any predictions or methods that are influencing your recruiting this year? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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