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Since the beginning of the pandemic, roughly 41 million US workers have applied for unemployment. The unemployment rate now rivals that of the Great Depression.

The swift economic decline we’re currently experiencing follows the longest economic expansion in US history. Capital investments were through the roof, and hiring exploded across sectors. We recruiters were some of the biggest beneficiaries of the prosperous economy — and we took some hard hits when the downturn began.

Now, as businesses slowly start hiring again, recruiters have to consider how the return to normalcy will affect our own efforts. To understand that, we first have to ask ourselves a key question: Will organizations seek to make up for lost time and go on the biggest hiring spree this country has ever seen, or will they ease their way back into the talent market?

The Age of Corporate Pickiness

In my opinion, it’s unlikely we’ll reach the abundance of hiring we enjoyed over the last decade any time soon. Some companies will rebuild and pursue another run at glory, but the lessons they’ve learned during the pandemic will change the way they operate forever.

Throughout the lockdown, companies were forced to find software solutions to keep business operations running smoothly with reduced or dispersed workforces. They adopted tools to track productivity, streamline internal and external communications, and manage tasks.

In the post-COVID economy, organizations aren’t simply going to drop this technology. There’s no turning back. Technology is cheaper and, in some ways, more reliable than people. Today’s tech tools can take over a wide range of tasks that previously required a human hand.

Additionally, companies have learned the value of making one great hire instead of making a lot of okay hires. With more tasks being given over to technology, human employees will increasingly focus on innovation and creativity. One highly innovative employee can bring immeasurable value to a team, and businesses will invest more capital into making fewer hires of higher quality.

We are now in the era of corporate pickiness when it comes to talent. A decade ago, a .NET developer was hired simply because they had “.NET development” listed on their resume. Going forward, that kind of requirement will account for roughly one-tenth of a company’s ask. In addition, the organization will want someone with experience in multiple technologies, industries, certifications, and much more.

The New Rules of Recruiting

It’s not just the target of recruiting that has changed — so has recruiting’s very form. The massive shift to remote work has transformed the game of recruiting.

Traditionally, recruiters leveraged networking events, trade shows, coffee meetings, happy hours, and other face-to-face interactions to engage new candidates and acquire new clients. Today, those tools are no longer available to us. We have to go where the top talent is. Now, that means turning to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

Monster, CareerBuilder, and other massive job boards have been growing less and less relevant for a long time now. Today, these platforms are mostly noise, thanks to the influx of candidates, bots, and automated recruiting tools. If you want to find A players right now, you’ll want to look to more community-oriented channels like YouTube, Reddit, and digital hackathons.

As more recruiters compete to place fewer top-tier candidates, recruiters will have to find ways to differentiate themselves. The key to doing so lies in consistently placing candidates of the highest quality.

Recruiters have to step up their screening methods to ensure they’re only bringing their clients the best. Resumes don’t mean much today; many are bloated with keywords and exaggeration. In a sense, they’re designed to trick recruiters into letting a candidate through the door, even when they are not truly qualified. Combatting this requires recruiters to extensively educate themselves on their verticals. Learn what keywords really mean, and learn what your candidates’ daily jobs really look like. This will allow you to screen candidates more effectively and qualify job orders more thoroughly.

Recruiters should also incorporate additional measures into the screening process, including:

  1. Presubmittal technical assessment: Confirm your candidates can actually do the work they say they can.
  2. Culture fit assessment: The best hires are those who have both the technical skills for the job and the right values and attitudes to thrive in the employer’s culture. See if your candidate’s cultural preferences align with your client’s before submitting them.
  3. Video interview tools: Companies have taken the hiring process virtual. Recognize the trend and start incorporating remote interviews into your process, too.

As recruiters, we have a lot of new tools and techniques to master. Luckily, we also have access to a variety of educational resources to help ourselves along. Tap into the conversations happening on social media. Listen to the right podcasts. There’s plenty of expertise out there.

We recruiters need to understand we’re participating in a radically different marketplace now. Demand is lower, employers’ criteria are stricter, and we must go the extra mile to stand out. If you keep doing things the way you always have, your competitors will leave you behind.

Alex Papageorge is an innovator within the human capital industry. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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