Has Recruiting Changed Forever? Lessons From Jobvite’s ’Recruiter Nation 2020’

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Future of Recruiting

Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, much has been said about our “new normal” — and about our collective excitement to, one day, return to the old normal.

But for recruiters and talent acquisition experts, the old normal may be gone for good. The large-scale transformation of recruiting in response to the pandemic may be more than a temporary adaptation. It may be the new face of recruiting for years to come.

That’s according to the results of Jobvite’s latest “Recruiter Nation” report, an annual look at the latest developments in recruiting and talent acquisition. According to the 2020 edition of the report, recruiters’ priorities have shifted dramatically, and there’s a good chance those new priorities are here to stay.

What Recruiters Care About Now: Quality, Diversity, and Internal Talent

The candidate’s market is over. The supply of available talent now outstrips the number of open roles in many industries — but that doesn’t mean recruiting is all sunshine and roses. In fact, according to the 802 recruiters surveyed by Jobvite, hiring is just as challenging now as it was before the pandemic. What’s really changed is how hiring gets done — and what matters most in the process.

According to “Recruiter Nation 2020,” 58 percent of recruiters are still dealing with a lack of skilled candidates. That’s not too surprising: The impacts of COVID-19 have been uneven, and the talent currently flooding the job market comes by and large from those industries that have been hit hardest. These candidates won’t necessarily be suited for the kinds of open roles that recruiters are currently hiring for — although transferable skills can be important here. That said, this does represent a slight improvement over 2017, when 67 percent of recruiters said they faced a shortage of qualified candidates.

Forty-seven percent of recruiters also told Jobvite they were facing stiff competition from other employers in the talent market. The widespread shift to remote work may be contributing to this: Companies are no longer competing in purely local arenas for candidates. The war for talent has gone global in a whole new way.

Conventional wisdom holds that speed is king in a competitive talent market — or, at least, it used to. One of the most surprising things about “Recruiter Nation 2020” is the way in which recruiters’ priorities have changed since the start of the pandemic.

For example, only 23 percent of recruiters said cutting time to hire was a priority for them in the next 12 months, compared to 40 percent in 2017. Similarly, growing talent pipelines has become a less pressing concern (a priority for 22 percent in 2020 vs. 52 percent in 2017), as has improving the candidate experience (16 percent in 2020 vs 26 percent in 2017).

Today, most recruiters — 52 percent — say improving quality of hire is a top priority for the next 12 months. Diversity hiring has also become more of a priority, with 22 percent of recruiters citing it as such in 2020, compared to 13 percent in 2017. The economic upheaval of the pandemic may have, in the eyes of recruiters and employers, cast a new light on just how important it is to have the right person in the right seat. When times get tough, we all want the best of the best steering our companies through the crisis.

The emphasis on quality of hire over time to hire may also be a matter of practicality: With so many candidates on the market, recruiters are likely sifting through more (unqualified) resumes than they used to. Separating the wheat from the chaff just takes longer now.

As hiring has changed, so have recruiters’ investments. Twenty-three percent of respondents to “Recruiter Nation 2020” said they’re investing in outside recruiters and recruiting agencies over the next 12 months, compared to 7 percent who said the same in 2017 — a massive spike. Similarly, internal hires have gained more prominence in talent strategies, with 28 percent of recruiters investing in them, compared to 17 percent in 2017.

When it comes to technology, social media is drawing big investments from recruiters as well, especially LinkedIn: 46 percent said they’re investing in social media broadly, and 40 percent said they’re investing in linkedIn specifically.

The increased usage of outside recruiters and internal hires is a smart response to a competitive and chaotic talent market: get help navigating external talent pools while using internal talent pools as much as possible. We may be able to understand social media investments in a similar light: Social media offers a key platform for cutting through the noise of the job boards and connecting with target candidates more directly.

What Job Seekers Want From Employers: Diversity, Mental Health Benefits, and Accommodations for Working Parents

As recruiters’ priorities have shifted, so have candidates’. Recruiters report that candidates seem a bit more interested in the intangibles now when assessing job opportunities.

For example, 33 percent of recruiters said job seekers are asking about diversity and inclusion initiatives more than they used to. Forty-three percent of recruiters have also found that candidates are more interested in mental health benefits than they used to be, and 47 percent say that job seekers frequently ask about COVID-19 safety measures, for obvious reasons. Sixty-seven percent of recruiters have experienced increased interest in accommodations and flexibility for working parents as well. As COVID-19 threw so many peoples’ lives into disarray, it’s no wonder that candidates seem to be questing after employment opportunities that offer stability and support.

That’s not to say they’re entirely uninterested in more standard forms of compensation. According to “Recruiter Nation 2020,” medical/dental coverage and 401(k)s are both among the top three perks that are most attractive to candidates right now. Additionally, 51 percent of recruiters said more candidates are negotiating for higher salaries now.

But, hey: Salaries and health benefits are just another kind of support and stability, aren’t they?

Has the Game Changed for Good? Maybe.

So the rules of the game have changed — and they may never go back, even if we want them to. Consider recruiters’ feelings about virtual interviews. Fifty-three percent of recruiters said they conduct more than half of their interviews via video, yet 77 percent believe in-person interviews are the most effective form of interview. Even so, 40 percent of recruiters — and 61 percent of staffing agency recruiters in particular — believe virtual interviews will be the default interview mode going forward.

Recruiters’ responses to virtual interviews might just offer us a neat little parable to explain what’s happening now: Even if recruiters don’t personally love the changes to recruiting, they recognize the changes are happening, and that those changes are likely to stick with us in some way, even after the pandemic has ended.

Read more in Recruiting

Matthew Kosinski is the former managing editor of Recruiter.com.