The Golden Age of Recruiting: Why Talent Acquisition Will Rule the 2020s and Beyond

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Certain professions come to represent their eras. The 1950s gave us the enduring figure of the traveling salesperson. Wall Street traders dominated the ’80s. Telecomm rose to prominence in the mid-90s, while tech professionals had their moment in the late ’90s and again in the 2010s. Real estate was king of the early 2000s.

And now, it’s the recruiters‘ turn to shine. 2021 is the beginning of the Golden Age of Recruiting.

Why the Future Belongs to the Recruiters

To understand why certain jobs gain prominence at certain times, you just have to look at the economy. Take the 1990s: The dot-com boom made tech professionals the face of the decade. Just a few years later, the rise of the app economy and the monetization of social media brought them back into the spotlight during the 2010s.

Today, the economic and technological signs all point in recruiters’ favor. Here’s why:

Hiring Is the Average Company’s Biggest Pain Point

Even before the pandemic, the employer-employee relationship had become complicated. Average job tenure dwindled throughout the 2010s, and employers fretted about the increasing popularity of job-hopping. Many professionals chose to bow out of full-time employment entirely, joining an explosive gig economy that grew 27 percent faster than traditional employment between 1996 and 2016.

Then came the pandemic, which turned the labor market on its head. Suddenly, employers are dealing with severe talent shortages even as unemployment remains above pre-pandemic levels. Job openings hit a record high of 9.21 million in May, but companies cannot fill those roles.

Where are all the workers? Some joined the gig economy, which grew even further in 2020. Others have emerged from the pandemic with a new understanding of their power in the economy and a new set of priorities to match. Workers are watching as companies raise salaries, offer bonuses, and tout unique benefits to court them — and many are waiting to see how far employers will go before they take a new job.

Some employees have decided they like remote work so much they’d rather quit than return to the office. Others are demanding their employers take steps to better support work/life balance; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and employee well-being.

Ultimately, talent has power in this economy, and they’re using it to dictate the terms of their employment. They’re unlikely to let that power go any time soon. Life, the pandemic taught them, is too short to work an unfulfilling job for an unsatisfactory wage. The Great Resignation is only the first manifestation of this radical transformation of the talent market. We’re never going back.

And that’s where the recruiters come in. Today’s talent is hard to find, hard to engage, and even harder to sell on an opportunity. Hiring is the average company’s biggest pain point. In the same way that every company scrambled to hire tech talent in the 2010s to join the digital revolution, companies in the 2020s will need to build robust recruiting teams to navigate this brand new talent landscape.

Talent Plays an Increasingly Critical Role as a Differentiator

As talent becomes harder to find, it’s also becoming increasingly vital to company success.

Of course, talent has always been key to organizational performance, but it has taken on a new level of importance in recent years. According to former McKinsey & Company Managing Director Dominic Barton, any organization looking to compete today must make identifying, hiring, and nurturing talent central business functions. Barton even goes as far as to say that CHROs are, along with CEOs and CFOs, the most important executive leaders in any company right now.

Why? Barton points to two reasons. First, talent is harder to find than capital, which means that simply having access to money isn’t enough of a differentiator anymore. Second, technology has amplified the returns a company can get on truly great talent. Technology allows top performers to scale their reach and bring their boldest ideas to fruition. With the right tools, a single employee can transform an entire organization.

Technology and capital may have won the day in the 2010s, but the playing field has been leveled. Now, the most successful companies will be those that have the right talent to make the best use of that technology and capital. And finding that talent starts with recruiters.

Recruiters Are the Most Powerful Differentiators of All

Recruiters themselves offer a perfect illustration of the relationship between technology and talent that Barton describes. Recruitment technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Gone are the days of glitchy ATSs and keyword-based resume parsers. Now, recruiters have access to a whole suite of tools powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning — and that means the best recruiters are more effective than ever.

With the help of AI job-matching tools, recruiters can scour bigger talent pools, source more diverse candidates, and even pinpoint higher-quality matches with ease. Some of these recruiting tools can even do a lot of the heavy lifting on their own, delivering pre-vetted candidates right to recruiters’ inboxes and freeing them up to focus on the high-touch aspects of engaging more top-quality talent.

While this tech is now available to most organizations, the returns are infinitely higher when top recruiters are manning the keyboards — just like Barton says. Recruiting talent, like any other talent, is a key differentiator for companies today. But recruiting talent also has the multiplier effect of helping employers bring on even more high-quality hires in other departments, too — making recruiters the most potent differentiators of all.

How Your Company Can Thrive in the Golden Age of Recruiting

The companies that saw the most success last decade — Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, and even Domino’s Pizza — all have one thing in common. They wholly embraced the digital economy, making tech talent and continuous technological innovation their top priorities.

The companies that succeed in the coming years will be the ones that embrace the talent economy and their most powerful differentiators in that economy: recruiters.

In practice, companies will have to build strong recruiting teams capable of handling the fast-paced, highly complex talent market today. But the old models of recruiting aren’t suited for this new era; they’re artifacts of a simpler time. Companies need a more dynamic approach to recruiting, one capable of pivoting to meet each new shift in the talent market as it arises.

On-demand recruiting is the new recruitment model for the Golden Age of Recruiting, allowing companies to rapidly assemble teams of virtual recruiters and scale up or down as talent needs change. These recruiters act as an extension of and complement to the company’s in-house talent acquisition team, meaning there are no success fees to worry about. On-demand recruiting gives employers the ability to be nimble and proactive in pursuing the candidates they’ll need to thrive in the coming years.

And the value of recruitment technology cannot be understated. Talent is so important today because technology gives every hire the chance to make an outsized impact. The same paradigm applies to recruiters. Armed with AI job-matching tools, a single high-performing recruiter — whether in-house or on-demand — can be the make-or-break factor in your company’s success.

This is the beginning of the Golden Age of Recruiting. Those businesses that embrace the spirit of the era will become the Ubers, Netflixes, and Amazons of the 2020s — and beyond.

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By Matthew Kosinski