For many open roles out there, it’s a candidate’s market. Especially in highly skilled, in-demand roles, quality employees often have their pick of places to work. This makes the role of the recruiter even more vital. Recruiters are often the business’s first impression. They’re the first to introduce many potential clients to your company culture and help them understand why it’s a good place to work. But the recruiting process is not always easy for candidates to follow.

Recruiters — along with some of the latest technology — can help smooth that process out and make it a better, more efficient experience for the applicants, as well as hiring managers so your new hires can go from open position to onboarded and working at full capacity as quickly as possible. The world of recruiting is shifting, but with a little work, you can stay up-to-date on the latest recruiting trends.

16 Recruiting Trends to Know About

For many job seekers, the first touchpoint with an organization is the recruiter. To make that first impression the best possible experience for applicants, the role of the recruiter has become even more valued. Demand for recruiting professionals grew 63% from 2016-2019, and the fastest growing skills for recruiters are related to decision-making and HR strategy.

What are the trends in recruitment for 2021? Like many other parts of the business, recruitment is digitizing and building processes to meet the demands of today’s labor market and environment. Here are a few examples of how recruitment is shifting to meet changing demand.

  1. Virtual Recruiting

    Some 70% of the companies say their recruiting and onboarding is at least half virtual – with 1 in 10 reporting that it is fully virtual. Virtual recruiting will continue to grow, as will the challenges it presents in affording candidates a close-up look at company culture and sustained in-person interaction for both the candidate and the company to determine fit. Top notch virtual recruiting experiences aim to convey company culture from the first moments a candidate discovers an open role with the organization.

    Recruiters play a pivotal role in human capital management (HCM) — or the practices and strategy your business uses to recruit, train and retain your workforce. HCM is a framework that aligns your workforce to your business needs. Virtual recruiting is playing a more significant role in HCM strategies, especially paired with remote working. No longer is your business limited to finding candidates in the geographic area of your offices or headquarters. Instead, you can think beyond geographic boundaries and recruit the best candidate for a position, no matter where he or she lives.

    One example of virtual recruiting playing a strong role in HCM is accounting firm PwC, which rolled out a mobile-enabled “choose your own adventure” experience that gives the job seeker more control over the hiring experience. This includes the ability to self-schedule interview times and choose an interviewer, as well as real-time visibility for candidates to see where they are in the process. Interviews are increasingly being conducted virtually, and candidates are being asked how they work effectively in virtual environments.

  2. Remote Work

    At least a hybrid of in person and remote work is here to stay. This year will further loosen geography boundaries on hiring pools – with more than 1/3 of companies saying they are willing to hire remote workers from anywhere in the world.

    Some 60% of applicants want flexibility in when they work and where they work. The ability to choose remote work technology and equipment (such as standing desks or noise cancelling headphones), along with providing collaboration technologies and ways to learn and connect remotely will distinguish companies for job seekers. Candidates may even begin to set themselves apart with remote work certifications – such as the course offered through North Dakota State University, a one-month class designed to equip workers with the tools and skills needed to work from home. Companies such as Ring Central are building entirely virtual teams from the very earliest talent stages. In 2020, the collaboration platform vendor shifted its entire internship program to virtual – including a supporting summit, as well as a project to come up with a concept feature for their products.

  3. Automation

    Candidate relationship management and applicant tracking, which is often managed using human resources management systems (HRMS), along with digital interviewing platforms are radically altering the role of recruiters because many formerly manual processes are being automated. HRMS improves the employee experience — and in terms of recruiting it can help with resume management, scheduling interviews and tracking the process for candidate, recruiter and hiring manager. By using HRMS tools to save time at the earliest stages of the process, recruiters can ease one of the points that introduces the most friction in the candidate experience – the length of the recruiting process itself. In 2021, recruiters will automate more traditionally in-person (or on-the-phone) tasks, such as candidate screenings and initial interviews. One area experiencing huge growth in this regard is asynchronous video technology – software that allows applicants to film themselves answering a set of questions. Video technology helps companies speed up the applicant to hire process – often on a massive scale. For instance, Walmart’s “Project 24” – which has a goal of getting from a job opening to a job acceptance within 24 hours – has aimed to ease the process of setting up in-person interviews, messaging back and forth and scheduling and rescheduling. A pre-employment assessment and a phone interview replaced that process. The combination of efforts has driven down the time to identify a hire to making an offer from 14.5 days to 3.5 days.

  4. Artificial intelligence

    AI technology is used to source candidates, review resumes and schedule interviews. Some platforms leverage AI to comb through answers to written interview questions – learning from the data and using algorithms to push the candidates forward that are the best fit. Recruiters are pretty bullish on AI — some 36% of recruiters say AI would make their jobs better. They reported using AI for job recommendations on career sites, candidate matching, job description recommendations, candidate screening with automated messages and candidate engagement scoring. One of the areas in which AI holds particular promise is in removing bias from job descriptions. AI-powered writing tools can replace language that may be biased or gendered in job descriptions. Leveraging these tools, Deloitte says one consumer goods company saw a 30% increase in the number of qualified applicants, while another tech company saw the job descriptions attract 28% more women and fill the positions 50% faster.

  5. Chatbots

    Chatbots used in the recruiting process are helping to convert more applicants and increase the number of candidate leads. Chatbots are valuable, for instance, in giving candidates the opportunity to learn more about the organization before even applying – and subsequently reducing time spent answering those types of questions by a human recruiter. Career sites with chatbots compared to those without chatbots had 95% more conversion to leads, 40% more job seekers complete applications and 13% more job seekers click on a job requisition. Common topics candidates ask chatbots about include how to apply, the status of applications, benefits and compensation and questions about searching for specific roles. Marriott International was one of the first hospitality companies to deploy recruitment chatbots. These AI-powered chatbots guide users to open roles and even serve up relevant content to educate them on the positions.

  6. Predictive Analytics

    Part of the role of the recruiter is to help attract, identify and convert the best quality candidates to boost productivity at your company. And you can make highly educated guesses for who will be the best for any particular role. But predictive analytics puts data behind those decisions and helps you make even more informed estimates. It uses historic and current data to make predictions about the future. In HR, predictive analytics takes data from your HRMS, resumes, job descriptions and other areas to predict outcomes about applicants. Some of the areas it might track would include the cultural fit, their likelihood to remain with the company, their ability to learn new skills and their ability to become and stay engaged. A single job posting at JP Morgan can attract thousands of applicants. The company uses machine learning algorithms to help sort those resumes and use them as a tool to aid recruiters as they comb through the stacks of applicants. The machine learning tries to identify what types of applicants are more likely to be interviewed and hired and find trends in what types of applicants are likely to stay on, especially in high turnover roles. While computers aren’t making the hiring decisions, their recommendations are serving as important tools for recruiters.

  7. Benefits Expansion

    Medical and dental coverage remain the most desired benefits among employees and are one of the most effective tools in recruiting new candidates. But many job seekers are looking beyond standard medical and dental coverage. Roughly half of U.S. employees want more help from employers to save for retirement, balance work and life and get more value from their benefits. Expanding benefits can be an effective way to attract more candidates, especially for hard to fill roles, such as finance, developers and other highly skilled positions.

    • Mental health: One of the areas in sharp focus for both the potential employee and the employer is mental health. About half of recruiters said job seekers are asking about mental health benefits more frequently. The CDC reports that symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder are increasing considerably in the U.S. To that end, more employers are providing special emotional and mental health programs – including free or discounted access to mental health apps and activities like yoga. PwC is offering employees access to a wellness coach, and Power Home Remodeling has decreased its employee co-pays from $50 to $20 for in-network therapy providers.
  8. Empathy

    Creating a culture that encourages employees to think about the needs and feelings of others is a guiding principle of leadership today. Empathy can play a big role in recruiting, and those doing the hiring and onboarding can gain much insight by putting themselves in the shoes of candidates and new hires. Too often candidates experience the phenomenon of the vanishing recruiter — where a recruiter withdraws from all communication without any explanation, even after an initial interview. Infusing empathy into the recruiting process for all candidates, not just those who are hired, will leave potential employees with a much better view of the company. This is especially important considering that 77% of recruiters report having hired a candidate who was not the first pick for another position.

  9. Flexibility and Adaptability

    Agility — or the ability to quickly maneuver and adapt your business— is key for recruiters in 2021. One popular trend for flexibility in HR is hiring temporary workers and contractors. Doing so can help you adjust to uncertainties in budgets and fluctuating revenue while maintaining business continuity. Some 70% of executives expect to hire more temporary and contract workers this year. For instance, the Alphabet City Beer (ABC Beer Co.) hired freelancers to power its shift to a primarily online operation – giving the company the ability to launch and run ecommerce quickly.

  10. Social Recruiting

    Recruiting with LinkedIn is old news by this point. But recruiters are broadening their scope and working on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more to find high quality candidates and try to appeal and market to them via social media. Some 78% of recruiters expect that recruiting activities will increase on social media platforms outside of LinkedIn this year. And while phone and email remain the most effective recruiting tools, social recruiting is predictably making major gains among younger generations. Instagram continues to rise in use as a platform for recruiting – growing from 18% in 2017 to 37% of recruiters using it today.

    Companies like Verizon, for instance, are leveraging Instagram in creative ways to engage people for tough-to-find roles, such as developers and engineers. The telecom giant, as an example, presented its Instagram audience with a difficult to solve puzzle and the tagline, “Think you can crack this code? If so apply to be a #Verizon #Software #Developer today.”

  11. Webinars

    The absence of job fairs in 2020 and into 2021 will cut off a channel especially effective in recruiting early talent, as well as talent needed for geographic expansions. Compared to Instagram, webinars may look a little old hat, but will continue to prove especially effective in recruiting talent by creating brand awareness and bringing the right people into the recruitment pipeline. Companies will use webinars in a way that drives recognition and positive associations with the business. For instance, the International Atomic Energy Agency hosted a webinar for women interested in careers in the nuclear field. The speakers shared information about their current projects and provided advice on career paths.

  12. Candidate Matching

    Some 32% of recruiters use candidate matching software – and it’ll continue to show its worth in 2021. Candidate match technology leverages AI and machine learning to automate the screening of resumes and shortlisting applicants. Candidate matching technology is extremely valuable in companies that have a lot of open positions and get a lot of resumes on a regular basis. Canadian bookstore and music chain Indigo can receive as many as 2,200 applications a week. It feared a degradation of its exceptional hiring experience, and also that it might be missing out on talented people because they were applying for specific roles. With AI it reduced its cost per hire by 71%, tripled qualified candidates, removed potential for hiring bias and ultimately improve recruiter efficiency by 3.7 times over.

  13. Recruitment Marketing

    Recruitment marketing applies the concept of the marketing funnel to the recruiting process – breaking the process and activities into awareness, interest, decision and action stages. It targets not only people who apply, but also anyone who might be interested. As such, it requires many of the same elements as content marketing – finding the target audience, creating content unique to them, finding ways and channels to best distribute it to them, capturing leads, pushing them on and measuring the impact of your efforts with recruitment key performance indicators (KPIs). Some leading companies have content writers who are part of the recruiting function. As an example, accounting firm KPMG has a role dedicated to creating content solely for the purpose of talent acquisition.

    • Creative job descriptions: One area of focus is upping the creativity factor in job descriptions themselves. The challenge is the balance of clearly describing the work involved and giving the applicant a sense of the company culture. GitHub, for instance, lists its leadership principles, such as “customer obsessed - trust by default - ship to learn” and others on every job description. Retail giant Target makes sure to list “what we are looking for,” in required skills, which moves beyond typical job skills and tries to describe the culture and work environment.
  14. Internal Recruiting

    Hip to the benefits it presents in terms of finding qualified people and reducing recruiting costs and improving employee retention, internal recruiting has become a major talent strategy at many organizations. LinkedIn data shows there has been a 10% increase in internal hiring since 2015. But interestingly enough, recruiters aren’t doing the internal recruiting — with research showing that most employees learn of openings by searching internal postings, through relationships with hiring managers or by word of mouth. Companies like Schneider Electric take a much more proactive approach. The company launched an AI-powered internal mobility platform based on data that 47% of people leaving the company couldn’t find another appealing internal role. Employees create profiles that include their aspirations, skills and interests and receive suggestions not only for full-time roles, but projects, training, mentoring opportunities and more.

  15. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

    Commitment to DEI is critically important to businesses and job seekers — one-third of recruiters say applicants are inquiring about DEI. Diversity in hiring is a growing priority for recruiters. Just 13% said it was important in 2017, but that has leapt to 22% in 2021. Companies like Starbucks are tying DEI recruiting goals to their business and strategic initiatives. For instance, Starbucks set inclusion and diversity goals of achieving at least 30% representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) at all corporate levels and at least 40% at all retail and manufacturing and retail roles by 2025. It will tie DEI measurements to executive compensation starting in FY21.

    Some areas companies can focus on to attract and eventually hire more diverse candidates include how job descriptions are written and who interviews candidates. In 2020’s Diversity Best Practices Inclusion Index, all of the companies in the top 10% require diverse candidates in interview slates, but only 75% require that the panel of interviews are diverse. Job descriptions should be mindful of inclusive language – taking out gender-coded words like “rock-star” or “ninja” or “guru” and just saying what the job is. LinkedIn recommended keeping the “must-haves” to what is actually a must-have and describing attributes needed to perform the job.

  16. Technology & Software

    In all of these trends, technology will play a key role for the recruiting team in ensuring that companies can quickly and effectively find talent. As the U.S. economy adds six million jobs before 2029, challenges recruiters traditionally faced — maintaining an efficient recruitment pipeline, marketing hard-to-fill roles and other issues — will be exacerbated by shifting market conditions. HCM software can help you adapt and power a more efficient recruitment process. From resume management, to scheduling and sharing information about the interview process with hiring managers and candidates alike, recruiters can cut down on manual tasks and focus on more strategic areas with the aid of advanced HCM platforms. Additionally, the software helps you track important KPIs, such as time-to-fill and others, to show leadership and management how your efforts are impacting the bottom line.

As the world is shaped by everchanging world-wide events, businesses are finding ways to adapt. And HR is changing how work is done. From hiring someone virtually to expanding how you view your potential labor-pool, recruitment is shifting at lighting speed. One of the most effective tools to help you keep up with changing pressures, as well as access the latest machine learning, reporting and other features, is with HCM software. Working as a recruiter is challenging work, but Glassdoor’s annual best jobs survey ranking corporate recruiters as No. 1 comes as no surprise — it is immensely rewarding work. Keeping up with the latest recruitment trends will help you perform your job even better.

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Recruitment Trend FAQs

What are the trends in recruitment?

As companies adapt to monumental shifts in remote working, recruiters are focusing on adaptability and ways to improve processes with things like artificial intelligence, machine learning and human capital management software.

What is the future of recruitment?

As technology advances, many of the formally manual processes, such as scheduling, data entry and even resume reviews, will be automated. This frees up time for recruiters to become even more focused on strategic activities, such as managing your brand as an employer and marketing to highly skilled workers for hard-to-fill roles.

What is the next big thing on the horizon for recruiting?

Recruiting is fast becoming more technical. Data analysis and digital marketing skills are growing in demand, while somewhat in juxtaposition, a renewed emphasis on human empathy is also growing. Candidates want smooth and transparent hiring processes and want to get a glimpse at the culture of your company. But at the same time, they don’t want to be treated like a number, and the human side of recruiting is more vital than ever.

How do you recruit in 2021?

Treat your recruitment like you might a marketing campaign. Consider breaking down your recruitment funnel or pipeline into awareness, interest, decision and action stages. Understand that just because someone isn’t the right fit for a particular role right now, that doesn’t mean she won’t be a valuable addition to the team later on. Treat all applicants with respect and build applicant pools.