7 talent acquisition and recruitment trends in 2021

The past year established major trends in diversity and remote work, building on the moves to AI and experience management.

As COVID-19 recedes and life regains a semblance of normalcy, it's a good time to look ahead to some of the talent acquisition and recruitment trends we're likely to see going forward. COVID-19 has had a big impact on many facets of HR, and recruiting is no different. That is evident in the rise of such trends as remote interviewing and optimizing the candidate experience.

Here are seven ongoing and emerging trends that should have a big impact on your recruiting strategy in 2021.

1. Remote interviewing

One of the most recent trends that has emerged in the talent acquisition and recruitment area is remote interviewing. It has become a necessity for hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic, where work-from-home orders have been put in place and candidates are unable or unwilling to travel by air for long-distance interviews.

Remote interviewing involves job interviews taking place using video conferencing software, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and similar platforms, or specialized video interviewing tools, such as HireVue and Montage. The recruiter, their colleagues and the candidate join a video call and interview as if they were having a regular face-to-face interview. The technology also facilitates collaborative hiring by making it easier for other departments to participate in the interview and selection process. 

While this has been a prominent trend during the pandemic, it is not without its challenges. Presenting oneself in a professional manner can be difficult if it isn't possible to interview from a tidy or professional location, while the presence of children or pets at home can create a noisy and distracting environment for both interviewer and interviewee. Unforeseen technical challenges -- even those that are out of a candidate's control -- can lead to candidates becoming flustered and embarrassed, and ultimately, this can lead to recruiters being put off a candidate.

As the pandemic eases up with the arrival of vaccines and other treatments, the use of remote interviewing will likely become less frequent, but given its convenience, ability to be used on short notice, and usefulness in collaborative hiring, don't expect the remote interviewing trend to go away once the pandemic is over.

2. Candidate experience

The pandemic made 2020 the year of the employee experience. It accelerated the need for employee listening programs and developing an experience that maintains the health and well-being of employees, promotes positive work-life balance as well as giving them the positive experience during the pandemic that will encourage them to stay after the pandemic is over. The emphasis on providing a good experience also extends to candidates.

Talent acquisition trends for 2021
Emerging trends in diversity and remote hiring will join ongoing moves toward AI, analytics, experience management and skills as HR and recruiting priorities in 2021.

Organizations that focus on building a positive experience and company culture for employees are found to be more successful and profitable. The same effects also exist for the candidate experience. Upgrading career sites and using surveys to get feedback from candidates are two ways employers have improved their candidate experiences. In addition, recruitment marketing and career site software can help personalize the hiring process and gather analytics to help improve the candidate experience.

Candidates want career sites that are easy to use and can help them quickly and easily set up a profile, search for jobs and apply. If these processes are not straightforward, job hunters will navigate to career sites that have been optimized in these ways. Candidates are also unlikely to recommend career sites they find to be awkward, slow and complicated.

But the candidate experience doesn't stop there. It continues after a candidate has been put into the candidate pool for a job. How companies communicate with candidates, organize and conduct interviews, and execute follow-up processes shows candidates how professional an organization is and whether they would want to work there. In a competitive labor market, the overall experience is crucial to not only attracting the best talent available, but also winning over that talent from your competitors and building a strong employer brand.

3. Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion is another area of growing focus for HR leaders that translates directly into the talent acquisition and recruitment process. Statistics show that businesses with a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace have better productivity and profitability. Many organizations are looking to boost the diversity of their workforces -- in addition to making them more inclusive -- and recruiters are responsible for identifying and bringing a wider diversity of candidates into the talent pool.

These goals bring certain potential challenges, such as a racial or gender bias for or against certain candidates and inadvertently neglecting highly suitable, qualified and experienced candidates.

Racial diversity statistics in the tech industry
Recruiters are now expected to make diversity in hiring a top priority. Many industries, including tech, have minority hiring rates that don't reflect the general population.

4. Contingent workers

With businesses facing a prolonged period of disruption and uncertainty, staffing the workforce is increasingly difficult. Fluctuating needs and short-term operations require flexibility, and contingent labor can help in meeting these demands.

Over the past few years, there has been an upward trend in using contingent workers and creating a hiring process expressly for them. The talent acquisition process is different for contingent workers than it is for full-time employees, and organizations need to be set up to seek out, recruit and process these types of hires. A vendor management system can be a useful tool for managing procurement of contingent workers, but organizations should also be prepared to use their career site and social media marketing to appeal to contingent workers and set up different interview methods and vendor approval processes. Whatever you do, know that recruiting contingent workers remains a trend at many companies.

5. Analytics

While not strictly a recruiting trend -- HR in general is adopting analytics at a rapid rate -- analytics remains a hot trend that will impact how organizations define their talent acquisition strategies and recruit talent.

The use of analytics across talent acquisition processes helps deliver data-driven decision-making and insights to identify areas of strength and weakness, as well as help reduce the cost of talent acquisition practices, identify problems and blockages in the process, and fill vacant roles more quickly. Additionally, talent analytics can prove the effectiveness and ROI of your recruiting software investments.

More specifically, analytics can help provide recruiters such metrics as the following:

  • source of hire
  • time to fill
  • time to hire
  • age of job (how long a job has been open)
  • offer acceptance rate
  • cost per hire
  • quality of hire
  • vacancy cost (how much it costs the organization while the position remains vacant)
  • diversity

With predictive analytics -- which is also beginning to trend upward -- recruiters can project and predict future trends, such as predicted time to fill, estimated future candidate performance, interview acceptance probability and predicted tenure of a candidate.

Advances in technology mean that aggregation, trend identification, visualization and predictive analytics are now standard parts of most recruiting software.

6. Artificial intelligence

One of the fastest growing areas of talent acquisition software today is the use of AI to improve ways to source, identify and engage talent. These range from smart talent platforms, such as Eightfold AI, to job-posting platforms, chatbots and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities. AI is also used to help remove bias from candidate identification, selection and hiring.

AI is trending because the technologies can do a tremendous amount of heavy lifting at high speed, while simultaneously adding value and automation to the talent acquisition processes. The technology can source, screen, sort and rank candidates to create a pipeline of qualified candidates that are likely to succeed in vacant positions, based on the skills and potential gleaned from candidate profiles, resumes and social media. These steps involve highly repetitive manual tasks, but by using an AI-based talent acquisition application, recruiters can cut the effort from hours or days to minutes.

Recruitment chatbots can help engage candidates and provide details about jobs while they search. NLP enables job postings and offer letters to be written more accurately and appealingly and free of unsuitable language that might discourage candidates from applying. It also enables chatbots to be user-friendly and accurate in responses to human interaction.

Machine learning helps to bring continuous improvement to AI, which means the software becomes more effective the longer it is used.

7. Skills and competencies

Assessing skills and competencies and using them to source, screen and match candidates to open vacancies is becoming a much hotter topic thanks to the power of AI. While skills and competencies have been used in talent management for quite some time, particularly for identifying and matching successors to key positions or identifying career paths, they haven't always been used effectively in talent acquisition.

Particular skills and competencies can be critical for hiring the right employees. For example, a healthcare position requires specific skills compared to a psychiatrist, yet they may also overlap in one or two key areas. Nontechnical or soft skills, such as time management and critical thinking, as well as hard skills, such as engineering and software development, must all be considered. Having the right software to help you match the right candidates to the right jobs based on a set of skills and competencies will increase the success of your recruiting process.

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