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To say that before 2020, the world looked a little different would be a colossal understatement.

Where recruiting and the market was concerned, this was especially true. Companies were investing in office-centered perks like stocked break room pantries, refreshed and open interiors, and commuter benefits. When it came to filling a position, hiring was primarily limited by geographic locale. In-person interviews were the primary way to get to know a candidate.

Things have definitely changed. 

As markets remain unpredictable, recruiting is as essential as every to just about any organization’s business strategy. These days, many integral practices for searching for candidates before the COVID-19 pandemic no longer serve hiring managers or recruiters. The rise of remote work (and virtual interviewing), changes in job seeker expectations, and more rapid shifts in skill acquisition and necessity will define how teams recruit top talent going forward. 

Flexibility is vital—for both companies and talent.

With most offices closed for most of 2020, working remotely—and the virtual interview process—became a new reality for most non-essential workers.  According to one study conducted in 2020, 74% percent of surveyed working professionals believed that remote employees would be the “new normal,” and 97% of those surveyed shared that they’d prefer a hybrid work model that allowed for at least some remote work. 

Statistics from another recent survey revealed that in addition to improving the candidate experience, hiring companies also reap the benefits of standardizing virtual interviews, with 54% of respondents agreeing that virtual interviews made the recruitment process more efficient and accurate. In addition to allowing for more flexibility in scheduling, a virtual interview enables recruiting and HR teams to spend more time connecting with candidates and less time on logistics and scheduling.

In addition to appealing to candidates’ need for more autonomy, normalizing remote job placement also allows hiring companies to widen their searches for the right talent. In an interview featured on a 2021 episode of the Harvard Business Review’s podcast, HBR Ideacast, Gartner VP Lauren Smith shared some of the conclusions from her firm’s recent research around improvements in recruiting for a more remote-friendly workforce.

“The move to remote work means that organizations are no longer tied to sourcing candidates based on their proximity to their office, or their headquarters, and this opens up talent pools in a way that’s game-changing for organizations.

We no longer need to source around us, but we can source around where talent is.”

Prioritizing skills & attributes over traditional criteria

Gartner’s Smith also emphasized their finding that while the pandemic has been an accelerating catalyst for more flexible work configurations, other trends are taking shape now that began pre-pandemic. “There have been three big shifts that have been accelerated by the realities of the pandemic, but definitely began before it. The first is the evolution of skills. The pace at which we work is changing making it challenging for us to accurately define jobs,” explained Smith. 

As more and more of the workforce continues to up-skill to stay effective in their roles, traditional criteria—and ways to source talent—such as where someone went to school or what they studied, become less relevant criteria. This means when someone leaves a role, it is less likely that you’ll want someone with exactly similar skill sets or demographics to the person who was most recently in the position. According to additional research from Gartner, employees in key, specialized sectors like finance, sales, or IT, will need to develop “up to 10 new skills within 18 months.” Instead, the ability to demonstrate agility and learn on the job may prove a better indicator for success than sharing an alma mater with a previous high performer.

Recruiting is key to driving diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives

Beyond the fact that traditional talent pools and search criteria are outmoded ways to find employees with the right skills needed to fill roles effectively, focusing more on skill and attributes is also essential how recruiting can help drive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives forward. 

According to the most recent CNBC |SurveyMonkey Workforce Happiness Index findings, almost 80% of survey respondents shared that they prefer an employer that “values diversity, equity, inclusion.” Yet, an overwhelming number of sources reveal that, in most sectors, actual progress in these areas remains overall slow at best. This means that human resources, business leaders, and recruitment teams need to audit how they’ve created talent pipelines in the past and make sure they aren’t excluding key talent that doesn’t traditionally appear within those talent pools.

In the face of such a quickly evolving workforce and workplace norms, there’s more than ever to consider whether you’re looking to find the right job candidate or the right employer. Recruiting professionals who have a pulse on emerging workforce and hiring trends will be best positioned to help the best match the skilled job seekers and employers.