2021: A New Beginning for Recruiting

Anticipation, Innovation, Collaboration

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. – Oscar Wilde

We have come to the end of a horrific year. Never in our lifetimes has the entire planet and almost every country been affected by anything similar to the Coronavirus. How we work, socialize, learn, play, eat, and even who we make love to has been affected.

Many trends were accelerated way beyond anyone’s expectations. Remote work became common. Organizations began shrinking or rethinking how they were structured; virtual and remote work became the norm instead of the exception. Rents in large cities fell as people moved to the suburbs or rural areas. The Internet became an economic lifeline, and the sale of remote access devices soared. Restaurants began to figure out how to survive with takeout food deliveries. Online sales soared while the sale of toilet paper and sundries cleared off shelves faster than they could be restocked or manufactured. We became a world of virtual everything.

And talent acquisition had to adapt to a world of constrained hiring, remote recruiting, interviewing, and hiring. Many talent acquisition functions were eliminated or reduced to a much smaller number of recruiters. Other TA functions grew as hiring ramped up to meet the demand for online sales and delivery. Firms like Amazon and Walmart added thousands of workers while the brick and mortar retailers laid off scores.

This pandemic underlined one of the major problems with talent acquisition functions: they are reactionary. They rarely anticipate emerging trends that will impact recruiting; they expend tremendous effort to find the right talent. Many recruiters scramble to fulfill promised deadlines with qualified candidates. Frustration levels are often very high, deadlines slip, and recruiters work longer hours than they need to.

What is needed is a vow for 2021 to anticipate trends and needs better, be more innovative in creating solutions, and collaborate more actively with team members, hiring managers, and colleagues.


We cannot predict what skills we will need or how many we will need to hire in this rapidly changing and uncertain world. So we need a flexible, agile approach to sourcing. We can begin to anticipate needs by carefully monitoring corporate strategic direction, looking at technology trends in our market area, and by talking with hiring managers. Then, we need to build multiple pipelines where needs will arise, and we need always to keep our eyes and ears open to any potential direction our organization may take.

An example I am aware of is a recruiting leader who worked with a hiring manager and his team to develop a strategic talent plan based on the possible projects and work that the team anticipated might come their way. She started developing relationships with colleagues in other firms who were looking for similar people. She set up teams that began cataloging internal skills and building lists of potential candidates to fill a talent pipeline with the needed skills quickly. This way, she could fill the open position in record time by avoiding the need to do cold searches.


Innovation requires the willingness to experiment and listen to whatever ideas - no matter how unrealistic they may seem - hiring managers, colleagues, or friends have about how you could improve or streamline what you do.

Too often, we dismiss any approach that seems to contradict our experiences, or that opens us to criticism. The only way innovation happens is by taking risks, trying different approaches, and forging alliances with the potential beneficiaries.

For example, a recruiting team put together sprint teams to evaluate each step of their process and recommend improvements and changes. After 30 days, they had more than 35 recommended changes and began to implement them—this required collaboration with the IT department, changes to HR policy, and cooperation from hiring managers. In the end, they shaved 15 days off their usual time to hire, simplified the candidates hiring process, which led to more completed applications and saved over $500 per hire.


Collaboration and cooperation are, now more than ever, the winds that make the world go around. Recruiting in ad hoc teams to fill tough positions or recruit people and skills that are new to the organization will be critical for success. Roles that are commonly filled should be recruited from the talent pipeline or outsourced to an RPO. I wrote about this last week, and I urge you to read that blog.

The Coronavirus has set the stage. We are leaner, and many old assumptions have been challenged; we have more tools and can recruit globally. Let’s develop strategies for success, zero-base our processes to streamline our work, look for ways to be agile, and break out of old habits.

Be bold and make 2021 a new beginning for recruiting.

Happy Holidays to all, and see you again in the new year.


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This is my final article for 2020. I am taking a holiday break. The next edition will be on January 6, 2021.